Compiled and revised by Nigel Wetters Gourlay

Gourlay (2016, second edition) p/b 396pp £11.95 (ISBN 9789810952105)

This book is (almost) exactly what its title implies. It is a compilation of Hillard and Botting’s elementary Latin textbooks, very intelligently laid out so that translation into Latin and out of Latin are intercalated rather than appearing in two separate volumes. There is a full (English-to-Latin and Latin-to-English) vocabulary, usefully printed on grey-edged pages so that it is easy to find. At the end can be found the significant addition not implied in the book’s title: a reference grammar which is a very slightly edited version of Kennedy’s Shorter Latin Primer. The author of this grammar is fully acknowledged in the introduction to the book, but he is not identified on the book cover, or the title page, or even the first page of the ‘grammar notes’, as they are called. This seems a most regrettable oversight.

That said, the book, for anyone wishing for a traditional teaching tool, is admirable. It is clear and comprehensive, and the grammar notes are ‘linked’ to the relevant pages in the text, as Hillard and Botting did with the original Shorter Latin Primer. The contents pages clearly indicate which elements of grammar are covered where and, having both English and Latin to translate, provides for excellent consolidation as one goes along. In addition, because the Latin passages use a wider vocabulary than the English sentences, and also cover narrative episodes, the ‘Latin as jigsaw puzzle’ mentality, which is always a risk with limited-vocabulary translation into Latin, is neatly avoided.

The book is excellent value, too, compared with the price of the three component units: Elementary Latin Exercises, Elementary Latin Translation and The Shorter Latin Primer. And who knows—this book may give a new life to a pedagogical approach which has been out of fashion for half a century. Now that would certainly start an interesting debate.


Jeannie Cohen—Francis Holland School



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