What’s in the name? Anthology

what is in the name?

Van Bosch and van Lennep's version of The Greek Anthology . Photographed at The British Museum, London.
Van Bosch & van Lennep’s edition of The Greek Anthology (photo at The British Museum, London)

“[S]cholars have not yet arrived at a consensus about a number of terms concerning compilation literature. As a result, terms such as compilation, collection, selection, anthology, corpus, miscellany, collectanea, anthology [sic], and florilegium are frequently used to refer to the same category of texts, without any distinction whatsoever […]” (Manafis 2020: 1.1.2)

This quote from the most recently published book by Panagiotis Manafis (Routledge, May 2020) has inspired our short discussion below on the nature of compilations in the academic world; both from the viewpoint of primary texts that Æ books are based on (cf. e.g., WSEHL or BL4) and as regards the nature of our publications.

Manafis goes on to present his own understanding of the terms gathered under an umbrella term of compilation. He discusses excerpts collections meant for a specific target readership; if such collections tackle upon homogenous subject matter, he refers to them as syllogae, akin to catenae, which in his nomenclature compile extracts from early Christian Bible commentaries. If they come from primary sources on different subjects, they are defined by a nimble term collectanea. Anthologies include full texts by different authors, while corpora – compilations of complete texts by one author. A bulk of textual material with collection based on the most fuzzy (or, dare we say: most accidental) criterion notwithstanding genre, target reader, or topic, would justly be called a miscellany.

The term we’d like to take a closer look at today is anthology aka florilegium – a compilation of complete texts by different authors.

Anthologia diaphorōn epigrammatōn palaiōn: Florilegium, hoc est veterum Græcorum poetarum epigrammata comprehensa libris septem - collated and translated from Greek by Eilhard Lubin
Anthologia diaphorōn epigrammatōn palaiōn
– collated and translated from Greek by Eilhard Lubin (Commelin [Heidelberg], 1604)

1 : a collection of selected literary pieces or passages or works of art or music
Synonyms: album, collectanea, compendium, compilation, florilegium, miscellany, reader (Merriam–Webster)

NATURE of the word and world nature combined

The English term anthology has traveled through language and nature ever since the mid 17th c., combining scents of senses from all around, arm in arm with its etymons, Greek ἀνθολόγιον, French anthologie, and Latin anthologia. From ancient Greeks the term took the sense of flower gathering (ἄνθος | ánthos ‘flower,’ ), from their successors – the gathering of extracts or poems. We find its echoes in Orthodox breviaries and menologions1 as well as in modern portmanteau2 of film studies.

A marvelous marriage of the original sense and its later extensions is certainly Meleager’s anthology The Garland, dated to the 2nd/1st c. BC and considered the first known book-length compilation of such nature. Its compiler, a poet himself, collected epigrams by nearly fifty Greek writers, likening them to an anthology of flowers and assigning them each a flowery image of their own:

[…] here are the expected lilies, roses, iris, violets, but also greenery such as pine needles, wheat stalks, young olive shoots, “the fine-leaved white poplar of Tymnes,” and “the first grown branches from the heaven-high palm tree;” aromatics, too, such as marjoram, mint, ginger grass, spurge, and spikenard. He even includes a bunch of grapes and some hazel-nuts. […] Meleager uses [this rococo and partially edible “garland“] to image … the diversity of the authors and poems he will select […], foreshadowing one of Meleager’s main organizing principles, the alternation of authorial voices. [Turner 1996: 88]

This interplay of literal and ephemeral senses did not escape English writers, either. Robert Grosse, for instance, laudably commends the anthological nature of his own bouquet of excerpts. It is, incidentally, one of the first uses of the English word in this meaning recorded by dictionaries:

[…] as flowers be they ne∣ver so choyce and rare, yea the prime darlings in natures Garden, and be they never so exactly composed and set in order, yet if they be not as perfectly combined & tyed together, hey fall away from one another and come to nothing.
In like manner although a man should compose an Anthologie of never so excellent precepts, sentences and examples out of the garden of divine and humane writings and propound them as so many sweet flowers to the use and benefit of the common good, yet if there bee not the hand of Charity to receive them, and the eye of Candor for to reade them, and the heart of Sincerity to ap∣prehend them, and tye them together with the constricti∣on, or rather the construction of Love; like flowers that are not tyed together, they fall to the ground and become uselesse. [Grosse 1647: 61]

Grosse, this florid master of the word, author of Royalty and Loyalty, named his survey of extracts “on the power of kings and the duty of subjects” with well-thought deliberation, encasing his compilation with one capacious word ― anthology.


Historically speaking, then, anthologies were considered florilegia, collections of flowers of literature, usually epigrams or short elegiac verse by various authors, especially fine and worth recirculating. In time, the meaning extended to any collection of writings or songs, sometimes still retaining an air of noteworthiness.

What are modern anthologies? How big, comprehensive, or noteworthy does a compilation have to be to be called an anthology? Their definitions are manifold, from a general ‘collection of different works, or extracts from works, by various authors, whether or not belonging to a particular literary genre or relating to a particular theme or subject’ (A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology 1450–2000) to specific ‘textbook collections of canonical works, sometimes combined with critical interpretive essays’ (The Oxford Companion to the Book). One thing seems certain: today’s anthologies will probably be more readily associated with fruit rather than flowers ― after all, they often involve the fruit of life-long literary outputs and are close in meaning to primers or readers.

The academic world is also very well acquainted with yet another type, of a caliber more modest albeit still anthological in nature, i.e. collections. We all have heard about, or participated in, those peer discussions recurring every now and then: whether it’s worth publishing in collections rather than monographs. After all, un-accidental collections combining conference papers into proceedings might offer an interesting image of what the academic community currently disputes and squares off over. Volumes put together to present a certain direction-of-thought, as a result of a well-designed CFP,3 may be a valuable contribution to the field. Thoroughly designed anthologies intended for a specific audience and encapsulating seminal scholarly output, carefully selected by the chief editor, can certainly yield an insightful view of the discipline.

Indulge us for a moment and imagine a single reference point which looks forward with a field of view:

A field of view for a single reference point
single view

Then several more reference points align side-by-side to likewise look forward in the same direction:

Multiple point of view for 5 reference points in the direction of true north
constructive overlap

Their multiple fields of view constructively combine to cover one single direction, this ground’s True North.

A correctly done compilation does not haphazardly disperse in random directions. For if a chief editor chooses their authors well, if the authors align their works in the same general direction, and if all ensure their fields of view adequately overlap, then the leading theme is not only much better covered with greater detail but it is also amplified, while reducing the potential of a false mirror effect. It is then that separate views fulfill a greater purpose and a collection becomes an anthology.


Such is undoubtedly the inaugural volume of the Beyond Language series, a true florilegium of Polish thought on the theory and practice of translation, Między tekstem a kulturą: z zagadnień przekładoznawstwa [Between text and culture: On translation issues], edited by Piotr Chruszczewski and Aleksandra Knapik. The tome includes an overview of publications from the last 50 years of Polish translation studies, starting with historical papers, ending with the most recent discussion of contemporary issues. The plethora of topics and source languages is unified under one banner: translation into Polish. The editors designed this compilation with clear intent, and they selected textual material accordingly, inviting the whole garland of top-notch Polish scholars, whose names are immediately recognizable both in academia and the industry. They include those who built the first translation education centers in Poland, like Prof. F. Grucza (Warsaw) or Prof. Tabakowska (The UNESCO Chair for Translation Studies, Kraków); leaders of translation studies initiatives, like Prof. Bogucki or Prof. Piotrowska; pioneers in their disciplines, like medievalist Magda Charzyńska-Wójcik, Murakami’s exclusive translator Anna Zielińska-Elliot, or game localization guru Ryszard Chojnowski.

The comprehensiveness afforded by 500 pages, the noteworthiness of studies, and the renown of scholars all add up to define this significant compilation as an anthology of the Polish translation thought ― a peculiar florilegium, now available for generations to come.


Piotr Chruszczewski, Aleksandra Knapik (eds) (2018) Między tekstem a kulturą: z zagadnień przekładoznawstwa [Between text and culture: on translation issues]. San Diego, CA: Æ Academic Publishing.
Joanna Stolarek, Jarosław Wiliński (eds) (2017) Cross-Cultural Perspectives in Literature and Language. San Diego, CA: Æ Academic Publishing.

Drogosz, Anna (2019) A Cognitive Semantics Approach to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. San Diego, CA: Æ Academic Publishing; based on the corpus of Charles Darwin’s texts.
Warsaw Studies in English Historical Linguistics; a series based on historical corpora of English texts.

Further reading

Grosse, Robert (1647) Royalty and loyalty or A short survey of the power of kings over their subjects: and the duty of subjects to their kings. Abstracted out of ancient and later writers, for the better composeing of these present distempers: and humbly presented to ye consideration of his Ma.tie. and both Howses of Parliament, for the more speedy effecting of a pacification. London: publisher unidentified.
[Retrieved from: http://name.umdl.umich.edu/a85738.0001.001]

Manafis, Panagiotis (2020) (Re)writing History in Byzantium: A Critical Study of Collections of Historical Excerpts. (Routledge Research in Byzantine Studies.) London: Routledge.

Turner, Martha Lee (1996) The Gospel According to Philip: The Sources and Coherence of an Early Christian Collection. Leiden|New York, NY: E. J. Brill.


Beal, Peter (2008) A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology 1450–2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Suarez, Michael F., and H. R. Woudhuysen (eds) (2010) The Oxford Companion to the Book. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


1. ‘A hagiographical collection of a type compiled in the Byzantine Empire from the 9th cent. onwards, in which the saints’ lives, usually of substantial length and often interspersed with homilies or verses, are arranged in the order of the dates on which their subjects are commemorated’ (OED)

2. ‘A film featuring several individual stories, typically linked by a common theme or incident, and often told within a story which serves as a framing device’ (OED)

3. Call for Papers