To guarantee that the total number of attestations of the larger words is still relatively manageable for the compiler, the following compromise was made in the assembling of the material:
Only earlier texts (down to approximately the end of the second century of our era) were reproduced in their entirety, word for word, and replicated mechanically on slips; later texts (down to about AD 600), were merely excerpted, in other words, they were worked through from start to finish, but slips were made only for those words or passages which appeared remarkable in some way.
In this way the collection of material went hand in hand with an initial selection procedure which – as far as the later texts are concerned – brought with it a substantial reduction of the material down to what was lexically relevant. Because the slips often contain notes relating to text and interpretation, the famous archives of the Thesaurus, which are still growing, remain the basis for the lexicographical work. Where necessary, the data banks now available are also consulted. Even after an article has been published, the archives retain their value as a basic resource for scholars from all over the world.
The material is stored in the so called ‘Zettelarchiv’ (slips archive). There are around ten million slips in postcard format, arranged alphabetically by lemma and chronologically within each lemma.
The original slips: complete texts
Literary texts make up the largest part of the material. Each text was divided up into sections in the standard editions of the time and significant conjectures or variants were noted in the margin.
These sections were written out on lithographic paper and mechanically reproduced, so that each word of the section could have its own slip. These were then lemmatised and ordered by lemma. From the earliest transmitted texts to around AD 200 the whole of Latin literature was included in the material. Slips were also made for inscriptions, papyri, coins and the like. All this material was prepared between 1894 and 1899 and has been continuously updated since then.
Excerption of texts after AD 200
In texts written after AD 200 lexicographically relevant passages were excerpted, in part with the help of the indexes of editions.
Excerption from inscriptions
The chronological boundaries were set differently for inscriptions. Of these only the republican inscriptions edited in CIL I were completely covered; to these the inscriptions of the city of Rome in CIL VI were added when a concordance to this volume became available. All other inscriptions are only excerpted.
Updating the slips
Since the completion of the original excerption in 1899, our material has been extended in two ways. Firstly by taking in newly discovered texts (such as the Latin tablets from Vindolanda) or text versions (for instance in the Beuron edition of the Vetus Latina), secondly by using new editions of already known texts.
Silius, Punica 2, 282 provides an example. In the edition of Ludwig Bauer (1890), the line runs: 'testabor superos et caelo nota relinquam', 'I shall call on the gods as witness and leave it known to heaven'.
Accordingly there was a slip for this passage under the lemma ‘notus’.
In his new edition Josef Delz decided to print the reading ‘vota’ rather than ‘nota’, ‘I shall call on the gods as witness and leave my prayers to heaven’.
From this a slip was now also added under ‘votum’, so that the passage can be considered when the article ‘votum’ is written.