Loeb Classical Library

William Heinemann (London, UK)
Series dates: 1911-1989
Size: 6.5″ x 4.5″

Macmillan & Co., Ltd. (New York, US)
Series dates: 1911-1917 (with some reprints until 1969)
Size: 6.5″ x 4.5″

G.P. Putnam’s Sons (New York, US)
Series dates: 1917-1933 (with some reprints until 1993)
Size: 6.5″ x 4.5″

Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, US)
Series dates: 1933-date
Size: 6.5″ x 4.5″

Updated 5/22/2023

Titles in the Loeb Classical Library series, funded by banker James Loeb, were announced in 1911, and the first volumes were published in 1912 by Heinemann in the UK and by Macmillan in the US. The series included basic translations of classical literature, growing to include at least 537 different works, some in multiple volumes. From the beginning, the books were bound in green for Greek texts and red for Latin texts. Dust jacket ink color and, later, paper color also reflects these two categories. The original texts (on the left) face (on the right) translations into literal English, with minimal critical elements and commentary. Revised editions, often to correct the bowdlerization of certain titles, are not uncommon. A comprehensive list of authors and titles in the Library can be found in the Wikipedia entry for the series. The series is, more or less, translated Classical texts for “everyman.”

Macmillan was the initial US publisher of the series, with Putnam taking over around 1917. Alas, series imprints continue to appear under the Macmillan and Putnam imprints through the last decades of the 20th century. It is possible that the title pages used on the Macmillan and Putnam titles were not revised to reflect the current U.S. publisher.

When Loeb died in 1933, the series was willed to Harvard, and Harvard University Press began publishing the series, maintaining Heinemann for printing, binding, and distributing the books. The arrangement with Heinemann ended in 1989, and the Harvard University Press has solely published the series since then. Profits from the series fund graduate fellowships at Harvard University.

There were three major dust jacket styles from 1912 until the end of the century. The bindings and books themselves, however, kept the same format and design throughout the series’ 90+ year span.

A review of the digital edition of the Loeb Classical Library with some series history can be found in Susan Kristol, “Ancient to Modern: The Loeb Classical Library Goes Digital” (The Weekly Standard, Vol. 20 No. 4).

A discussion of the quality of the translations used in the series, along with the series’ cultural impact, can be found in “The Bright Ghosts of Antiquity” by John Talbot (New Criterion, September 1, 2011)

Heinemann & Macmillan Imprint: 1911-1917 (with some reprints until 1969)

The jacket below is from 1913, the second year that books were available, and likely the first jacket design used for the series. This edition of Petronius (translated by Michael Heseltine) has the Heinemann and Macmillan imprints.

This early jacket is distinguished by the lack of anything but the series colophon (a stylized “LCL”) and red line border on the front. The ink is red, corresponding to the binding color and Latin authors. The jacket spine has considerably more information: along with the author, title, and translator, the price is noted (5/- net), as is the binding type (cloth) and a statement that seems to start with the word “Cash” but is too faded for me to decipher. A traditional Greek geometric meander graphic element is also included, along with a continuation of the red line from the jacket front. The front jacket flap is blank. Greek titles from this era’s series had dust jackets printed with green ink. Heinemann is the only imprint on the jacket spine.

The rear of the jacket includes a list of the first 19 titles published in the series.

As is somewhat common in the era, the text and designs on the jacket and book match. In this case, the border around the front cover of the red cloth binding is debossed, rather than printed in gold, and the pricing information is not included. Again, Heinemann is the only imprint on the spine.

The half-title page features the series name and series editors, followed by the author and title information for the volume.

The title page is framed by a red border (corresponding to the Latin category) and includes the Heinemann and Macmillan imprints. The date, 1913, is also included below the imprint.

The copyright page is blank. The first and subsequent printing years are included on this page in subsequent printings.

The Arden Press printed the books at Letchworth in the UK.

Heinemann & Putnam’s Imprint: 1917-1933 (with some reprints until 1993)

This 1924 edition of Ovid’s Tristia & Ex Ponto maintains the jacket and binding design of the 1913 edition above. Putnam has been substituted for Macmillian on the book’s title page.

A catalog is included at the end of the book:

The second major jacket style for the Loeb Classical Library series is shown with the 1931 edition of Cicero, translated by H. Rackham, below. The book has the Heinemann and Putnam imprint on the title page. The jackets have changed to include the series’ name, title, and translator. I have seen this style jacket as early as 1928. Thus the change to this particular jacket design occurred between 1924 and 1928. This jacket design was used up through the mid-1960s and overlapped with the third major jacket style (with the solid red and green jackets) that emerged in the early 1960s.

The pattern around the front of the jacket is a series of swastikas. The earliest known swastika symbol in the West is the Greek gammadion cross, which consists of four of the capitalized Greek letter gamma (Γ), the third letter of the Greek alphabet. Thus the inspiration for the pattern was its Greek roots, not the later association with good luck (found on reprint series books in the WW1 era) or, obviously, the later Nazi use of the symbol.

The badly faded jacket spine includes (at the top) the series name (not included on the earlier jacket design), author and title, translator, the text “Cloth” and “Leather” with corresponding prices (thus, the same jacket was used for both bindings), and the Heinemann imprint. Again, like the earlier jackets, only the Heinemann imprint appears on the jackets. The front jacket flap begins listing the available volumes in the series, categorized by Greek and Latin.

The rear of the jacket and rear jacket flap continues the catalog of titles, which has expanded greatly since the earlier jackets above.

Bindings remain unchanged from the earlier (1913) title: the same (not swastika) pattern is used on the spine, a debossed frame, and the LCL logo on the front of the book.

The half-title page remains the same as the earlier edition:

The title page remains the same also, including the date (in this case, 1931).

The copyright page includes a printing year for the first, second, and third editions. “Printed in Great Britain” is also indicated.

The printer of this particular book is Richard Clay and Sons. As is common with series titles in the first half of the 20th century, a series catalog is bound in the rear of the book. This was often done when enough pages were left in a signature to include a catalog.

Forthcoming titles in both the Greek and Latin categories are listed at the end of the eight-page catalog:

Heinemann and Harvard University Press Imprint: 1933-date

The swastika-bordered jacket style continued to be used when the Harvard University Press took over the Loeb Classical Library series in 1933. Both Harvard and Heinemann were noted on the jackets and the title page of the books after 1933. As noted above, it seems that Macmillan and Putnam’s imprint remained on some titles after they were no longer associated with the series. This suggests a failure to change the title pages (on titles published during the Macmillan and Putnam era).

The series’s third and most recognizable jacket style consists of solid color jackets (again, green or red), which appeared around 1960. This copy of Babrius and Phaedrus was published in 1965. Besides the colored paper, a medallion series colophon replaces the stylized LCL logo, and the gammadion cross (swastika) border is replaced by the meander design, as used on the spine of the earliest series jackets. Series numbers are now included on the jacket spine, as is a blurb about the title on the front jacket flap.

The rear of this copy advertises “Other post-Augustan poets in the Loeb Series.” The rear jacket flap is blank.

The bindings remain consistent with earlier editions, including the meander pattern, line design on the spine, and LCL logo on the front of the book. Thus any Loeb Classical Library title from 1912 onward has the same binding design, making a collection on a shelf (without jackets) consistent from book to book.

The title page remains unchanged, except for modifications in the editors associated with the series.

The title page also remains similar, with the green box enclosing the text. The imprint is now Harvard University Press and Heinemann; as in the past, the date is included in Roman numerals.

The copyright page includes copyright to Harvard College and the first printing of this title (1965). The books, at this point still being printed and distributed by Heinemann, are printed in Great Britain.

Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) is the printer of this book in the UK. A catalog of titles in the series follows.