Introduction: The Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana

The study of Homer has been part of the core curriculum at the University of Chicago since the first year of classes in 1892. Many editions, translations, and works of Homeric scholarship were included in the Library's founding collections. Literary papyri collected by Edgar J. Goodspeed, who joined the faculty in 1900 and became Chairman of the Department of New Testament and Early Christian Literature in 1923, included two first-century CE fragments of the Iliad. Commitment to the classics at the University of Chicago ensured that the Library would continue to build a collection strong in Greek editions, commentaries, translations, and scholarly literature, with the result that it is now one of the premier classics collections in the world.

M. C. Lang, who studied Greek at Hamilton College under John Mattingly (AB, University of Chicago, 1926), formed a magnificent collection of editions and translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey with the goal of tracing their transmission in printed form. In considering the future of his collection, he sought an institutional home where students and faculty would actively use the books, and he recognized that the vibrant program in classics at the University of Chicago would provide such an environment. With the 2007 gift of the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana (BHL), the University of Chicago Library received a trove of important Homer editions and translations not previously in the collection. In instances where the Library already held a copy of a BHL title, it was often "worn out" by use, making it very exciting to add a copy in fine condition.  Homer in Print: The Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana at the University of Chicago Library, edited by Glenn W. Most and Alice Schreyer and published November 2013, includes detailed descriptions of the 187 separate items in the BHL written by Alex Lee and Diana Moser, PhD candidates in Classics; and essays by M. C. Lang and Professors Glenn W. Most and David Wray.

The Library continues to acquire Homeric editions and translations, illustrated and graphic editions, and versions for children. Homer in Print, drawn chiefly from the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana, also includes editions, translations, and adaptations acquired before and after the gift of the BHL. Together these works, ranging from the fifteenth to the twenty-first centuries, illustrate the profound influence of the Homeric texts on classical studies, the history of printing and print culture, textual editing, translation studies, and the development of English language and literature.

Unless otherwise noted exhibition items are from the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana.

Item numbers refer to Homer in Print: the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana at the University of Chicago Library, a copy of which is on view in the gallery. Captions in the exhibition for BHL items are based on the descriptions in this publication by Alex Lee and Diana Moser.