Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Manuscript. Click to enlarge.

Ovid, Metamorphoses
14th-century French glossed manuscript

Classical Studies and Linguistics

Classics-related holdings at the Ransom Center range from medieval manuscripts to early printed editions and translations, from squeezes (paper impressions of classical inscriptions in stone) to photographs of inscriptions. They are augmented by extensive printed materials. The main strengths of the holdings are in the fields of classical philology, Greek and Latin literature, Greek and Roman history, and classical civilization. The Center is especially strong in translations of the classics.

Manuscript Collections

The earliest documents in the Center's possession are a small group of Babylonian clay tablets. 129 Ptolemaic Greek papyri and one ostracon, dating from the second and third centuries BCE, are records of daily business life in Egypt, although a few literary texts are included.

The classical inscriptions collection is formed from two separate collections of squeezes and photographs of Greek monumental inscriptions dating from the fifth century BCE to the third century CE. The collection, created by epigrapher and philologist Benjamin Dean Meritt (1899–1989) and classical archaeologist Lucy Shoe Meritt (1906–2003), comprises 1,043 squeezes and 14 boxes of photographs. The O. W. Reinmuth (1900–1984) collection relating to the Athenian institution of the Ephebeia includes 633 squeezes, about 600 photographs, and miscellaneous items such as notebooks, travel grant applications, and article offprints.

The medieval and early modern manuscripts collection contains approximately 225 manuscripts, of which about 50 date before 1500. Particularly important volumes in the collection include heavily annotated medieval manuscripts of Ovid's Metamorphoses (HRC 34) by the noted calligrapher Bartolomeo Sanvito (1435–1518) and Horace's Odes (HRC 35).

The Ranuzzi family manuscript collection contains about 630 manuscript volumes of collected varia (including the occasional printed item) documenting the political, religious, and cultural climate in Italy from 1450 to 1755. The fields of literature, history, science, engineering, law, geography, politics, and numismatics are all represented in the collection.

Print Collections

A collection of Catullus (ca. 84–54 BCE) imprints compiled by British bibliographer John W. Carter 1905–1975) was acquired in 1960. There are approximately 150 titles in the collection, ranging from the fifteenth through the twentieth centuries. Other strengths are editions and commentaries on works by classical and late antique writers, both Latin and Greek, published between 1500 and 1799. Works of 247 authors are represented, including secular works by a few Medieval and Renaissance authors (e.g., Walafrid Strabo, Peter Abelard, and Desiderius Erasmus). In 1981 the Center acquired a collection of about 150 early printed editions of the works of Lucian of Samosata (ca. 125–192), mostly in Latin or in translation into other languages.

The Center holds an extensive collection of editions from the Aldine press, established by Aldus Manutius (c. 1450-1515) in Venice in 1495 and continued by his heirs well into the sixteenth century. The Aldine collection, based largely on the collections of Edward Alexander Parsons and Giorgio Uzielli, totals over 900 volumes and includes many classical texts. For further information, refer to the catalog compiled by Craig W. Kallendorf and Maria X. Wells, Aldine Press Books at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center: A Descriptive Catalogue.

William James Battle (1870–1955), professor of classics, donated his library of 14,000 books to the University; the early and rare volumes are now among the Ransom Center's holdings. These are principally seventeenth- and eighteenth-century editions and criticism of classical authors, particularly Virgil, Horace, and Homer, but the collection also includes travel literature related to Greece and the classical world and books on classical statuary, including the Elgin Marbles. The library of Edward Alexander Parsons (1878–1962), consisting of 40,000 books, was acquired by the Center in 1958. Classics was one of Parsons's many areas of interest.

The Delphin Classics series was created by Louis XIV as an educational tool for the young Dauphin in the 1670s and 1680s. Of the titles held by the Ransom Center, many were printed in Paris from 1674 to 1689, some were reissued in France in the 1720s and 1730s, and a few were printed in London in the 1800s.

Beginning in the sixteenth century, emblem books became widely popular in Europe. These collections of allegorical pictures, often with a title and a short Latin poem providing clues to the visual puzzle, drew heavily on classical sources and were originally intended as puzzles for those trained in the humanist tradition. The Center holds over 123 emblem books dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

In the 1920s, Konrad Haebler (1857–1946) assembled and described leaf collections compiled from incunabula printed in Germany, Western Europe, and Italy. The Center owns three of Haebler's leaf collections: German Incunabula, Italian Incunabula, and West-European Incunabula. Authors represented include Cato, Livy, Horace, Varro, Columella, Palladius, Lactantius, Sidonius Apollinaris, Eusebius, Aristotle, and Lucian.

While only indirectly relevant to the study of the classics, the Medici collection contains about 400 books and legal edicts collected by the Medici family of Florence between 1500 and 1800, and represents literary, artistic, historic, and scientific developments in Italy during the Renaissance, including works related to the Medici family itself.

Professor of Latin and Greek Clyde Pharr (1883–1972) compiled a collection of 36 works of civil and canon law published between 1501 and 1778 that includes several components of the Corpus Juris Civilis, Decretum of Gratian, and Decretals of Gregory IX, as well as commentaries and indices by Barnabé Brisson (1531–1591), Johann Brunnemann (1608–1672), Johann Buxtorf (1564–1629), Johann Gottlieb Heineccius (1681–1741), Johann Friedrich Hombergk zu Vach (1673–1748), Antonio Perez (1583–1672), and Joannes Voet (1647–1713).

Stark Young (1881–1963) was a university professor, theater critic, and novelist. Between the 1920s and 1940s he collected incunabula and Aldine imprints for his scholarly use, which he later donated to the University. Ancient authors represented in the collection include Caesar, Cicero, Aulus Gellius, Horace, Ovid, Ptolemy, and Sallust.


Among resources for the study of linguistics are the sixty-eight volumes written or owned by noted jurist, poet, and scholar of Oriental languages Sir William Jones (1746-1794). In addition, there is a collection of manuscripts by George Borrow (1803-1881), the author of several popular works on Romany culture and language.