Bryn Mawr Classical Review 94.03.25

An Inside View of L'Année Philologique: American Office1

Written by Hans-Friedrich Mueller, University of North Carolina.

L'Année Philologique, monumental guide to classical scholarship since 1924, is today the collaborative effort of many individuals at its three main offices in Paris (Redaction Principale), in Heidelberg (Zweigstelle Heidelberg), and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (American Office). A glance at the title page to any recent volume quickly reveals both the many organizations that support L'Année financially, as well as many of the individuals who work assembling its data. My purpose here will be to sketch in general the structure of the three offices' relations to one another, and to offer in particular a glimpse into the day-to-day workings of the American Office from the perspective of a graduate student employed there.

The Heidelberg Office is responsible for all classical scholarship appearing in journals published in Germany and Austria. The American Office is responsible for articles appearing in England, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, other states currently or formerly associated with the British Commonwealth, and the United States. Paris not only handles (with the assistance of its correspondents in Moscow and Lausanne) scholarship appearing around the rest of the globe, but also is alone responsible for collating all the data, typesetting, and final proofing. Each office works autonomously, and composes summaries generally in its own language (no matter what the language of the original article), but follows guidelines agreed upon at the annual joint meeting of the directors of the three offices that takes place each spring in Paris. Pierre-Paul Corsetti, L'Année's redacteur-en-chef, also sends letters throughout the year with updates on new formatting decisions (e.g. this year we have begun to cite journal volumes using Arabic rather than Roman numerals, and we will also now include book reviewers' initials in addition to their last names), requests for clarification or notices of mistakes on work submitted for review,2 and news of progress in typesetting the previous year's volume. Page-proofs are also sent as they appear, as an aid to cross-referencing the next year's volume.

Typesetting. Each May, in addition to general policy discussions, all final printed slips summarizing the previous year's articles and reviews, having already been proofed both in their respective offices and in Paris, are physically carried to Paris. The Paris Office collates all book review notices, numbers all the slips, and these slips are then turned over to typesetters. This soon involves further proof-reading, and those curious why, when summaries are finished five months after each year's end, volumes do not appear more quickly, can easily see that the process is complex. Computerization, however, is underway.

The history of L'Année's moves towards computerization is not only interesting, but also promising. The American Office, under the direction of William C. West, III, was the first to investigate computerization, and in fact was computerized for about a decade before it became feasible for the other offices. Around the time the Department of Classics at UNC hired David Packard in 1975, computerization began in earnest, according to Prof. West, with the goal not only of improving efficiency in the American Office, but also eventually of reducing the cost of editing the entire work. Juliette Ernst, however, then in charge of operations in Paris, although she was not opposed in principle, was extremely doubtful, saying, according to Prof. West, that computerized bibliographies tended to be shoddy, that computers tempted one to sell one's soul to speed over quality, and that accuracy could only be guaranteed by "hand and heart" (literally; the Paris Office was, according to Prof. West, writing in longhand at that time). Dr. Ernst did agree, however, that the American Office should proceed with computerizing their own work. David Packard had also included on his Ibycus computer both a word-processing program and a data-base program able to handle Greek and other diacritical marks, and these were used for all work in the American Office through the mid-1980's. Prof. West also obtained for the impact printers connected to the Ibycus specially manufactured paper that conformed exactly in size to the slips used in Paris, an important factor for those in Paris who do all the collation.3 After the departure of David Packard, the American Office, with the technical guidance of Jay Bolter, switched from Ibycus to Macintosh. By 1988 the German and French Offices were computerizing as well, and the NEH sponsored a conference on this topic in Chapel Hill that was attended by representatives from L'Année's three offices and by Dee Clayman, director of the Database of Classical Bibliography. I have spoken to Profs. Carson, West, Bolter, and Clayman about their recollections of this conference, and, although memories to some extent diverge, they agree that the Europeans were quite enthusiastic (Juliette Ernst had in the meantime even changed her mind, and Pierre-Paul Corsetti, now redacteur-en-chef, was very enthusiastic). The Germans, according to Prof. Bolter, were particularly interested in coordinating their choice of computers with Paris, and quickly computerized using IBM. Paris planned on using IBM machines, according to Prof. Clayman, mainly because they were cheaper and much more widely used than Macintoshes, which at that time especially had made few inroads into the European market.4 The Paris Office, however, according to Dr. Carson, although it has not yet fully computerized, expects, with the addition of a new full-time computer programmer to their staff last year, to do so in the near future. Because their original full-time programmer took her civil-service position with her when she left L'Année, it took some time to replace her. The task facing the Paris Office is more complex as well; they plan on using computers not only to coordinate the data from all three offices, but also eventually to handle all page-layout and typesetting.5 The new programmer will also custom-design spell-check programs and data-entry programs for the three offices, and thus the American Office now plans on coordinating with the Paris and Heidelberg Offices, and will likewise adopt the IBM standard.6

Trans-Atlantic differences are reflected in the social organization of the workplace as well. The German and French Offices are more secure because they are permanently funded entities, staffed by "redacteurs" who are generally permanent full-time employees of the state. I cannot speak to details of their day-to-day operations, but the names of these redacteurs can, along with the various directors and correspondents, be found on the title page to each volume. The American Office, on the other hand, which was brought to UNC by T.R.S. Broughton in 1965, survives thanks to the commitment and support of the Classics Department at UNC (and its contribution of space, research assistants, and library privileges,7 all of which do not come without cost), a yearly contribution from the APA, but mainly (financially) on grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The NEH has been consistently generous in the past, but does not guarantee the future. The director and only full-time employee of the American Office, Lisa D. Carson, not only oversees all operations, but also writes the grants, proofreads all work, prints all slips, all in addition to excerpting many articles and collecting many book reviews herself. Her "collaborators", two in number (usually one archaeologist and one philologist), are graduate students in the Department of Classics at UNC who, in return for the department's standard graduate student stipend, devote 12-15 hours each week to excerpting articles and to collecting book reviews. Only graduate students advanced in their studies are considered for these positions, and, since Dr. Carson must devote considerable time to training each new recruit, only if they are willing to commit for a minimum of two years. Such assistants, given their transient and part-time status, have traditionally been thanked in the preface to each volume, but have, with the latest volume (LXII), been accorded notice on a page following the title page, where, in fact, all directors, a president, redacteurs, correspondents, and collaborators can now be found geographically organized, thus providing at a glance an overview of the whole international structure.

Workers in the American Office receive a list of journals for which they are responsible. My list, for example, contains 54 journals from Acta Classica to Yale Classical Studies. Journals are weighted according to whether they are "high-density", namely, every or almost every article must be excerpted, or "low-density", requiring only occasional excerpting (e.g. Harvard Library Bulletin). In addition to summarizing journal articles, we collect book reviews, and list separately articles appearing in recueils, i.e. collections published as books. Articles from such collections, however, have traditionally often been summarized only if the title was not deemed sufficiently descriptive. Our Office has, however, in the past few years begun giving such articles higher priority. On occasion, an author will also notify us, or, better, send us a copy, of an article that appeared in a place not likely to be noticed. Such an article will be summarized even if some time has passed since its publication.8 On occasion we must also belatedly summarize articles that we should not have missed in the first place. Mistakes sometimes occur.

At the American Office, workers are given a handbook compiled by Dr. Carson that provides guidelines for deciding which articles to excerpt: "APh is first and foremost a bibliography of Greek and Roman antiquity. Other ancient civilizations concern us only to the degree that they had contact with Rome or Greece, or if they were the subject of Greek or Roman writers. Their inclusion in APh must be strictly limited, especially for archaeology."9 We must decide whether or not an article is "in scope". Does it fit the chronological frameworks? L'Année will take account of the proto-history of Greece and the East to 2500 B.C. and of Italy to 1500 B.C. For archaeological articles the limits are set more strictly at 2000 B.C. for the East and 1000 B.C. for the West. At the other end, the former limit of A.D. 800 for history has been cut back to A.D. 476 in the West and A.D. 565 in the East. Also, although L'Année will not take account of the political history of the various barbarian kingdoms established on Roman territory, it will take articles on their social history. We do of course still take account of important authors such as Bede and Paulus Diaconus. For authors of these later epochs, it is their relation to ancient texts that is of interest. For example, Photius is of interest for his Bibliotheca, not his theological writings. Similarly, Arabic, Syriac, and Armenian writers who preserve otherwise lost texts receive notice. Renaissance humanists and great classical scholars are of interest not for their own sake, but for their research activities. Medieval Latin, humanistic, or modern Neo-Latin is out of scope. The influence of ancients on moderns is likewise not in scope. We will, however, excerpt articles on theoretical aspects or methodological questions related to the investigation of classical antiquity, but then again we will not take articles dealing with instructional methods. Some articles are more difficult to judge than others. We must often ask ourselves whether an article contributes a new perspective on an ancient text or on ancient society, or whether its focus really lies elsewhere. For example, does an article on Friedrich Nietzsche and Greek philosophy tell us about Nietzsche or about Greek philosophy? If it tells us about Nietzsche, then we reject it. Judgments must be made. An author can always protest, however, if one feels one's article has been unfairly excluded.

Once an article has satisfied these requirements, there are three main tasks: accurate citation of bibliographic information, writing a summary, and classification to the appropriate rubric(s). Bibliographic citations are checked and re-checked. All title pages are photocopied, so that the director can verify each citation. Dr. Carson also cross-checks all bibliographic information found in book reviews with the on-line catalog of the U.S. Library of Congress. In summarizing articles, if the authors themselves somewhere state the article's thesis, then we strive, where possible, to employ verba ipsa, but modifications must, nevertheless, almost always be made. When modifying authors' sentences, we must often eliminate verbal hesitations such as "perhaps" or "may" in order to state the case as succinctly as possible. On that rare occasion when an article rambles with no readily apparent purpose, we decide for ourselves what is being said. In addition to summarizing, we strive to cite all passages from ancient authors discussed at some length or used in support of the argument, and it is such citations in turn that usually determine how an article will be cross-referenced. A cardinal rule enjoins us to classify articles and books under "author rubrics" whenever possible. This is obviously not always possible. Articles difficult to classify are usually cross-referenced more extensively. Our guiding principle in classifying articles not specific to an author: "where would someone interested in this topic most likely look?" An answer usually entails reading Dr. Carson's handbook and examining how similar articles were classified in previous volumes. Accuracy and consistency are our goals. All summaries and classifications are then proof-read by Dr. Carson, after which we make corrections, followed in turn by another round of proof-reading (this can be repeated many times for troublesome articles), until finally the slips are sent to Paris for yet more proof-reading by Pierre-Paul Corsetti, who, as mentioned above, sometimes sends slips back for another round. At every step, there is constant checking and even more re-checking.

For a graduate student, the benefits of working for L'Année are incalculable. The lessons in the value of accurate citation alone, especially making sure citations are correct from the start rather than going back later to fix things, have already been amply rewarding. Personally, I applied for the job thinking that working for L'Année would be good preparation before the oral examination for the PhD; in this I was not disappointed. Hours spent tracking down names of obscure authors, as well as getting a grip on who wrote which biblically inspired late-Latin epic, not to mention learning about votive tablets of ailing Greeks, prosopographical implications of papyri from Roman Egypt, interpretations of spiritual pregnancy in Plato's Symposium, imperialist justifications in the fragments of Aeschylus, Vergil's divergences from Dionysius of Halicarnassus in representations of early Roman history, linguistic repetitions in Herodotus, metrical patterns in Ovid, all these, and countless other topics, are subjects I may have missed, had I concentrated solely on the prescribed reading list, standard courses, and my dissertation topic (Valerius Maximus, who, coincidentally, needs more entries in L'Année). Working for L'Année has not only taught me a profound respect for L'Année Philologique itself, its organization, and its long traditions, but also a profound respect for accurate citation, for clarity, and for the vast breadth of the field itself.


  • [1] I would like to thank Profs. Jay Bolter, Lisa D. Carson, Dee Clayman, Philip A. Stadter, and William C. West, III, for taking time to answer questions about L'Année's history and structure.
  • [2] Work is submitted monthly, and Pierre-Paul Corsetti's scrutiny is sharp, sometimes catching errors reproduced from the articles themselves. Most errors, however, never reach Paris, having been proofread not only by the person originally excerpting the article, but also at least three times by the director of the American Office, Lisa D. Carson. More on proofing below.
  • [3] A special printing program was written by Scott Carson and Jay Bolter.
  • [4] The operations of the Database of Classical Bibliography are, according to Prof. Clayman, at present associated, but not coordinated, with the three offices. The director of the Database does, however, according to Prof. West, sit on the Advisory Committee to the American Office (current members: G. Kenneth Sams, ex officio [as department chairman]; Dee Clayman; Jerzy Linderski; Philip A. Stadter; William C. West, III). The Database also has, according to Prof. Clayman, independent copyright and royalty agreements with the Paris Office. Currently, the Database sends previous volumes of L'Année to the Philippines where all information is re-typed in machine-readable form. Prof. Clayman then runs this raw data through a program she has designed that tags the various elements of each entry (author, journal, summary, etc.). The program is about 90% accurate, a level of accuracy made possible, according to Prof. Clayman, by the consistency of the format laid out by J. Marouzeau, beginning already with Dix Années. Graduate students at the City University of New York then proof the whole and correct the 10%. The Database is thus not at all concerned with how the offices computerize, but rather merely with obtaining future data in machine-readable form.
  • [5] Prof. Bolter relates that on one of his official trips to France, he visited L'Année's typesetter who showed him a very strange computer to which every imaginable type of data-drive was hooked up, and which, this typesetter claimed, was capable of handling any kind of machine-readable data from any computer. Camera-ready copy is probably preferable.
  • [6] With the recent introduction of the PowerPC, this will probably prove relatively painless.
  • [7] Only a few journals send complimentary copies. We thus depend on our departmental library, the graduate library at UNC, the library at Duke, and the personal subscriptions of professors. We are extremely grateful to those journals that do send copies.
  • [8] It is of course the place published, not the article's language or the scholar's national origin, that determines which office is responsible. Correspondence may be sent to the appropriate addresses below.
    American Office: Prof. Lisa D. Carson; Director, L'Année Philologique; Department of Classics; CB# 3145, 212 Murphey Hall; The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3145; USA.
    Heidelberg Office: Zweigstelle der Année philologique; Seminar für klassische Philologie der Universität Heidelberg; Marstallhof 4; D-69117 Heidelberg; Germany.
    Paris Office: M. Pierre-Paul Corsetti; Rédacteur en chef de l'Année philologique; Tour Chéphren; 7, square Dunois; F-75646 Paris Cedex 13; France.
  • [9] Written originally by Juliette Ernst and translated by William C. West, III (date unknown).