Plutarch - Blackie Editions

"The half  that the children take of themselves with joy, is far greater than the whole that ultra- conscientious teachers, stuffed with the notes of commentators would fain force upon them." 
- Household on Plutarch in Mason's schools

That quote reminds me of "The Thing is the Thing".  Plutarch is straight forward - you don't need tons of commentaries and you don't need to be certain that the children are tracking with every detail.  Ever since I have plunged into Mason's world of what she calls Citizenship, I have enjoyed teaching Plutarch more than ever. The approach is similar to Shakespeare and we have grown to appreciate it much like we have Shakespeare, although it has taken a bit longer to get to that point.

When you look up her schedules in the archives, you will see a constant mention of "Blackie editions" of Plutarch.  I found one of these editions and here are the pictures of it.  What do you think?  One of the things that I think is how doable these little editions are!  No scouring the internet or toting around a 10 lb. volume of Plutarch, just this little 4" x 6", 120 page paperback.

As  a new teacher, wouldn't you think "Oh, good, here is our reading for Plutarch this term in this neat, compact little book.  I can't wait to get started and we will work through this book in no time."  Instead of intimidation or fear of the unknown, it would be "let's dig in!"

The title page tells us that Blackie's English Texts are edited by W.H.D. Rouse, Litt.D.  These are from North's translations, of course. The introduction states, "The present edition is reprinted from the first edition of the original, published in 1579, which in correctness is superior to those which followed it.  A few omissions have been made, and one or two mistakes have been corrected."

Also note that CM did one life, not two per term and not the comparisons that normally follow.  I hope to share more about Plutarch in the future.  Meanwhile, Cindy has shared a post with lots of helpful links for Plutarch over on her terrific blog, Ordo Amoris and Anne digs deep into the archives to show what editions were used over at Dewey's Treehouse. (Her notes and lesson plans are over at Ambleside Online for you to use.)

I encourage you to start Plutarch if you haven't already.  Just read and narrate - don't stuff your students with the notes of commentators!

From joy to joy,


  1. Ooh Nancy... you're right these little volumes certainly look doable! Thanks for the links too. I hope you're enjoying your fall season, lol.

  2. It is a lovely edition! We dive into Plutarch next year (AO4). :)

  3. What year/age do you suggest starting Plutarch? Or is it something I could do a bit of in group time? :) Thanks!

    1. Amy,
      When I looked at the programmes, I saw that Mason did 3 lives per year over 5 years for a total of 15 lives. She began these in 5th grade, so they would do Plutarch from 5-10 grade. We do ours in our morning group time, but all our kids are old enough for it now.

  4. Thank you very much for this post. I really appreciate all you've done in the area of Mason & Citizenship as it's touched our lives. I've been wanting to pull apart my back-breaking copy of Lives and turn it into individual booklets ever since you spoke on Citizenship at the LER.