# How do I cite classical works with biblatex?

What I'd like to do is to cite classical works. For example, to cite Aristotle's Metaphyisic according to the Bekker's cannonical edition. How could I do this using biblatex with author-year style?

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Could you explain what is lacking in just using the book entry and adding appropriate information? –  Joseph Wright Oct 12 '11 at 5:45
What is the technical difference of citing a classical work and any other work? If you want to add information about the original work there's the bib entry data fields origlanguage, origlocation, origpublisher and orgititle but none of them is used by the standard bibliography styles. –  N.N. Oct 12 '11 at 5:58
Note that you can use the shorthand field for abbreviated citations. –  domwass Oct 12 '11 at 6:41
Are you looking for something like upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/41/Bekker_1831_page184.jpg –  Yiannis Lazarides Oct 12 '11 at 8:08

In my experience citing medieval and classical texts, the most flexible approach --- given that different journals and publishers have different rules about citing pre-modern works --- is to create your own citation commands for these works. Biblatex is extremely flexible, but unless you are sure one shorthand will work for everything you'll ever write, it can't do the job unless you (re-)create a .bib entry for each paper or book.

For a basic paper, what I do is something like the following, given the following .bib entry:

Book{ross1924,
title =        {Aristotle: Metaphysics},
origdate =     1924,
date =         1997,
editor =       {Ross, W. D.},
origpublisher = {Oxford University Press},
publisher =    {Sandpiper Books},
location =     {Oxford},
pubstate =     {reprint},
volumes =      2
}


(Note, I treat modern editions of works as being 'authored' by the modern editor of the work since our 'critical' editions of these works are but reconstructions of what the medieval or classical author wrote. Not everyone agrees with this view, so you may want to add Aristotle in the author field.)

Now, create a custom citation command:

\newcommand{\metaphys}[1]{\emph{Met.}\@ #1\nocite{ross1924}\mancite}%


usage:

\metaphys{1048a36}


gives you: 'Met. 1048a36' along with an invisible citation of the Ross edition and a command to manually re-set biblatex's ibib-tracker.

Or be more complicated. Imagine you wanted to provide a parenthetical reference to the page number(s) of Ross's edition:

\newcommand{\metaphys}[2]{\emph{Met.}\@ #1 (#2\nocite{ross1924}\mancite)}%


Obviously, more fancy versions are possible, but think carefully about what you want: will a reference to long sections of the text be required (e.g., Met. 1067b1--1068a7)? do you want to include book and chapter information (e.g., Met. 11.11.1067b1--1068a7)? do you want the references to the 'a' and 'b' columns to be superscript? Etc., etc.

One final thought. If this is a longer project, and you plan on something like an index locorum, make sure you create the commands in such a way that you can extract the relevant information consistently from these commands. That is, if you want to provide more detailed information in the ntoes of your text than will appear in the index, make sure you break down the discrete parts of the citation into different mandatory arguments (using, say, something like \newcommand{\metaphys}[3] or however many arguments as are necessary so the indexing command can only pick up the arguments it needs).

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Great! Thank you. But I wonder this: if I cite e.g. (Smith, 1990), I mean (Author, year), is it correct to cite (Met. 1048a36), because in that case I wouldn't respect the author-year format. I know it is not a TeX query, but it is linked to my question. –  Gastón Oct 12 '11 at 18:08
@Mario: a fair point. Usually these kinds of abbreviations are meant for a 'notes and bibliography' ararangement, but it is fairly common (I think) to have in-text parenthetical references, nowadays. A Journal's styleguide should tell you how it's to be done. If it's a book and the publisher doesn't have any rules, then as long as you provide a list of abbreviations, you should be OK. (Note: I'm not familiar with MLA conventions, if this is the source of your query. I presume they have conventions for citing classical works, but I have no idea what they might be.) –  jon Oct 12 '11 at 19:39
I appreciate very much your help. But I've realized there is a little detail I didn't mention: I'm using verbose-trad1 style and I need that the new commands to subordinate to the ibidtracker. How can I do that? –  Gastón Oct 18 '11 at 22:03
Are you sure you're supposed to do that? 'Ibid.' is not normally supposed to be used with classical abbreviations that use the internal/specialized form of citation (see, e.g., the Chicago Manual of Style at 17.252). However, if you need to use ibidem and the Bekker numbers, then you're going to have to use the 'shorthand' field of biblatex, and hack it some in order to make it use 'ibid.': the style you are using sensibly uses the shorthand field in the way the CMS suggests. Probably not the answer you are looking for.... –  jon Oct 20 '11 at 6:13
First of all: thank you. I've just asked the question here and it's been already answered. My text is in spanish and there is no information about this kind of citations in the style manual (for spanish language) I've consulted. But I've found that in classical text published by Gredos (a very serious and prestigious spanish publisher) "ibid." is used with classical abbrv. I think that perhaps I should stick to Gredos' editions, because I'm working with texts in spanish and I have no other references. –  Gastón Oct 20 '11 at 13:41

You may use the classics package to typeset Bekker pages too:

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{classics}
\newclassic{Aristotle}{#1|\textit{#1}|#1}

\begin{document}

\Aristotle [Met.]{1048}[a]

\Aristotle [Met.]{1048}[a][36]

\Aristotle*[Met.]{1048}[a][36]{1049}[b][37]

\end{document}


And this is how to use it with biblatex:

\cite[{\Aristotle{1048}[a][36]}]{ross1924}

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