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Overviews of the Collections

The Classics Collections at the Library of Congress

Levon Avdoyan
Armenian and Georgian Area Specialist
Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division

The Classics Collection at the Library of Congress, by its sheer quantity, must be viewed as one of major proportions for the study of classics in the United States. The hallmark of the collection, of course, is the general collection. From texts of the authors to translations, commentaries, historical discussions, excavation reports, and reference works on inscriptions, vases, sculptures, and so forth, it is a vast and still growing collection.

The hub of research in these fields remains the Main Reading Room, which has a significant reference collection on classics and related subjects.

The Microform Reading Room is the repository of microfilmed collections of Latin, Greek, and other ancient language manuscripts from the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, various monasteries of Mount Athos, and the Monastery of St. Catherine's on Mount Sinai. Microfilming for these collections was done for the Library of Congress in the 1950s, and they remain a major resource for scholars here and abroad.

The Rare Book Reading Room houses many early imprints in Latin and Greek, along with early translations and historical discussions. Its strength, however, lies in its capacity for serendipitous discovery -- of early printed travel accounts that happen to have drawings of now destroyed ancient monuments; of prints in an early work published in one area and later used in newly founded printing houses thousands of miles away; of maps, and so forth.

The Law Library has a major collection of Roman Law and Canonical Law collections; its works on the legal structure of corresponding cultures and nations are also highly useful.

The Manuscript Reading Room contains the diaries of many of the founding fathers of the Republic. All of these works are peppered with classical knowledge and knowledge of the classics is important for their deciphering.

The Prints and Photographs Division contains numerous photographs and lithographs of the Classical monuments and works of art.

The Geography and Map Division is famous for its antique map collection. The collection is important for tracing knowledge of the world at given historical points, for the study of classical atlases, and for information concerning toponyms employed on maps of various ages.

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  September 21, 2010
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