History

Aris & Phillips Classical Texts: Marking 40 years of a unique series

When Adrian and Lucinda Phillips published the first Classical Text in 1979, they could not have known either how successful the series would go on to become, or how long running. The series was however founded on the principle, still essential to it today, that it should make works in Greek or Latin accessible to those without classical languages. Adrian Phillips takes up the story:

By a happy chance for us, Loeb was cutting back on their commissioning in the late 1970s and were approached by Alan Sommerstein with the first of his Aristophanes volumes His Acharnians seemed to us to meet our ideal edition and proved popular and we felt that to build a basic library of classical texts, we would need around 200-250 volumes. Then John Aris, Lucinda’s father, retired from the British Council and we thought he would be the ideal person to take it forward, as it proved.

Alan Sommerstein, went on to produce a complete edition of Aristophanes all of which are in print today and recognised as the outstanding edition of our times. Alan, now General Editor of the series since 2016, describes these early days:

I had an edition of Aristophanes, or rather at that time part of one, looking for a home after a promise of publication in the Loeb Classical Library had been abruptly withdrawn.  Two London professors, George Goold and Eric Handley, had an idea where a home might be found.  One or both of them knew John Aris, a computer expert  and a lifelong enthusiast for classical studies, who now, among his many other interests, helped to run a small publishing company based in Warminster, Wiltshire, together with his daughter and son-in-law, Lucinda and Adrian Phillips.  So it came about that one day in, I think, 1979, I was asked to visit John Aris’s house in Belgrave Square.  I don’t remember anything of our discussion, but I think Mr Aris (he was never ‘John’ to me, and though thirteen years his junior, I don’t think I was ‘Alan’ to him — autres temps, autres moeurs) had already made up his mind.  The new series, like the Loebs, was to have a Greek text and facing translation, but it was to be a good deal more fully annotated than Loebs had usually been, and every play would have its own volume.  I think something must have been said about plans to expand the series and make it a permanent part of the UK classics scene; but nobody could have predicted that it would eventually run to 154 volumes (and counting), that I would become its general editor, or that I would have, twenty-eight years later, a place in the Loeb Library after all.

From 1979 to the present day, as well as the seminal Aristophanes series, many major editions were produced: Peter Rhodes’ Thucydides volumes, Chris Rowe’s hugely popular Plato Symposium, the six volumes and counting in the Greek Orators sequence, Donald Hill’s complete Metamorphoses, Edith Hall’s Aeschylus Persians, and John Godwin’s two Catullus volumes, to pick out just a few from a long list. The series has also made a very significant contribution to Euripidean scholarship, under the editorship of Christopher Collard, who in addition to steering editions of eighteen Euripides volumes to publication, also took over as General Editor in 2006 after the death of its first Editor, Malcolm Willcock; a role he held until retiring in 2016. Chris describes how the Euripides series developed:

The first Euripides volume came out in 1986 and the last in 2017. In 1995 and 2004 two volumes of selected fragmentary plays were added, coincidentally also numbering eighteen. They and some of the last complete plays were marked by longer introductions than before and fuller, increasingly scholarly commentaries, alongside greater assistance with the original Greek; lemmata from the English translations were however maintained. These developments spread to some other Classical authors, and have been generally welcomed. It is my particular pleasure that the Texts now accommodate seven volumes of Greek dramatic fragments, tragic and satyric; they are a unique enterprise.

LUP continues to actively develop the series – there is still some way to go to get to Adrian Phillips’ ideal 250 volumes! – working with a new generation of classical scholars, always with the goal of producing accessible, affordable editions. If you have a proposal for the series do get in touch. Forty years on, we are hugely grateful to its General Editors past and present, summed up perfectly by Adrian Phillips in 2017:

We were extremely lucky with our general editors: Malcolm Willcock’s range was vast in both Latin and Greek; Chris nobly took over when Malcolm sadly died and it is with great pleasure that we learn that Alan is now taking on the series to bring the whole venture to a full circle some 37 years later.’

For more information on Aris & Phillips Classical Texts, please visit our website.

 

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