A few days ago I came across a bargain online. It was a copy of Michael Grant’s “Greek and Latin Authors: 800 B.C.-A.D.1000″, which, including postage, came to a princely $6. It arrived this morning, a big heavy book, ex-library.
I had rather hoped, from the title, that authors would be listed in chronological order, but not so. Instead they are appear in name order. This is unfortunate, for it means that the book cannot easily be read through. At least if authors are in chronological order, you can read the whole as a story.
But it does mean that the book is ideal to dip into. Indeed I propose to consume it in just such a manner. It might be a valuable resource to read on the loo, for instance.
I have forgotten the author who recommended the purchase of small page, cheap editions of the Latin poets, for use in such a circumstance. Each page would be a poem or two, and a man with normal innards would read and absorb a few poems at a sitting. After that, it was suggested, the pages just read could be torn out and, in this, pre-toilet-paper age, devoted to a different but convenient purpose. Certainly editions of that period were printed on absorbent paper. In this way, he advised, a great store of learning could be acquired during a portion of the day otherwise wasted. Was it, perhaps, Lord Chesterfield who advised thus?
Grant’s book consists of short entries on authors, plus a list of works and short bibliography. It’s the kind of work that has been superceded by Wikipedia, in many ways; and yet Kiddipedia, as we might equally call it — “the encyclopedia that any child can edit!” — is not nearly as good. The labour in compiling the book must have been considerable, but Grant makes a good job of it.
I had never heard of the book, in truth, but came across it accidentally, mentioned on some website. I got it, because I love handbooks of solid information. They can be valuable companions at bed-time as well, for again, that is an occasion in which to read a few pages, and then drift off.