Editorial Introduction and Methodology

The ‘Bridging the Continental Divide’ project has several key audiences, including historians and literary scholars (particularly those with an interest in Scotland), classicists (especially those interested in issues of Classical reception and/or neo-Latin), and the general public. The critical edition of texts from the Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum (DPS) that forms the core of the electronic resource has to try and meet the different needs of all these audiences. With that as our guiding principle, we have opted for the following editorial conventions:


Each poem has a short introduction explaining its context (where known) and providing any information about original publication and/or delivery; the recipient or dedicatee, if the poem is addressed to or about a place or person; and the major themes and issues discussed.

Page numbers in the original text are given in square brackets in both the Latin text and the English translation, with a thumbnail of the original page which links to a full-size image.


Footnotes discussing classical, scriptural and philological references in the original Latin, and issues of style and meter, are supplied as part of the Latin transcription, and are ordered numerically (1, 2, 3, etc).

Footnotes supplying any historical or contextual information are supplied as part of the translation, and are numbered alphabetically (a, b, c, etc).

We have chosen to split the references in this way as this avoids duplicating one set of references in both the transcription and translation, which would unnecessarily clutter the screen and confuse the reader. It is also assumed that those reading the translation will be mainly interested in finding out what the poem actually says, while those reading the original Latin will be interested in the quality of the poetry—notes are thus grouped so that each audience can find the contextual information most immediately relevant to them as they read.

We appreciate that some users will want to look at both sets of notes simultaneously. With that in mind all footnotes can be accessed as small pop-up windows in the text itself, by rolling over the top of the relevant reference with a mouse or tapping it on a touch-screen. The full text of the notes also appears at the end of each poem.

Transcript of Latin Text

High-quality digital images of the relevant pages of the original DPS are linked to each text in the electronic resource, and scans of every page in the entire two-volume text are available on our page index. Because the original is directly accessible to the reader, we have thus taken the opportunity to modernise and clarify the Latin original in the transcripts facing each translation in the following ways:

  • Silent expansion of all consonants (eg ‘m’, ‘n’) and contractions marked by a macron (¯) in the original text.
  • Removal of superfluous special characters which are not used to punctuate modern renderings of Latin text, such as ‘é’, ‘â’, ‘ö’, etc, except if these are part of the original spelling of the name of a place or person.
  • Suppression of the frequently occurring ‘æ’ and ‘œ’ ligatures from the original text.
  • Silent expansion of every ‘q[ue];’.
  • Very occasional modernisation of punctuation where its use in the original text makes the syntax or grammar particularly unclear or misleading to the reader.
  • Removal of large double capitals at the start of each poem, and of capitalisation at the start of each line (except where this indicates a new sentence).
  • Correction of obvious spelling errors in text (eg ‘foedanr’ for ‘foedant’ in d2_RolH_006, p. 357), with a note forming part of the Latin commentary to indicate the correction.

The majority of text translated as part of the project exists uniquely in the DPS, and there are very few comparative editions to check for variants. It has not been possible, within the time constraints of the project, to check the ones that do exist, except in one or two instances where this work had been completed by Dr Reid already (for example, in his work on the poetry of Andrew Melville). Where this has been completed, variants of word choice and metrical position are noted, but minor alternate spellings and punctuation are not.

We have indented the Latin text on the page to conform to standard verse form presentation of Latin and Classical texts. The meter of each poem is noted in its introduction.

Greek characters and words have been retained, and not transliterated.


Classical and neo-Latin poetry is notoriously allusive and ambiguous. In translating the poetry the intention has been to render the Latin in such a way as to make its meaning as clear as possible to the reader while remaining sensitive to the writers’ sophisticated use both of the semantic and grammatical resources of classical Latin and the deep knowledge of classical culture that writer and reader had in common. Thus, where possible and appropriate, and without misleading the reader, we have tried to use word choices and phrasing that mirror and represent the ‘literary’ and ‘poetic’ nature of the original. Where the modern reader might find the classic allusions obscure, we have footnoted for clarity (and provided a glossary of terms, which is accessed through hyperlink when specific and recurring terms appear).

We have very occasionally emended syntax, grammar, and sequences of tenses where sticking too rigorously to a literal translation would unavoidably confuse the reader or make the text less readable in modern English (i.e. the use of the future perfect ‘will have been’ as part of a sequence using perfect verbs; the supply or removal of conjunctions such as ‘and’ where necessary).

Our authors often use long sentences containing a number of subordinate clauses. As far as possible this practice is replicated in the translations, as sentences of this sort lose their semantic and poetic import when artificially truncated. In longer poems, such as sylvae or odes, an effort has been made to replicate the sense of the original long sentences with their clausuli (subordinate clauses to the main idea within a complex sentence, governed by the Latin sequence of tenses) by allowing sentences to run on, using commas, semi-colons and colons to indicate each clause. Only where the sense in English is compromised have we employed a more readily approachable English syntax.

Any area of ambiguity (i.e., where a Latin word is consciously being used by an author to denote a double meaning that it does not have in English, or the author is making a pun or play on words) is explained using footnotes in the translation. Only where an English word cannot replicate the broadly allusive character of the Latin original have we resorted to a translation with a more literal character. Even here, though, the desire to replicate poetic concision has required us to avoid the overly literal and render in footnotes those images that are hard to recreate succinctly in English. In relation to this, while we have attempted to avoid paraphrase, there are some instances (such as several of the extremely complex metaphorical sequences in d2_MelA_005) where an occasional slight paraphrase is required to avoid the translation becoming overly long and literal.

Presentation and Lining of Text

In order to facilitate cross-referencing between the Latin and English texts we have employed a facing-text presentation where original verse form in the Latin text is kept, but the translation is presented in paragraph form, where each paragraph corresponds to a line group in the original Latin text. Line numbering is employed to further facilitate this goal, so that the reader may follow both texts simultaneously with a degree of accuracy.

Lining: Latin text

Each longer poem in the DPS was marked out by the editors using line groups to denote key episodes, speeches and scenes within each text. We have followed this practice where it is clearly marked, and retained all the line groupings supplied by the editors. In a handful of long poems (such as d2_MaiT_011) line groups have not been explicitly marked, and in these cases we have added groupings where we have felt they were necessary, with a note explaining this in the introduction.

The Latin texts are lined in blocks of 5, unless they have a natural metrical block where a different line numbering scheme (eg, odes in blocks of 4) is applied. Furthermore, poems that are less than 10 lines are not lined. The final line of each poem (except those less than 10 lines) is also given a line number. Dedicatory or introductory poems in longer pieces are individually lined, as are separate epigrams that form a cycle, but only where these are each more than 10 lines.

Lining: Translation

Translations are supplied as prose paragraphs marked out by line groups, and keyed to the corresponding line group in the Latin text. Using this method rather than marking the text up as a set of individual lines was felt to be the best option for presentation as margins can be moved to allow the translation (which is on average around fifty percent longer than the Latin text) to better line up with each line group in the Latin text. Poems of more than a single line group are lined at the start of each line group with the first line number of the group. Shorter poems (such as epigrams) do not require lining, as the lining in the Latin text should be sufficient.

Conventions for Citations

For the sake of clarity, we have avoided abbreviations when citing Latin and Greek texts, both ancient and early modern (always Metamorphoses never Met.). For the same reason, we have provided the name of the author as he is generally known, rather than his full Latin or Greek name (e.g., Virgil, rather than Publius Vergilius Maro, and Horace, rather than Quintus Horatius Flaccus). The title of each work from all the authors is rendered in its most recognised English form (so, for Virgil’s corpus: Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid, rather than Eclogae, Georgica, and Aeneis). Where no such commonly-understood title exists, we have used the title of each work as listed in the Oxford Latin Dictionary and Liddell and Scott for Latin and Greek works respectively for ancient texts (e.g., Lucan, Bellum Civile), and the title of the work in the manuscript or printed edition of early modern texts. The vast majority of Greek and Latin texts repeatedly referenced by authors in the Delitiae have run through many different editions over the years (with different referencing systems and conventions), so we have employed a referencing system that clearly delineates book and chapter/verse for the reader to allow them to consult the many different editions of each text with confidence. Each book of a text is rendered in roman numerals (I,II,III,IV…) and each chapter/verse number in Arabic numerals (1,2,3,4…): e.g., Virgil, Aeneid, IV.341, and Horace, Odes, I.2.15. We have only deviated from these general principles when there exists a single, definitive edition of a text that follows a different referencing and/or naming convention. Roger Green’s 2011 edition of George Buchanan’s Poetic Paraphrase of the Psalms of David is the definitive edition and as such we follow Green’s use of Arabic numerals for both poem and verse.


Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum: both volumes
Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum: both volumes