Using Bekker numbers to navigate the works of Aristotle

February 24, 2020

All readers of Aristotle use the same referencing system to identify passages in Aristotle: the Bekker system (which uses three-part references, like this: 1449b26). The system is completely integrated into Oxford Scholarly Editions Online, enabling the easy resolution of any reference you have, and the easy generation of a dynamic reference.

Navigation by Bekker number

Bekker numbers are shown in the left margins of all texts, so you can always just scroll to the right place (and click on the number to spin the notes to the same spot). 

It's even easier to use the 'Find Location in Text' functionality (use the button top right of this page): enter the Bekker number in the location box and click go. You’ll be shown all the editions we have containing that passage; choose the one you want and you’ll be taken straight to the right place. 

Easiet of all is our bookmarklet, well worth using if you consult Aristotle regularly. With it, you can simply highlight a Bekker reference on any web page and use the bookmarklet to jump staight to that page, section, or line in the OSEO text. Any Bekker reference on any web page on any website: just select, click, and resolve. (The bookmarklet also lets you type in a Bekker number.) You do have to install the bookmarklet, but it’s easily done: follow these instructions.

Dynamic referencing

Reference resolution works because every Bekker number is baked into the data. That also means that you can include a Bekker number in a URL to create a dynamic hyperlink that will lead any reader directly to a particular place in a particular Aristotle text. 

Every text of every work in OSEO has its own unique id number, and that number can be used to produce a URL that identifies that instance of that work. For example, the text of the Poetics, in Kassel’s OCT, is 00262089, and that is used in the URL You can then append a Bekker number to this URL, and it will link to a particular line in the Poetics – for example, is the appearance of the catharsis of pity and fear, and introduces the tragic flaw. 

The easiest way to make one of these URLs is by using the copy and cite facility: select the word you want to reference in the text, and then right click and choose copy and cite. You’ll see all the information you need to refer to what you’ve highlighted – including the precise URL. Or you could construct it by rule – once you know the id number of the text, you can simply follow the pattern to construct a new URL. (Id numbers are shown in the copy and cite widget, but, for convenience, a list of all the works in OCTs appears at bottom of this page.)

In short, every line of Aristotle has its own unique URL, and you can discover them using copy and cite, or construct them by rule. Anyone who clicks on one of these URLs will be taken to the right spot in OSEO. The line glows yellow for a moment to show the exact place. Perfect for notes, reading lists and integration into other web-based projects – in fact, for anything for which you want to show your reader what you are talking about in Aristotle.

PS: all the above is also true about Stephanus numbers in Plato; there’s a bookmarklet for them, too. 

Aristotle in Oxford Classical Texts

For a conveniently hyperlinked list of Aristotle’s works on OSEO, please use the Aristotle author page