The Loeb Classical Library (LCL; named after James Loeb; //, German: [løːp]) is a series of books originally published by Heinemann in London, but is currently published by Harvard University Press. The library contains important works of ancient Greek and Latin literature designed to make the text accessible to the broadest possible audience by presenting the original Greek or Latin text on each left-hand page, and a fairly literal translation on the facing page. The General Editor is Jeffrey Henderson, holder of the William Goodwin Aurelio Professorship of Greek Language and Literature at Boston University.
The Loeb Classical Library was conceived and initially funded by the Jewish-German-American banker and philanthropist James Loeb (1867–1933). The first volumes were edited by Thomas Ethelbert Page, W. H. D. Rouse, and Edward Capps, and published by William Heinemann, Ltd. (London) in 1912, already in their distinctive green (for Greek text) and red (for Latin) hardcover bindings. Since then scores of new titles have been added, and the earliest translations have been revised several times. In recent years, this has included the removal of bowdlerization from earlier editions, which often reversed the gender of the subjects of romantic interest to disguise homosexual references or (in the case of early editions of Longus's Daphnis and Chloe) translated sexually explicit passages from the Ancient Greek into Latin, rather than English.
The Loebs have only a minimal critical apparatus, when compared to other publications of the text. They are intended for the amateur reader of Greek or Latin, and are so nearly ubiquitous as to be instantly recognizable.
The Loeb Library, with its Greek or Latin on one side of the page and its English on the other, came as a gift of freedom. ... The existence of the amateur was recognised by the publication of this Library, and to a great extent made respectable. ... The difficulty of Greek is not sufficiently dwelt upon, chiefly perhaps because the sirens who lure us to these perilous waters are generally scholars [who] have forgotten ... what those difficulties are. But for the ordinary amateur they are very real and very great; and we shall do well to recognise the fact and to make up our minds that we shall never be independent of our Loeb.
Harvard University assumed complete responsibility for the series in 1989 and in recent years four or five new or re-edited volumes have been published annually.
In 2001, Harvard University Press began issuing a second series of books with a similar format. The I Tatti Renaissance Library presents key Renaissance works in Latin with a facing English translation; it is bound similarly to the Loeb Classics, but in a larger format and with blue covers. A third series, the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, was introduced in 2010 covering works in Byzantine Greek, Medieval Latin, and Old English. Volumes have the same format as the I Tatti series, but with a brown cover. The Clay Sanskrit Library, bound in teal cloth, was also modeled on the Loeb Classical Library.
As the command of Latin among generalist historians and archaeologists shrank in the course of the 20th century, professionals came increasingly to rely on these texts designed for amateurs. As Birgitta Hoffmann remarked in 2001 of Tacitus' Agricola, "Unfortunately the first thing that happens in bilingual versions like the Loebs is that most of this apparatus vanishes and, if you use a translation, there is usually no way of knowing that there were problems with the text in the first place."
In 2014, the Loeb Classical Library Foundation and Harvard University Press launched the digital Loeb Classical Library, described as "an interconnected, fully searchable, perpetually growing, virtual library of all that is important in Greek and Latin literature."
The Loeb Library serves as a model to be emulated for:
The listings of Loeb volumes at online bookstores and library catalogues vary considerably and are often best navigated via ISBNs.
The Loeb Classical Library® is published and distributed by Harvard University Press.
A footnote then gave in Latin the real meaning of the Greek line.