Even before access to the Internet became common, Latin scholars were publishing texts online and developing aids for reading them on sites such as the Perseus Digital Library, the Latin Library, and the Internet Classics Archive. Today, anyone with a connection to the Internet can find texts ranging from the earliest inscriptions to weekly podcasts of current events in Neo-Latin. But because most of these texts have been posted online by individuals or groups working independently of each other, with different aims and different scholarly conventions, they have no common organizational scheme, no standard format, and no quality control. Some are openly available without restriction (e.g., the Perseus Digital Library and digilibLT); others are protected by copyright (e.g., the Packard Humanities Institute’s Latin Texts); still others are available only by purchasing a subscription (Brepols’ Digital Library of Latin Texts). Moreover, with one or two notable exceptions (e.g., Musis deoque: un archivo digitale di poesia latina, Catullus Online), all Latin texts online have one thing in common: the absence of the critical apparatus that has been the hallmark of scholarly Latin texts in print since the eighteenth century. Finally, since there are not any viable outlets for publishing peer-reviewed digital critical editions, scholars do not have much incentive for moving beyond the limitations of print.
In other words, for all the power and flexibility of the web, the Latin language—a lingua franca from antiquity to the early modern era—remains severed from the rich network of connections (evidentiary, interpretative, comparative, etc.) in which scholars and students have invested for generations and which are essential if the language is to be a living part of human culture and serious scholarship in the digital age.
With the support of a planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Scholarly Communications Program in 2012–2013, members of the Society for Classical Studies, the Medieval Academy of America, and the Renaissance Society of America explored the possibility of creating a resource that would fill these voids and usher in a renaissance in scholarly editing and communication in all fields concerned with the Latin language. The group determined that it is not just feasible, but highly desirable to build the DLL—a virtual, ubiquitous, sustainable working space where scholars and readers of Latin texts of all periods can work with and produce new tools, resources, and critical editions, combining traditional philological methods with new technology to expand the reach and capabilities of Latin scholarship and pedagogy. The group also put Samuel J. Huskey in charge of the project and designated the University of Oklahoma, his home institution, as its host.
In 2014, Huskey teamed up with colleagues June Abbas, a professor in OU's School of Library and Information Studies, and Chris Weaver, an associate professor in OU's School of Computer Science, and applied for and received a second planning grant from the Mellon Foundation—this time to explore the possibilities for incorporating data visualization and analysis into the project and to conduct user studies according to the standards of library science. The success of that planning phase led to the award of a two-year implementation grant for 2015-2017, which was extended to 2018.