Homer in Print: Transmission and Reception

Homer - George Chapman title page

Title page. George Chapman (1559?–1634). “The Whole Works of Homer. . . . ” London:
Printed for Nathaniell Butter, [1616]. Rare Books Collection, Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

Exhibition Title: Homer in Print: The Transmission and Reception of Homer’s Works

Dates: January 13 – March 15, 2014

Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. when classes are in session

Location: Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL

Price: Free and open to the public

Curators: Alice Schreyer, Catherine Uecker, and Catherine Mardikes

Description: For almost 3,000 years, the Homeric epics have been among the best-known and most widely studied texts of Western civilization. Generations of students have read the Iliad and the Odyssey to learn Greek or to study Greek mythology, history, and culture, or for the sheer enjoyment  of the stories themselves. Concepts such as heroism, nationalism, friendship, and loyalty have been shaped by Homer’s works. Countless editions, translations, abridgements, and adaptations have appeared since the invention of printing, making Homer accessible to students, scholars, and general readers.

The Iliad comic book

Cover. “The Iliad.” New York: Gilberton Company, 1950. Classics Illustrated, no. 77. Illustrated by Alex A. Blum. Walter C. Dopierala Comic Book Collection. The University of Chicago Library.

Homer in Print puts the spotlight on the text itself, not as an object of literary or linguistic analysis, but rather as the product of a particular time, place, editor, printer, publisher, or translator. From the very first printed edition of Homer through the 21st century, every editor of a Greek edition must decide what sources should be consulted and whether notes are needed to achieve the goal of the particular edition. Translators face a host of additional choices: Will they produce a prose or verse translation, if verse then in what poetic form, and will they aim at fidelity to the words and meter or to the spirit of the “original” (however that is defined). The way each translator answers these questions reflects available sources, literary principles, and individual preferences.

The study of Homer has been part of the core curriculum at the University of Chicago since the first year of classes in 1892-93, and from its earliest days the Library built a collection strong in Greek editions, commentaries, translations, and scholarly literature. In 2007 M. C. Lang donated the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana to the University of Chicago. He had formed the collection, consisting of 187 separate items, with the goal of tracing the transmission of the text in printed form. Homer in Print draws on this splendid gift as well as Homeric works acquired before and afterwards to tell this story.

Among the editions and translations in the exhibition ranging from the 15th century to the 21st are the earliest printed edition of Homer; editions and translations aimed at scholars, students, children, and other specialized audiences; scholarship; and finely printed, illustrated, and graphic editions. Together they illustrate the profound influence of the Homeric poems on classical studies, the history of printing and print culture, textual editing, translation studies, and the development of English language and literature as well as their enduring appeal to this day.


First page of the Odyssey

The first page of Alexander Pope (1688–1744). “The Odyssey of Homer.” London: Printed for Bernard Lintot, 1725–26. Rare Books Collection, Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago.

Associated Publication

A Catalogue of the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana at the University of Chicago Library. Edited by Glenn W. Most and Alice Schreyer. Published by the University of Chicago Library. Distributed by University of Chicago Press.


Associated Web Exhibit

Visit lib.uchicago.edu/e/webexhibits/homerinprint


Associated Event

Colloquium Title: The Homeric Library: Translations, Editions, Commentaries

When: Friday, February 14, 2014

Where: Regenstein Library, Room 122, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL

Description: This colloquium will explore the paths through Homer’s poetry opened by the University of Chicago Library’s Homer collection, which stretches from the 15th century to the 21st. It is co-sponsored by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and the University of Chicago Library in conjunction with the exhibition Homer in Print at the Special Collections Research Center.

Speakers include Glenn Most, University of Chicago and Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa; Larry Norman, University of Chicago; Sophie Rabau, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3; Tiphaine Somoyault, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3; and David Wray, University of Chicago.


Use of Images

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for members of the media, and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news.  Email Rachel Rosenberg (phone: 773-834-1519) or Joseph Scott (phone: 773-702-6655)  to request high-resolution images.

The Iliad in Greek, 1497-1599?

A passage from “The Iliad” printed in Greek. Johann Herwagen (1497–1559?). “Homeri Ilias et Vlyssea. . . .” Basel: Apud Io. Hervagium, 1535. Rare Books Collection, Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.


Cover of Lattimore Iliad

Dust jacket. Richmond Alexander Lattimore (1906–1984). “The Iliad of Homer. . . .” Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951. Rare Books Collection, Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

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