Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Glossary of Provincial Words & Phrases in use in Somersetshire

Thanks to the good services of Project Gutenberg, A Glossary of Provincial Words & Phrases in use in Somersetshire by Wadham Pigott Williams (London: Longmans, Green, Reader, & Dyer; Taunton: F. May , 1873) is now available for use in enriching your everyday vocabulary. It includes useful entries like:
_s._ mole-track [want or wont being dialectal words for a mole]

_adj._ nice in eating

_s._ the whole number of eggs laid by a hen before she becomes broody, ex. She 've laaid out her laiter

clotting, clatting
_s._ fishing for eels with a knot or clot of worms, which is also called reballing

Although the book is fairly short (xii, 42 p.), the definitions are typically as brief as in the samples above and there are many, many choice words included. (Thanks to Dan Goodman, who posted the news and a link to the book on the American Dialect Society e-mail list.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Maps & Geography in Biblical Studies

A few days ago, David Instone-Brewer posted to his helpful blog, Tyndale Tech, a good summary of geographical resources for Biblical studies which might be of interest to classicists as well.

While perhaps not as useful as some of the more recent works mentioned there, David Rumsey's excellent on-line collection of maps includes some beautiful maps of classical interest.

Keyboarding Polytonic Greek

A question that comes up sometimes on e-mail lists devoted to matters related to ancient Greek is how to use a standard Latin character keyboard to write Greek characters and diacritical marks.

In Mac OS X there are a number of relatively easy ways to do this. Since version 10.4, a polytonic Greek keyboard has been included with the operating system. An excellent illustrated guide for installing and using it is available at Bryn Mawr's web site; they also provide similar instructions for Windows XP.

I personally prefer the free keyboard layout SophoKeys (Mac OS 10.2+), which uses the Beta Code transcription scheme of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae. Beta Code is a widely-used standard and quite complete, including critical marks like the underdot (for a tentative reading of an unclear character) along with the conventional diacritics.

A widely-used package of fonts and keyboard layout for Mac OS X and Windows XP and Vista is GreekKeys. The price is $40 for non-members of the American Philological Association, which isn't unreasonable but obviously costs more than the free alternatives.

Adventurous Mac users can use SIL's free Ukelele application to create their own keyboard layout. Microsoft offers their own Keyboard Layout Creator for the same purpose, and Linux users can apparently use XKB.

Although it's been over a year since the site has been updated, Alan Wood's Unicode and multilingual programs and utilities is an excellent resource for more information on keyboards, fonts, and text editors/word processors.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rome and Environs: An Archaeological Guide

The University of California Press has just released Rome and Environs: An Archaeological Guide by Filippo Coarelli, translated by James J. Clauss and Daniel P. Harmon.

The publisher's blurb says,

This superb guide at last brings the work of Filippo Coarelli, one of the most widely published and best known scholars of Roman archeology and art, to a wide, English-language audience. Conveniently organized by walking tours and illustrated throughout with clear maps, drawings, and plans, Rome and Environs: An Archaeological Guide covers all of the city's ancient sites, and, unlike most other guides, now includes the major monuments in a large area outside Rome proper but within easy reach, such as Ostia Antica, Palestrina, Tivoli, and the many areas of interest along the ancient Roman roads. An essential resource for tourists interested in a deeper understanding of Rome's classical remains, it is also the ideal book for students and scholars approaching the ancient history of one of the world's most fascinating cities.

At list $24.95 for a 575 page trade paperback ($70.00 for the hardcover) it's quite reasonable in price, too. I'm absolutely unqualified to evaluate it, but it looks potentially very useful for real-life and armchair visitors to the city. The book's page at the publisher's site includes more information about the book, the author and other people involved, and a link to a .pdf file of the bibliography.

Thanks to Lindsay Wong of UC Press for posting the notice to the Classics-l mailing list.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Migne's Patrologia Graeca

Although there are better editions of many of the more prominent Greek patristic and Byzantine authors, the fullest collection — and for many works the only edition — is in J.-P. Migne's Patrologia Graeca.

People with access to large academic libraries can walk in and pull the appropriate volumes off the shelves, but those who don't have access or who would prefer an electronic version have several options.

  • Mischa Hooker at Loyola University in Chicago has a very useful set of links to Google Books scans of not only the PG but also many other works useful for the study of Christian and Jewish origins and history. I originally started to write about the benefits and drawbacks of the Google Books project at this point but decided that would be better left for another post. For now, be aware (if you're not already) that there are serious quality control problems with many scans, sets — including the PG — are frequently incomplete, poor cataloging makes searching of titles incomplete, word search results are unreliable, and much of the collection is inaccessible outside the United States without skirting Google's IP detection by using a proxy server.

  • Twenty-two main authors (and possible some minor ones included in their volumes) are represented in whole or part at the Bibliothèque nationale's Gallica site. On the whole, Gallica scans are free of the quality control problems of Google Book Search. (Electronic files of early books are sometimes from microfilms, though, and those tend to be somewhat less legible.) The interface leaves something to be desired, but it's improved over the years.

  • The entire set is available in image form from the Religion and Technology Center with on-line access or on DVDs or an external hard drive. The cost starts at $400 for a set for an individual and goes to over $3,000 for institutions in North America and Western Europe. DVDs of individual volumes can also be ordered by individuals for $25 each plus shipping. It's expensive but complete.

  • Page images of the PG are apparently included in Logos Bible Software's Seminary Library collection, a large collection of scanned theological books in the public domain. A subscription to this costs $150 per year. (Unusually, perhaps even archaically, Logos hosts a number of Usenet newsgroups at news.logos.com; this doesn't seem to be accessible via Google groups or Gmane, but if you're curious, you can use the Opera browser and simply paste in news://news.logos.com/greek and retrieve articles that way; otherwise you can add the server manually to a newsreader.)

  • The Greek texts from many volumes are available in .pdf form from a European academic institution and subsequent to that site going live were downloaded from there to at least one other. I had linked to both in the original version of this blog post but I've now omitted them because Maria Pantelia, director of the Thesaurus Linguae Gracae project, has informed me that the versions of texts provided at that first site were pirated from the last TLG CD-ROM, 1800 files and over 800MB (many more texts are now available through the TLG web interface). Although the contents of the TLG and PG are not identical, where they overlap the editions used by the TLG will be superior except in the relatively few cases where the TLG reproduces the PG (as for example with the Pratum Spirituale of John Moschus, although in this particular case there are some related texts from more modern editions). The price to individuals for access to the TLG is not quite nominal enough for casual use — $100 for a year or $400 for four years — but for the selection and quality of the texts it's certainly well worth it if you're active in the field; there's also a demo version with a handful of works from 34 authors.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Version Control

If you've ever saved multiple versions of a file over time just to keep track of your progress on a project and what you added when, Subversion might be of interest to you.

Subversion is a free and open source multi-platform program that lets you keep track of revisions in a document, easily on a single computer and with some effort from multiple computers and with multiple contributors.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog recently added a post with a link to exceptionally clear and detailed instructions by author Rachel Greenham on installation and basic use of Subversion on a Mac OS X system, with a note that it will be similar in Unix/Linux machines. (Windows users can find instructions through lifehacker.)

I downloaded the pre-built binary installer she linked to and ran it and was able to use it in less than a minute. One caveat about her instructions: code is shown as white text on black background boxes and in Firefox (on my machine at least) it doesn't wrap properly and to see all that you need to enter you may need to highlight past the right edge of the box. This wasn't a problem with Opera or Safari, though, and given the mysteries of browser rendering may be a quirk of this machine.

I didn't experiment with more than a minimal example (and that in the Mac OS X command line interface, Terminal, rather than using one of the graphical front-ends she writes about) but it was enough to demonstrate that it worked as promised and wasn't too difficult to use.

One of the particularly nice features of Subversion is its ability to be run on a server and thereby allow multiple people to work on the same document at the same time and still allow changes to be tracked, or the same person to work on a file from different computers. Setting this up seemed significantly more difficult and not something quite as useful to me, but for further details, try the links at this post to the Mac OS X TeX list, in particular the one to the entire free (!) O'Reilly book on the subject.

A final caveat which unfortunately will probably make this less tempting for many readers: Subversion works well only for files using plain text (.txt, .html, .tex, etc.). Open Office, MS Word, and other similar binary file formats are less well served, according to Greenham, and some applications that appear identical in function to the user but in practice work differently (like Pages, part of Apple's iWork application bundle), apparently won't work at all. For the file formats it supports, Google Docs might be a better choice for tracking revisions and use from multiple computers and by multiple authors.

And a note to my early audience: although it's quite likely future postings will be similarly esoteric (or, as some might see it, boring), I think few will be this technical (or again as some might see it, geeky).

Inaugural Post

After months of encouragement from family members, I've finally started a blog. I hope to share here interesting and perhaps useful information about resources and tools for those working in the humanities. My interests are broad, but I expect to concentrate on classical philology, Biblical studies, patristics, and medieval history, with forays into language and linguistics, technology — in particular the use of LaTeX — and other matters that I run across that I think potential readers might also find of interest.

Those disappointed by the lack of substance in this first post will find an edifying alternative in A. E. Housman's 1892 Introductory Lecture at University College London on the value of the humanities, supplemented if desired by St. Basil the Great's brief address on the value of Greek literature. (If the lines of text at those web pages are too long for comfortable reading on your monitor, narrow your browser window to shorten them to a reasonable width.)