Bryn Mawr Classical Review 96.01.08


RESPONSE: Clayman on Brennan on DCB/APh


I am gratified by Corey Brennan's review of the DCB, particularly by his admission that after less than two months' ownership he "cannot imagine tackling [his] own research and teaching without it." I am happy too that he likes the retrieval software and manual which were designed with care to make the data accessible in every imaginable, and some unimaginable, ways.

I want to take this opportunity to speak to Brennan's dismay at the number of missing items and errors of detail he found in the data. He is quite right that the DCB makes no effort to check the information in the APh volumes against the journals and books described therein, guaranteeing that we will reproduce all of the mistakes in the original. This was not an oversight, but a policy decision made at the start of the project with our eyes open and a willingness to accept the inevitable consequences. Simply put, we wanted to make as much data available to the public as quickly as possible. We could have rechecked everything, but if we had, we would still be working on the first volume and none of us would live to see the first CD-ROM.

Here is the question then, do you want the opportunity to search an electronic version of the entire extant APh, with all its warts and eccentricities, in the foreseeable future, or do you want us to hold the data back until it is perfect, knowing, of course, that it will never be exactly perfect. If I have learned anything from the experience of editing this database it is that stamping out old errors is the same thing as introducing new ones. The more times you recheck the data, the truer this becomes.

One unintended consequence of making a database of the Année Philologique is that it tends to highlight the APh's weaknesses even as it offers up its treasury of scholarly riches. When you use the DCB, I hope you will note the former (send me the notes), but keep your attention on the latter. To put yourself in the right frame of mind, try the following simple exercise. Close your eyes, relax and think about writing your dissertation, your last book, all those articles and lectures. Now, ask yourself - - honestly - if you could have done any of this work without the APh. By now you should feel a wave of gratitude welling up in your chest. Like life, the Année Philologique is not perfect, but for us classicists, it's everything.

All corrections will be gratefully received and included in DCB.v2. Reach me at dclayman@email.gc.cuny.edu.

Dee Clayman
Brooklyn College/City University of New York