On behalf of the Vergilian Society, I am pleased to announce that the 2017 McKay Book Prize has been awarded to Richard Thomas and Jan Ziolkowski for The Virgil Encyclopedia, published in 2014 by Wiley-Blackwell.
Just as in Virgil’s poetry, labor and amor were clearly the driving forces of this remarkable tribute to Virgil. In this labor of love that is the Virgil Enyclopedia, Richard Thomas and Jan Ziolkowski brought together over 350 scholars to cover approximately 2300 entries pertaining to Virgil and to the many creative reactions to Virgil that make up the Virgilian tradition. Speaking of which, I should note that this is Jan Ziolkowski’s second McKay Book Prize: he and Michael Putnam won the inaugural McKay Book Prize in 2009 for their edited volume the Virgilian Tradition: The First Fifteen Hundred Years. The Virgil Encyclopedia, however, imposes no such time limits on its subject matter, and readers will find fascinating entries on contemporary topics, such as Bob Dylan, Ursula Le Guin, or the September 11th Memorial and Museum, alongside a comprehensive guide to every aspect of Virgil’s poetry, its context, and its reception in numerous media over the centuries. The Virgil Encyclopedia does not just include chronological diversity but is also characterized by cultural and geographical diversity: there are entries on Slavic Literature, South African Literature, Spanish Literature, the South Pacific—and that’s just the “S’s.” The breadth and depth of knowledge that somehow has been fitted into the encyclopedia’s 3 slim volumes — doctis Iuppiter et laboriosis– is truly an unparalleled achievement and a testament to the bold vision of Richard Thomas and Jan Ziolkowski, as well as the tireless efforts of their assistant editors and editorial board.
If there is one problem with The Virgil Encyclopedia, it’s that once you pick it up, you cannot put it down: like Virgil’s poetry, it obsessively cross-references itself, and one entry inevitably leads you to read many others. But, of course, this is truly a virtue, for also like Virgil’s poetry, The Virgil Encyclopedia never gives you closure but only opens up new questions and avenues of exploration.
Congratulations, Richard and Jan, and thank you for giving all lovers of Virgil an invaluable resource that will surely remain a pillar of Virgilian Studies for many “more than one generation.”