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Classical Journal On-Line <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 4 Mar 2008 15:48:22 -0600
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Ashen Sky: The Letters of Pliny the Younger on the Eruption of Vesuvius.
Illustrated by BARRY MOSER. Los Angeles: Getty Museum, 2007. Cloth, $19.95.
Pp. 40. ISBN 978𢠪92363.

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Readers familiar with publications of the Getty Museum generally anticipate
volumes with substantial narratives and many beautiful photographs. The
present book does not fit that expectation. It is slender, with a limited
text illustrated by 14 wood-block illustrations by the well-known artist
Barry Moser.

The main sections focus on the two letters of Pliny the Younger to Tacitus.
Adjunct to these are brief sketches of Pliny the Elder, Tacitus, and Pliny
the Younger, and an explanation of the survival of the letters. The book
opens with an introduction and a description of the eruption, and closes
with suggestions for further reading. The translations are precise and
smooth. Text and translations are the work of Benedicte Gilman.

This is certainly not a scholarly book. Whom will it serve? I think it
would be a fine companion for a class reading the letters for the first
time, or for the ubiquitous 揼eneral reader. Moser抯 illustrations are
keyed to specific passages of the translations, and give a vivid, often
frightening, sense of what it must have been like to have experienced the
eruption of Vesuvius.

All in all, this brief volume is rather like a chocolate delicacy for a
true connoisseur of chocolate. It抯 nice to have, and one can savor it, but
it is not essential for one抯 pattern of life or study.

Emory University

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