Towards a new Perseus: Update

Gregory Crane
Editor-in-Chief, Perseus Digital Library
Update as of January 19, 2024.

We have now completed work on Beyond Translation (a draft white paper on this work that has been submitted to the NEH Office of Digital Humanities is available here) and are focused on using the Beyond Translation work as part of an update to the Scaife Viewer. The resulting system will finally allow us to replace Perseus 4. We are calling the new version Perseus 6 (rather than 5) to reflect the amount of work embedded in the Scaife Viewer and now Beyond Translation (which we view collectively as Perseus 5). A grant from the NEH Collections and References program in the NEH Division of Preservation and Access for Perseus on the Web — preparing for the next thirty years provides the primary support for this phase of work, with additional support from the Tufts Data Intensive Studies Center, the School of Arts and Sciences, Tufts Technology Services and Google.

Our main collaborator in this phase of development is James Tauber, who is now working with Signum University. We also are waiting on Tufts administrative paperwork to finalize a contract with another group to help us reorganize the Perseus home (and associated sub pages) and replace this WordPress-based blog with the Pubpub Publishing Platform (which we already began using in documenting Beyond Translation.

A draft outline of the work that we are doing is now available here.

For now, the focus of work is to fold the services visible on Beyond Translation into the Scaife Viewer. The first results from that work will probably documentation, with changes to the Scaife Viewer following.

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Draft NEH White Paper for Beyond Translation


The Office of Digital Humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities asks its projects to submit white papers after completing a project. We have posted a draft of the White Paper for Beyond Translation here and invite suggestions as we finalize our work.

dNext up: a formal description of plans to replace Perseus 4. We secured the last chunk of funding needed shortly before the winter break. Once we finalize this report on what we have done, we will provide more details on what we are doing.

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Towards the Next Perseus: mid-fall update

A lot of work continues to go on behind the scenes as we move to replace the current Perseus 4.0 (the Hopper). Our goal is to finish the transition by fall 2024, with new functionality folded into the Scaife Viewer until this can fully take the place of the now venerable system. Those who are more technically inclined can follow much of what is being done by tracking issues on the Beyond Translation Github site.

New functionality includes support for new kinds of annotations such as treebanks, translations aligned at the word and phrase level, automatic mapping, visualization of meter etc. You can see a summary of these new features and enhancements here.

New functionality for Scaife also includes addition of services to which users have been long accustomed in Perseus, with support for commentaries been at the top of the list. We are also finishing a long-term backlog of texts for which the structural markup requires some manual intervention(as well as programmatic reformatting).

At the moment we are preparing to sign a contract to replace the Perseus home page and associated data. Our plan is to replace the Word Press platform (which I am currently using) with a different publishing platform, which is much better suited to academic publication. It supports not footnotes, automatically generates citation information and allows us to include interactive visualizations. We will have more to say as soon as the contract is signed.

Our plan is to have more substantive information about what we are doing by the end of the December (i..e., a few weeks after a busy semester starts).

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Yet more Lucian: translations by Emily James Smith

In 1892, at the age of 27, while serving as teacher of Greek at the Packer College Institute, Emily James Smith published translations for selected works of Lucian. She later served as dean (1894-1900) and then trustee (1900-1905) of Barnard College. She provides with readable translations for a number of Lucian’s works. We added the section numbers and attentive readers will note missing sections. Smith chose to leave out those passages that could not be translated in the standards of the time because of their sexual nature.

Her translations have the identifier perseus-eng5 (e.g., tlg0062.tlg029.perseus-eng5 for “the Dream”). She includes both works that have been ascribed to Lucian (with the identifier tlg0061although some are clearly not by him) and two that are labelled as “Pseudo-Lucian” (tlg0061).

tlg0062.tlg029 The Dream
tlg0062.tlg018 Zeus the Tragedian
tlg0062.tlg024 The Sale of Lives
tlg0062.tlg019 The Cock
tlg0062.tlg016 The Ferry
tlg0062.tlg012 A True History
tlg0062.tlg044 Toxaris; Or, Friendship
tlg0061.tlg001 Loukios; Or, the Ass
tlg0061.tlg004 The Halcyon
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More Lucian: the Fowler brothers 1904 translation

Gregory Crane

Henry Watson Fowler (1858-1933) and his younger brother Francis George Watson (1871-1918) are best known for their 1906 publication, the King’s English and the 1926 Modern English Usage, composed by Henry George after the 1918 death of his brother. In 1904, however, the brothers had published The works of Lucian of Samosata, coyly described as “complete with exceptions specified in the preface.” The exceptions included works that did not fit with Victorian sensibilities (such as the Dialogues of the Sex Workers) or that did not match seem worthy of Lucian (as they understood him). They also left out, sadly, On the Syrian Goddess, which Harmon would translate into an archaizing form of English that many contemporary readers would find unbearable.

Nevertheless, the Fowler brothers provide a second translation to complement those by Harmon, Kilburn, Macleod and others. Our goal in Perseus it to work towards providing, as often as possible, two or more translations so that readers can begin to get a sense of how differently the same text can be represented. For now we are adding more translations but we do so in part because new services have emerged (in particularly automatic translation alignment and rich linguistic annotation) that allow readers without knowledge of Greek to begin seeing how the source text and translations are related.

The Fowler translations have the label “perseus-eng4” and their XML source files can be found (where they are available) in Github in the various work directories here.

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Lucian: Updating Greek and adding English

Gregory Crane

Another update for our NEH-funded Next Thirty Years of Perseus work. We have now updated Lucian. First, we have fixed issues in the Greek for Lucian works 1-52 as editing by A. H. Harmon. These were originally entered years ago (c. 2010) with a version of Abbyy Finereader that only knew modern Greek. There were some residual OCR errors as well as incorrectly accented words (usually problems because we did not account for enclitics). We also added the textual notes. There were two versions of this Greek up until now but they have been consolidated.

We have also added the corresponding English translations by Harmon. These will all appear in the next upload to the Scaife Viewer, from work 1 (Phalaris) through work 52 (Disowned/Abdicatus)

Translations for all of Lucian are ready to be added, with more than one translation for most of Lucian’s works soon to be available.

Lucian text files are at here.

To examine this work by work, you can use URLs of the form:

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New translations of Thucydides added

Gregory Crane

Under our new Perseus the Next Thirty Years NEH grant, we have added a set of new translations for Thucydides, including translations in English, French, German, Italian and Latin. These are now available on Github and (with the exception of two German translations of part of Thucydides) can now be viewed in the Scaife Viewer. The opening books of Thucydides in the Zevort translation have been available. We now have the complete translation.

These are in addition to translations that have been available in Perseus for many years.

More Thucydides materials should appear in the coming months.

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Philo of Alexandria, Translations, and Perseus the Next Thirty Years

A lot is happening at Perseus. I am writing now to point out the first result from a new NEH grant that formally began one month ago (July 1, 2023). We have released a much revised Greek edition of Philo of Alexandria and a first English translation. The data is available in the First One Thousand Years of Greek Github repository and will find its way onto the Scaife Viewer in its next build.

First, the digital transcription of the Greek text of Philo (based on the Cohn/Wendland Teubner edition). We originally digitized this roughly 10 years ago with the first OCR open source OCR software that we found could manage Ancient Greek. There were issues with this work and we did a major revision. The new files will surely have residual issues and we look forward to finding these but they are a big improvement.

Second, we published the four volume translation that Charles Duke Yonge produced for the Bohn Classical Library in 1855. These are based on the Greek editions that precede the monumental work of Cohn and Wendland. In some cases, Cohn and Wendland reorganized the text and I have adjusted our version of Yonge to follow those changes.

There is a lot more in the pipeline. Our new NEH grant allows us to focus on adding to translations available in Perseus and this is only a first step. Our work with the NEH-funded Beyond Translation project (not to mention a great deal of work on translation alignment by others) has also opened up new possibilities for connecting translation and source texts. These services will begin to appear during the course of the next year.

Gregory Crane

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NEH Grant: Perseus on the Web — preparing for the next thirty years

National Endowment for the Humanities grant to the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University, April 18, 2023

I am writing to express my gratitude to the National Endowment for the Humanities for awarding us a new grant entitled “Perseus on the Web: Preparing for the Next Thirty Years.” We will receive just under $348,881 for this project, which is scheduled to run from July 2023 through June 2026.

Development for what would become Perseus began at Harvard in 1985, with our first grant support from an equipment grant provided by Xerox Corporation. David A. Smith created the first initial web version of Perseus at Tufts in 1995. This new NEH grant will be active, and most of our planned development will be completed by 2025, marking thirty years since the first web version of Perseus. Looking to the next thirty years is an ambitious goal, and advances in fields such as AI may lead us to move beyond systems like Perseus. Nevertheless, David Mimno designed the first version of Perseus on which most users depend, Perseus 4.0 (“the Perseus Hopper”), twenty years ago in 2003.

A month ago, I posted about the soft release of an initial version of what we are calling Perseus 6.0. That work will continue through August of this year. Our goals are to finally transition from Perseus 4.0, “the Perseus Hopper.” By the end of summer 2023, we hope that Perseus 6.x will include the remaining key features from Perseus 4.0 (such as support for commentaries and dictionaries) as well as the scalability of Perseus 5.0 (“the Scaife Viewer”) and the new capabilities introduced in Perseus 6.0 (“Beyond Translation”), such as treebanks, aligned translations, metrical visualizations, improved linking from commentaries and lexica, new geospatial visualizations, and integration with IIIF.

This new grant will enable us to build upon the new, more modern codebase and general architecture. We will have more to say about that in the coming months. The bottom line, though, is that as we finish up work on a production version of Perseus 6, we are already in a position to begin planning for Perseus 7 in 2025 or 2026.

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Perseus 6.0: Beyond Translation — the first version of a next generation Perseus

Gregory Crane
March 15, 2023
Medford MA, USA

Five years after the March 15, 2018, announcement of the Scaife Viewer, we are announcing Beyond Translation, the first version of the sixth generation Perseus (Perseus 6.0). The current NEH-funded phase of work runs through August 2023. We have a great deal of content to add and much to do with every aspect of the system, but the basic features of Perseus 6 are now largely in place.

You can experiment with Beyond Translation directly but it is not yet as transparent as it will (hopefully) become as to what features are available and where those features are available. A more proper splash screen will appear this summer but, in the meantime, we have put up a first draft of information about the new features and how you can get at them. We expect that documentation to evolve as well.

  • Read a general introduction to Perseus 6.0 here.
  • See an overview of new features in a single document here.
  • See information about Perseus 6 as a series of separate documents here.

Primary funding for Beyond Translation has come from the NEH Office of Digital Humanities program (HAA-266462-19), with major support from the Mellon Foundation (1802-05569), the Center for Hellenic Studies, the Tufts Data Intensive Science Center, the Tufts Springboard program, Tufts Technology Services, and Tufts Arts and Sciences. We particularly thank our developer partners James Tauber and Jacob Wegner.

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