In search of a good Latin textbook


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In search of a good Latin textbook

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Jun 23, 2011, 11:55 am

I was hoping that someone in this group would be able to recommend me a good Latin textbook. My general strategy with learning foreign languages has been to consult course listings from different universities here in the USA, shopping for used textbooks based on the books colleges are currently using in undergraduate language classes. Maybe, though, some members of this group would be able to point me in the right direction.

I'm looking for the following:
1) Completeness: I'd like to have a rather complete representation of Latin grammar, something I could use along with a dictionary to read and understand books in Latin. I'd like to be able to work through the book from beginning to end, then have the tools to start reading in Latin.
2) Organization: I'd like it to be well-organized, and I'd like to feel like I'm learning Latin in a way that makes good sense. Basically, I want this book to be a good teacher. I don't want it to confuse me or leave me frustrated.
3) Price: It'd be nice to be able to find a used textbook online for less than $10.

Thank you in advance for any and all suggestions! I'm excited about learning Latin: I've studied the four major Romance languages, and I've studied a language with a case system that's very similar to Latin's (Mongolian). I'm hoping to be amazed and astounded by this new (old) language, and I hope that learning Latin will help me better understand English, Spanish and the other languages I enjoy studying.

So, what do you think? Are there any books you would recommend to the new student of Latin?

Jun 23, 2011, 8:01 pm

I can't be much help, but I might be a little help. Here, if I understand permanent links right) is a listing of my books with 'latin' in the title. I know that I have at least one that was suggested credibly as an alternative to Wheelock's, which has been characterized as teaching people all about Wheelock's Latin but not how to read -- others think it a credible primary text. I'm sorry that I cannot tell you which one is recommended as the alternative, but you might look at the reviews of some of what I have to see informed opinions about them.

Good luck,


Jun 24, 2011, 3:51 pm

I think my father the Latin teacher uses Wheelock's. Dad, are you reading this?

Editado: Ago 2, 2011, 1:18 am

Please, please use Wheelock. There are lots of newer and fancier approaches in Latin textbooks these days; but Wheelock famously gives you, in an efficient, no-nonsense and straightforward manner, the grammar and vocabulary you'll need for reading a real author. This book is the text of choice for those who want to get straight to the business of learning the language so as to read real, grown-up Latin literature.

Ago 6, 2011, 3:27 am

Wheelock is good and there are even online learning groups which are free and follow Wheelock. Plenty of cheap used copies out there.
The Keller and Russell 'Learn to Read Latin' is a fantastic compendium but whether you could get one for around $10 is haird to know.
There is a great little course called 'Ecce Romani'; more attuned to the younger learner but good nonetheless (comes in a series)
Teach Yourself Books in general are great. Always plenty around used and also come with audio now.

If I had to choose from the above it would be the Keller.

Set 4, 2011, 8:30 am

I'm actually no great fan of Wheelock, but it is a fair introduction, and for your price range, it's probably be your best bet. If you were less restricted, maybe the "Learn to Read Latin" series from Yale would be the best bet, but that's pretty pricey.

I also appreciate a thorough grammar, not one that gives me snippets of grammar, bit by bit, only to later fill me in on the confusing (and maybe seemingly contradictory) grammar points. I feel confident enough in my language study to want the bigger picture. (Although I can't say that I really enjoy learning a language solely through a comprehensive, systematic grammar that isn't organized around specific lessons and exercises...)

Wheelock is nowhere near as good as Hansen & Quinn for Greek, for example, but it is still good and has a lot of shorter lessons, which is easier to manage with self study. And there are various supplements you can buy later, such as the Reader, which exposes you to a good variety of Latin texts (and helps out with good glossaries).

Good luck!

Set 4, 2011, 4:47 pm

You can also go to and download any number of older compositions which are all very good and free.

Fev 1, 2014, 8:18 pm

Having completed my Latin (and Greek) University studies I feel I can recommend more fully on what I have sampled and used.

Nothing has changed regarding Keller in my previous post, but your price range would have to change.

There is a brilliant course which is dirt cheap written by Roger Pitcher that we used in Uni. It comes in two volumes: Grammar and Exercises published by Macquarie University, Sydney. Not sure if you could source it though.

It really depends on how far you wish to advance but at some point I would really recommend a good grammar book like Gildersleeves and a handy one like Kennedy.

As far as dictionaries go, I like the practicalities of Cassell's but the CT Lewis Elementary Latin Dictionary is very good despite the title. If money is no object then of course you can get Glare's Oxford or similar, but I think these are more for expert/research use.

Fev 1, 2014, 8:25 pm

Re: Dictionaries:

If you're going to shell out a few hundred bucks, go with the full Lewis and Short, A Latin Dictionary. The great limitation of the full-size Oxford Latin Dictionary is that it arbitrarily limits itself to Latin before the end of the Roman Empire, whereas the full L&S includes a lot of medieval and Renaissance usages.

Or you could just access the full Lewis and Short online, together with the full Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon and several others:

Fev 1, 2014, 10:22 pm


Yes, unfortunately the Greek Liddle and Scott and the Lewis & Short are beyond many folks means. (I'm also looking at post 1. point 3)

Fev 2, 2014, 12:46 am

Picked up the big two-vol LSJ and L&S for ~$100aud the three, which isn't too bad.
You can find them at a good price if you're lucky, and keep an eye out.

Fev 3, 2014, 4:55 pm

Fev 7, 2014, 3:00 am


Thanks so much for that information. A chance in a lifetime at that price.

Fev 8, 2014, 2:46 pm

A note on this just came across the MEDIEV-L listserv:

Univ. of Chicago has finally gotten around to consolidating the dictionary databases of Perseus into an easily-searchable dictionary program that includes the big LSJ Greek Lexicon, the full Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary, and (important for medievalists) DuCange:

Fev 8, 2014, 5:35 pm

Aye, but ye canny beat a guid book in yer lap!

Fev 12, 2014, 1:00 pm

If you are just looking for a grammar, Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges can't be beat, and it is available in cheap reprints. There is an exercise book called Latin Lessons: Adapted to Allen and Greenough's Latin Grammar by Robert Fowler Leighton. Cheap, thorough, but definitely a no-frills way to learn Latin.

Maio 2, 2014, 8:04 pm


If you are just looking for a grammar, Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar

Textkit have this listed on their site. Obviously not copyrighted now. Download for free.

Editado: Maio 4, 2014, 1:28 am also has A&G's, Kennedy's, Gildersleeve's and Smith's English->Latin dictionary for download (along with many other goodies).
I put some links for texts (and the odd textbook) on a bookmarks page back when a beginner:

*edited to add url