Ad usum Delphini

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The Delphin Classics or Ad usum Delphini was a series of annotated editions of the Latin classics, intended to be comprehensive, which was originally created in the 17th century.


The first volumes were created in the 1670s for Louis, le Grand Dauphin, heir of Louis XIV (“Delphini” is the Latinization (genitive) of Dauphin ), and were written entirely in Latin. Thirty-nine scholars contributed to the series, which was edited by Pierre Huet with assistance from several co-editors, including Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet and Anne Dacier. [1] The main features included the main Latin texts; a paraphrase in the margins or below in simpler Latin prose (an ordo verborum); extended notes on specific words and lines, mainly about history, myth, geography, or natural sciences; and indices. One useful pedagogical feature of this series is that it keeps students reading and working in the target language (Latin). [2]

The original volumes each had an engraving of Arion and a dolphin, accompanied by the inscription in usum serenissimi Delphini (for the use of the most serene Dauphin). The collection includes 64 volumes published from 1670 to 1698. [3] [4] [5]

Beginning in 1819, a different series of Latin classics was published in England under the name Valpy's Delphin Classics by Abraham John Valpy. [6] That series was edited by George Dyer, who produced 143 volumes; it shares little or nothing in common with the earlier, French series, notwithstanding the name. The French Dauphin Classics continued to be published contemporaneously with Valpy's, serving in classrooms across Europe and the Americas; the first American edition was published in Philadelphia in 1804 [7] while one European edition was published in Bassan as late as 1844. [8]

The expression Ad usum Delphini was sometimes used on other texts which had been expurgated because they contained passages considered inappropriate for the youth, and has been used pejoratively to indicate any work expurgated for the sake of younger audiences, and not just this series of Latin texts and commentaries.

Publishing history

(Taken from Volpilhac-Auger p. 214. [9] )

AuthorEditorDate and place of publication, Number of volumes
Salluste Daniel CrispinParis, 1674
Cornelius Nepos Nicolas CourtinParis, 1675
Phèdre Pierre DanetParis, 1675
Térence Nicolas le CamusParis, 1675
Velleius Paterculus Robert Riguez, S. J.Paris, 1675
Panegyrici Veteres Jacques de la Beaune, S. J.Paris, 1676
Justin (historian) Pierre Joseph Cantel, S. J.Paris, 1676
Claudien Guillaume Pyrrhon (ou Pyron)Paris, 1677
Jules César Jean Goduin, professeur à ParisParis, 1678
Quinte Curce Michel le Tellier, S. J.Paris, 1678
Manilius Michel La Faye (ou Dufay); Pierre Daniel Huet, Remarques sur Manilius, et Julius Caesar Scaliger, NotesParis, 1679
Plaute Jacques de l'OuvreParis, 1679, 2 vol.
Tite-Live Jean DouiatParis, 1679,6 vol.
Valère Maxime Pierre Joseph Cantel, S. J.Paris, 1679
Boèce Pierre Cally, professeur à CaenParis, 1680
Dictys de Crète et Dares de Phrygie Anne Dacier, fille de Tanneguy LefebvreParis, 1680
Lucrèce Michel La Faye (ou Dufav)Paris, 1680
Martial Vincent Colesson, professeur de droitParis, 1680
Aulu-Gelle Jacques Proust, S. J.Paris, 1681
Aurelius Victor Anne Dacier, fille de Tanneguy LefebvreParis, 1681
Sextus Pompeius Festus et Verrius Flaccus André Dacier Paris, 1681
Cicéron, Livres qui concernent l'art oratoire Jacques Proust, S. J.Paris, 1682,2 vol.
Tacite Julien PichonParis, 1682,4 vol.
Virgile Charles de la Rue, S. J.Paris, 1682
Eutrope Anne Dacier, fille de Tanneguy LefebvreParis, 1683
Cicéron, Discours Charles de Mérouville, S. J.Paris, 1684, 3 vol.
Juvénal et Perse Louis DesprezParis, 1684
Suétone Augustin BabelonParis, 1684
Catulle, Tibulle et Properce Philippe DuboisParis, 1685,2 vol.
Cicéron, Épîtres ad familiares Philibert QuartierParis, 1685
Pline l'ancien, Histoire naturelle Jean Hardouin, S. J.Paris, 1685,5 vol.
Stace Claude BeraultParis, 1685, 2 vol.
Prudence Etienne Chamillard, S. J.Paris, 1687
Apulée Jules Fleury, chanoine de ChartresParis, 1688, 2 vol.
Cicéron, Ouvrages philosophiques François L'Honoré, S. J.Paris, 1689
Ovide Daniel CrispinLyon, 1689,4 vol.
Horace Louis DesprezParis, 1691,2 vol.
Pline l'ancien, Histoire naturelle Jean Hardouin, S. J.Paris, 1723, 3 vol. in fol. (nouv. édition)
Ausone Jules Fleury ; Jean-Baptiste SouchayParis, 1730

Reception and influence

The Ad usum Delphini collection was referred to by E.T.A. Hoffmann in Lebensansichten des Katers Murr (1819). [10]

„Sie sind, unterbrach ihn der Prinz, ein spaßhafter Mann.“ — Ganz und gar nicht, fuhr Kreisler fort, ich liebe zwar den Spaß, aber nur den schlechten, und der ist nun wieder nicht spaßhaft. Gegenwärtig wollt' ich gern nach Neapel gehen, und beim Molo einige gute Fischer- und Banditenlieder aufschreiben ad usum delphini. (English translation: "You are, the prince interrupted, a jolly man." - Not at all, Kreisler continued, I love fun, but only bad, and it's not fun again. At present I would like to go to Naples and write down some good fishermen's and bandit songs ad usum delphini at the Molo.)

The Ad usum Delphini collection was referred to by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in Devereux , Book IV (1829): [11]

let me turn to Milord Bolingbroke, and ask him whether England can produce a scholar equal to Peter Huet, who in twenty years wrote notes to sixty-two volumes of Classics, for the sake of a prince who never read a line in one of them?" "We have some scholars," answered Bolingbroke; "but we certainly have no Huet. It is strange enough, but learning seems to me like a circle: it grows weaker the more it spreads. We now see many people capable of reading commentaries, but very few indeed capable of writing them."

Honoré de Balzac III: Ève et David, later Les souffrances de l'inventeur, (1843): [12]

History is of two kinds--there is the official history taught in schools, a lying compilation ad usum delphini; and there is the secret history which deals with the real causes of events--a scandalous chronicle.

There is a reference to the Delphin Classics in Part I, Chapter 5 of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure (1895), [13] where young Jude, trying to educate himself by reading while delivering bread from a horse and cart,

"plunge[s] into the simpler passages from Caesar, Virgil, or Horace [. . .] The only copies he had been able to lay hands on were old Delphin editions, because they were superseded, and therefore cheap. But, bad for idle school-boys, it did so happen that they were passably good for him." [14]

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  1. Wood, James, ed. (1907). "Delphin Classics"  . The Nuttall Encyclopædia . London and New York: Frederick Warne.
  2. "Favorite Commentaries: Terence Tunberg" in Dickinson Classical Commentaries Blog March 4, 2013 accessed on Jan. 23, 2019.
  3. Volpilhac-Auger, Catherine. "La collection Ad usum Delphini : entre érudition et pédagogie." In: Histoire de l'éducation. n° 74, 1997. Les Humanités classiques, sous la direction de Marie-Madeleine Compère et André Chervel. pp. 203-214. Volpilhac-Auger says the volumes were published mainly between 1673 and 1691, but that the last appeared in 1730.
  4. "Classici latini in edizione monolingue | Edizioni Accademia Vivarium Novum".
  5. Volpilhac-Auger, Catherine, Martine Furno, and Université de Grenoble 3. 2005. La Collection Ad Usum Delphini. Des Princes. Grenoble: ELLUG.
  6. Delphin Classics (A. J. Valpy) - Book Series List, Retrieved on 1 April 2017.
  7. Caesar, Julius (1804). "C. Julii Cæsaris quæ extant, interpretatione et notis".
  8. "Q. Horatii Flacci opera interpretatione et notis illustravit Ludovicus Desprez ... In usum serenissimi delphini". 1844.
  9. Volpilhac-Auger, Catherine. "La collection Ad usum Delphini : entre érudition et pédagogie." In: Histoire de l'éducation. n° 74, 1997. Les Humanités classiques, sous la direction de Marie-Madeleine Compère et André Chervel. pp. 203-214, p. 214
  10. Lebensansichten des Katers Murr Project Gutenberg Retrieved on 23 April 2020.
  11. Edward Bulwer-LyttonDevereux Project Gutenberg Retrieved on 23 April 2020.
  12. Honoré de Balzac Eve and David, translated by Ellen Marriage 1999 Project Gutenberg Retrieved on 23 April 2020.
  13. Jude The Obscure at Project Gutenberg Project Gutenberg Retrieved on 23 April 2020.
  14. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, Part 1, Chapter 5 Archived 2017-05-19 at the Wayback Machine , Retrieved on 2 April 2017.