Expanding Your Research Materials, Part 6

The past several weeks, we’ve discussed different ways to expand fairly economically the material you have at your disposal for research. We’ve talked about using:

In today’s final post in this series, we’ll discuss four additional resources.

Laptop with open bookImage by Callum Shaw

1. Loebolus

First up, from various online sources, Loebolus has culled digital copies of Loeb Classical Library volumes that are currently in the public domain. The total number of Loeb volumes available via Loebolus now stands at 277.

You can download each of the volumes individually. Or, you can download them in a batch ZIP file approximately 3.2 GB in size.

Many Loeb volumes either aren’t currently available online or are still under copyright. (You can get a full list of Loeb titles from Harvard University Press.) But even just those that are openly available online represent a wealth of primary literature that’s easily available at your fingertips.

2. Open Access Journals

In biblical studies and cognate fields, several reputable journals are either partially or fully available online via open access. Some of these include:

There is also the Directory of Open Access Journals, where you may find other helpful journals that are also open access.

3. International Cooperation Initiative

The International Cooperation Initiative (ICI) is a program run under the auspices of the Society of Biblical Literature.1 The initiative:

provides free online PDF files to scholars and students who would not otherwise have access to these resources. These resources are available for persons in countries with a per capita GDP that is substantially lower than the average per capita GDP of the United States and the European Union.

Since I live in the United States, I can’t use ICI’s resources. But, it appears that the webpage uses your computer’s Internet address to determine your location and to display a list of accessible titles if you are accessing the service from a qualifying country.

Presumably if you were visiting a qualifying country and connected to the page from there, you would also be able to use ICI resources. So if you live in or, for a time, work from a country that qualifies, you can certainly try to use ICI to boost your access to research material that will otherwise be more challenging to access.

4. Other Digital Humanities Posts

There are too many useful resources online to list them all here. When I come across individual resources that I’ve found helpful and think you might too, I try to post these here under “digital humanities”.

You can check or subscribe to this tag for updates on other resources that haven’t made it into this series for one reason or another.

Conclusion

We began this series by recognizing that we’re responsible for interacting with relevant literature largely irrespective of how easy it is to access. Research often means hunting, and that hasn’t changed even with the explosion in technological research tools in recent decades.

What has changed and what continues to change, however, is the array of tools at the disposal of the biblical scholar for doing this kind of hunting. And there is every reason to use the best tool for the job needing to be done and to be grateful for the many people’s efforts and hours that have gone into preparing those tools for our use.

What other tips do you have for expanding your access to material for your own research?


  1. Oxford University Press also has a separate but similar program

Typing Biblical Languages in Unicode

If you’re writing in biblical studies, you need to be able to type biblical languages. Transliteration might work in some cases, but you can’t and shouldn’t always bank on being able to use transliterations when you write.

Partial English keyboardImage by Paul Zoetemeijer

Where We Were, Where We Are, and Why Unicode Is Important

In years gone by, typing biblical languages on an English keyboard required using a font that would mask English text and make it look like Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic.

For Hebrew and Aramaic, this often required typing the text backwards (i.e., left to right in the direction of English).

If you wanted to submit a paper electronically, you’d then have to ensure you used the proper font or sent or embedded the proper font with your paper.

Without that, “λόγος” could easily turn out to look like “lo/gov”—or worse—to whomever opened the file without that font installed. Thankfully, Unicode has changed all this.

“Unicode” is a system that “provides a unique number for every character, no matter what platform, device, application or language.”1

These unique numbers—like “03C2″—might not mean much to humans. But, they allow computers to tell exactly what character is being used, independent of the font in which it is typed.

So, for instance, a computer will know that “03C2” represents a human-readable final sigma (ς) and not, a Hebrew vav (ו). The computer can distinguish between these two characters even though, in by gone days, both have sometimes been mapped to the “v” on an English keyboard.

If this is all a bit too geeky, just remember that, with Unicode, a sigma is a sigma, a vav is a vav, and changing fonts doesn’t change that.

You’re already familiar with changing fonts between Times New Roman, Arial, or whatever (wingdings excepted) and having your English text remain the same.

Typing in Unicode means you can do the same thing with Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic in Times New Roman, Arial, or another Unicode-compliant font. That text will remain the same when you change fonts or send a file to someone else. If that person doesn’t have your font, their computer might substitute a different font, but it shouldn’t display gibberish.

Installing a Keyboard, or Keymap

Of course, if you want your computer to be able to tell the difference between when you press the “v” key and mean for it to use “v” and when you press the “v” key and mean for it to use “ς” or “ו”, you need some software to help.

Here enter biblical language keyboard software. You can find this available freely online or, with perhaps more limited functionality, as features within your operating system (e.g., Mac, Windows).2

Personally, I’ve preferred and used the keyboards provided by Logos. These are available for Greek, Hebrew/Aramaic, Coptic, Syriac, and transliteration.

(And no, you don’t need to purchase a base package to use these. They’re free and independent of the Logos system itself. So, you can even use these software keyboards if you use another Bible software platform altogether.)

You can download and install whichever combination of these keyboards you prefer. Inside each of the ZIP files available for download is also a PDF showing exactly what key strokes or combinations will produce what text output on the screen.

Most of the keyboards should install pretty simply by following the instructions provided on the download page. There are two possible exceptions:

  1. For a right-to-left language (e.g., Hebrew), you may need to reboot your computer or allow Windows to install support for right-to-left (or “complex script”) languages in order to use that keyboard.
  2. For the transliteration keyboard, you may end up with two English keyboards installed. To check this in Windows 10, search for “language” in the Windows menu, and open “Edit language and keyboard options.” From there, let the language list populate at the bottom of the window, and click “English” and “Options.” From there, simply click the standard US QWERTY keyboard layout, and choose to remove it. That way, you can simply use the more robust transliteration keyboard as your basic English keyboard, and you needn’t keep a fourth keyboard around to be in your way in the keyboard switcher menu (see below).
    Windows 10 Language Options dialog box image

Switching between Keyboards

To use a particular keyboard layout in Windows 10, simply choose that layout from the language button that should appear in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen by the default clock position.

Windows 10 keyboard switcher image

Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Alt+Shift to cycle through the languages in this menu. This will cycle through the keyboard layouts without an on-screen prompt. And you’ll quickly learn the order in which they come up.

You can also change keyboard layouts by using the shortcut Windows key+Space. This will pop the language selector up on the screen and allow you to see where you are in the cycle of selecting a language to type in.

With the Windows key depressed, press the Space bar repeatedly to cycle through the list of available languages.

When you’re ready to type in English again, simply change the keyboard switcher back to English, and you’re good to go.

Conclusion

Whether you’re just learning biblical languages or you have gotten pretty comfortable with them, being able to type them in Unicode will help you communicate more clearly and simply with others about these languages.

Once you invest just a few minutes in getting properly set up, you’ll be ready to write, and you’ll enjoy a much more seamless experience when using these languages in your writing.

Are you new to Unicode? If so, how will being able to type in Unicode change how you write? If not, what other tools or tips do you have for typing biblical languages in Unicode?


  1. Unicode Consortium, “What Is Unicode?” 
  2. SBL also has a number of resources that may prove helpful as you get set up for and used to typing in Unicode Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic via a software keyboard.