Review of Hyde's Latin Unseen Translation

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Roy Hyde’s Latin Unseen Translation was first published by the Bristol Classical Press in 1998. It is thus rather more closely tailored to the needs of today’s exam candidates than many other books of this kind. Hyde himself was a chief examiner with what is now OCR, in addition to holding the post of Head of Classics at University College School, London, at the time when this volume was produced.

The book contains 150 passages, of which half are prose, and the other half verse. The first 50 are relatively easy. The remainder are from authors that are often set in UK A-level examinations. The level of difficulty of these passages thus mirrors that of the passages set in those examinations. Ovid, Caesar, Livy, Sallust, and Cicero are the authors who feature most frequently, although there are also extracts from Vergil, Eutropius, Nepos, and Seneca, among others.

Each passage is prefaced by a brief summary of the contents, and by a translation of the lines immediately preceding the passage, in order to provide context. Some may feel that this practice excessively detracts from the rigour of the exercise. Several words that the translator is unlikely to have encountered previously are defined immediately below each passage.

A series of word-lists are provided at the back of the book, in the hope of providing a structure for vocabulary-learning. A preliminary word-list is also provided, the contents of which should already have been mastered prior to beginning work on the unseens in this volume.

Hyde’s Latin Unseen Translation should appeal to those teachers who wish to start their pupils on original Latin, while still maintaining a steady difficulty-gradient and a structured development of a larger vocabulary alongside its practical usage. It also provides good preparation for examinations. However, as a means to improve unseen technique, it is weakened by the excessive amount of information given at the top of each passage.