Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ye Olde Google Book Shoppe

Three cheers for Google Book Search! Until yesterday I hadn't explored it in sufficient depth (cf. the New Yorker article).

I was thinking about the expression bread and circuses, and I got it in my head to hunt down Juvenal's 10th satire and read the source. Maybe I searched poorly, but I had trouble finding an English translation via the standard Google search, so I decided to give Book Search a whirl. Clearly they've been busy beavers--the results are amazing.

In addition to illuminating the original context, I learned a couple of other new things. For example, people have been flipping the bird for a long time, since at least the 2nd century:

"That great men, and those about to give great examples,
May be born in the country of blockheads, and under think air.
He direded the cares, and also the joys of the vulgar,
And sometimes their tears; when himself coudl persent a halter
To threat'ning fortune, and shew his middle nail."

The other interesting thing is that just before Juvenal bemoans the Plebians caring about nothing more than bread and circuses, he notes that their interest in politics waned when they lost the right to sell their votes. So, there, if you're looking for a way to increase interest in the political process, all you've gotta do is let people sell their votes (and, no, I'm not seriously advocating that).

I'll be surprised if you have any trouble finding any classic literary goodness via this search. In some form or another, I'm sure anything in the Loeb Classical Library is there. And Einstein's Relativity, G.H. Hardy's A Course of Pure Mathematics, Gibbon's Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, Aristophanes, Epictetus. In all my experimentation, I never came up empty-handed. There are countless classic full-text publications you can download in PDF form.

Yey and thanks for Google!


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