Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (3rd edition)

by M.C. Howatson (ed.), OUP August 2013, Pb, ISBN 978-0199548552  (£12.99)

This is a new edition of the revision of the original 1937 Oxford Companion by Sir Paul Harvey in the Oxford Paperback reference series.  At a very reasonable £12.99 it is a highly recommended addition to any school library.  Many features of the first edition are retained but new articles are included on topics developed in Classics since the first edition: reception, love and sexuality, science and technology, for example.  The presentation is clear and up to date; there are no illustrations, but new maps are appended.  Many entries have been rewritten to reflect the likely needs of readers consulting these pages.  There is now no Greek script and very little Latin (all translated) so as to include students of non-linguistic courses.  Such students would find this an invaluable source of initial information and guidance before pursuing their researches in more detail elsewhere.  There are some curious survivals from the first edition, whereas other entries have disappeared: for example, anacrusis (a metrical term for upbeat) survives, but anaphora (repetition at the beginning of a phrase for rhetorical effect) has disappeared along with other literary devices.  Other metrical references have been retained but there is no general entry on metre: someone trying to find out exactly what a hexameter is may have trouble hunting it down.  The detailed original entry on metre may justifiably have been axed but some short entries on the major line schemes would still be useful to those studying the poetry in translation, as would entries on some of the major literary devices.  The entries have nearly all been revised to give them a more modern, slightly breezier feel; the article on Pliny the Younger for example contains much of the old phrasing and illustrations but omits some criticism which condemns him to a lower rank of writer and consequently gives a more rounded picture of his character.  A reference to letter 10.96 is cross-referenced to a new article on Christianity in the Roman Empire that did not exist in the 1st edition.  Authoritative and comprehensive, this is an excellent resource which any intermediate student of Classics will want to consult or at such an affordable price even to own.

John Bulwer