Big Books

Adam Mars-Jones

A big book is a big evil. That’s what Callimachus said, but really, what did he know? A book wasn’t a bound and folding thing for him, a codex. He could only have known scrolls, like the ones that toga-wearing actors consult with bogus assurance in plays set in classical times, as if what they were holding was some sort of Kindle-in-waiting. And in the 1960s anyone who studied ancient Greek for A-level, as I did (the language of Callimachus, after all), was expected to buy a very big book indeed: Liddell and Scott’s monumental lexicon, big enough to afford the linguistic granularity you need to write Greek prose in the style of Demosthenes’ orations, with citations to corroborate every word used.

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