Printer Credits

March 1, 2019
colophon

Colophon of the Aldine Press

Having grown up in an age of ever increasingly sophisticated advertising, I’m amazed at the poor way printers represented their work in the printers’ credits I see in the older books we work on at Distributed Proofreaders.

Printers’ credits? I’m not sure what the proper name is. I’m speaking of the two or three lines near the beginning or end of a book where the printer’s name, address, and any other information appear.

I’m not sure of the purpose of this information appearing in a book. Perhaps it helps support a publisher’s claim that the book has been published in a particular country and is therefore protected by that country’s copyright laws. It doesn’t appear to be in every book, so it can’t have been a legal requirement to include it. Printing companies presumably had established reputations. Some may have been known for quick typesetting and turnaround, some for low prices, some for accurate technical work or quality binding. Publishers must have needed to know these reputations to select an appropriate printer for a particular job. I hope publishers weren’t depending on the two or three lines of printed identification to identify the quality of a potential printer’s work.

No, I don’t think this would have been the way printers were presenting themselves to publishing houses for future business. I expect printing companies advertised to publishers in some other way to establish business relationships. However, the printer’s credit in a book is the only way the printers are known to the reading public. In any case, I’d think they’d want to put their best foot, er, font and printing quality forward! I’d think they’d want to at least meet the quality of the rest of the book they printed.

In the early days of European printing, printers were often also the publisher, editor, bookseller, and even author or translator. The famous Aldine Press of Venice was one such printing firm, engaging giants of humanism such as Erasmus to produce translations of ancient classics imprinted with its distinctive dolphin colophon.

By the 19th Century, with specialization, the printer’s role had become separate, and the colophons belonged to the publishers. In some cases, printers may have wanted to omit a printer credit to avoid potential prosecution for printing banned or pirated books. But books containing printers’ credits that are poorly printed neither protect the printer from prosecution nor present the printer’s capabilities in a favorable light.

The printed book itself demonstrates the printer’s quality of work, but I’d expect the information naming the printing firm in the book to represent their best work. Printers’ credits first caught my eye as representing the worst example of printing in a book! I often questioned whether this blob of text had been originally printed in a book or just rubber-stamped crookedly after the fact onto the page.

As I found myself looking to see how poorly the printers’ credit looked in each book, my impression was that they typically use the worst font and have the blurriest impression of anything in the book. It’s as if they were trying to make the credit look as bad as they could. Besides the rubber-stamp look, the printing impression often looks incomplete, part of letters missing or blurred. Blobs of ink fill in the open spots of letters. But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some examples.

Let’s start with a few that have the rubber-stamp look:

printer credit

printer credit

printer credit

Here’s one with an unusual layout:

printer credit

Here’s one squeezed at the bottom of the last index page of a book, unevenly printed on a single line:

printer credit

 

Finally, here are a couple of quality printer’s credits to be the exception:

printercredit7

printercredit8

Perhaps now you’ll find yourself looking to see just how poor an impression these printers make! Or maybe you’ll find the high-quality entry that proves the exception.

This post was contributed by WebRover, a DP volunteer.


The Proofreading Quizzes

February 1, 2019

I am one of the thousands of volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders. We’re Distributed because we’re located in different places all over the globe and we’re Proofreaders because we read text looking for errors. We turn out-of-copyright printed books into electronic eBooks, which have selectable/searchable text and which are also suitable for text-to-speech software, and then make those eBooks available to all, for free, via Project Gutenberg.

Once we have a scanned image of a page from a printed book, we run Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software on it to turn the image of text into actual editable text. The OCR accuracy is good, but tends to still leave many mistakes (what we call “scannos”) in the created text. We then, in multiple passes, verify the OCR’s results.

In striving towards a high quality for the finished eBooks we aim for a consistent result from all the many different volunteers. This is achieved by following a set of Proofreading Guidelines which explain what to change and how to do it.

And to help people familiarize themselves with the Guidelines, we have a set of Proofreading Quizzes and Tutorials. These act as an instructional aid for people to learn what to do and also as an ongoing refresher course, as it is strongly recommended that all volunteers redo the Proofreading Quizzes every six months or so.

The Proofreading Quizzes start with the basics and gradually introduce more and more elements, covering what to do with things found in easier books through to quite hard and challenging books. Each quiz is accompanied by a brief tutorial which explains everything one needs to know to complete the quiz.

Part of such a scanned image of a page from a printed book might look like this:

quizimage

and the OCR software may have generated for it the text:

quiz_rawscan

We then compare that OCR generated text with the scanned image of the printed page and correct any mistakes which the OCR made to have the text be the same as in the image:

quiz_corrected

It’s very much like those spot-the-differences types of games/puzzles. Whilst Proofreading we ignore things like italics and just verify the text has the correct characters. Layout and style issues, such as italics, are dealt with in later Formatting rounds of our process.

The quiz process lets volunteers actually try their hands at proofreading as they work through the quizzes and tutorials. And it provides the answers online in an automated way — you don’t have to wait for feedback.

Here’s a little quiz to start you off:

  • Do you have an attention to detail?
  • Do you like those spot-the-differences games?
  • Do you like learning new things and facing new challenges?

If you have answered yes to these questions, you may enjoy being a Proofreader at Distributed Proofreaders. Try the Proofreading Quizzes and find out!

This post was contributed by FallenArchangel, a DP volunteer.


Preserving the Past … For the Future

January 1, 2019

Preserving the Past … For the Future … One Dig at a Time

archaeologyLooking forward to another day at the archaeology dig. Putting on the coffee and getting breakfast. Water containers to be filled with fresh water — it’s going to be HOT today, so need to take extra. Grabbing some food to throw into my pack along with the water. A trip to the barn to check on my animals — fresh water, everyone looks good. Throwing my pack into my vehicle and away I go!

Need to dig carefully — looks like someone broke a clay pot — all in pieces — and each piece needs to be carefully extracted from the soil. The pot will be reconstructed in the lab at a future time. Notes, notes, notes, never ending — this is the important stuff — keeping track of soil changes, artifacts found, any “stains” in the soil that may be the remains of poles holding up ancient structures. Here’s some rock debris — someone chipping away on a precious piece of rock to make a projectile point, scrapper, or other implement. Each piece of rock must be collected and labeled carefully. Some charcoal here — an ancient fire pit, rock-lined — need to photograph and draw a rough sketch. Wonder what they were cooking: deer? rabbit? fish? Maybe some of the potsherds from the broken clay pot can be sent out for protein analysis.

One never knows what is going to be found at a dig — but each little bit tells the story of the past and must be carefully preserved for future generations.

I’m very dirty and very tired and mosquito-eaten — but it’s been a good day and I feel great!

Preserving the Past … For the Future … One Page at a Time

That’s what I did as an archaeologist volunteer — but it’s not so very different from what I do as a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.

Getting up in the morning and turning on the computer before doing anything else. Putting on the coffee and grabbing some breakfast. Logging into Distributed Proofreaders.

What shall be read today? Sometimes science, sometimes travel, sometimes anthropology, sometimes just choosing something different that I never even considered reading. Every book is important — the 5-page books to the 1,000-page books. The religious books — books of poems — science books — fictional books — travel books — music books — medical books — all interesting and need to be carefully proofed.

Here’s a book on engineering — wonder what sorts of things engineers were working on way back then? Another on an African tribe — a culture different from mine — thinking and doing things according to their needs and wants — wonder what they would think of Western culture? And another book on ocean biology — maybe will read this one for a while. All those Latin names of shells and sea creatures — they require a reader’s full attention. Here’s another book on submarines — somewhat technical — think I’ll read this next. Some math formulae and engineering terms — wonder how submarines have changed from past times to today?

Never know what books will be in the queue to be proofed but every one is important, each book tells a story of the past and must be meticulously proofed, formatted and preserved for future generations.

My back hurts, I need more coffee, my eyes are glazing over — but it’s been a good day and I feel great!

This post was contributed by eyecrochet, a DP volunteer.

The DP Blog wishes all its readers a very happy and healthy New Year!


Crossword: Uncle Wiggily

December 1, 2018

Enjoy the holiday season with a crossword puzzle based on Uncle Wiggily’s Squirt Gun, a humorous illustrated children’s book of the early 20th Century, provided to Project Gutenberg by the volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders.

wiggily_crossword_grid image

In order to solve the puzzle, first read the book — it’s easy and amusing — then decide how you want to proceed:

  • Use the interactive version. Just click on a blank square and the corresponding clue pops up. Type in the answer and click OK (or, if you’re stumped, click the Solve button). Clicking the Check Puzzle button at the bottom gives the number of errors and incomplete words, if you want to see how you’re getting on.
  • Download the printable PDF version and print out the puzzle to solve it the old-fashioned way, with your favorite writing implement. Check your solution with the PDF answer key. No peeking! (But who’s to know?)

Happy Puzzling!

This crossword was created by FallenArchangel, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer, using the free EclipseCrossword app.

Previous Crosswords

Marjorie Dean: Marvelous Manager

The Last of the Bushrangers

 


Edith Wharton’s French Idyll

November 1, 2018

The American writer Edith Wharton (1862-1937) didn’t fully blossom as an artist until she was in her 40s. Raised in a stodgy “Old New York” family, trapped in an unfulfilling marriage, all her life she longed for personal and literary freedom. She was a dedicated bookworm from childhood, and through her avid reading she glimpsed vistas of art and knowledge that her family and husband, wealthy and cultured though they were, could not appreciate as deeply as she did.

She had been well traveled, as most of her class and era had been, and so was quite familiar with Europe from childhood. But she wasn’t at home in her own home. As Janet Flanner put it in a 1929 New Yorker profile, “For if Boston, the city of her marriage, never forgave her for having been born in New York, her New York never forgave her for having been born in New York and writing about it.”

For a time, she found a refuge in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, at The Mount, an airy villa she designed herself, inspired by the European homes she had written about in The Decoration of Houses (1899) — so different from the dark, overstuffed brownstones of her New York youth. There she wrote her first great New York novel, The House of Mirth (1905); there she relaxed, in the cozy library with its tall windows overlooking the terrace and her beloved gardens, with kindred spirits like Henry James, reading aloud and talking of books and art.

Wharton’s appreciation for France began to grow during this time. In 1906 and 1907, she and her husband embarked on the auto trips that formed the basis for A Motor-Flight through France (1908). A long-time devotee of motoring, she declares at the opening of the book, “The motor-car has restored the romance of travel.” Now, instead of the ugliness of train travel, one has “the delight of taking a town unawares, stealing on it by back ways and unchronicled paths, and surprising in it some intimate aspect of past time, some silhouette hidden for half a century or more by the ugly mask of railway embankments and the iron bulk of a huge station.” The trips covered thousands of miles across the French landscape, alighting at tiny medieval towns and big cities, chateaux and cathedrals, ruins and gardens.

Back in America, the Lenox idyll began to sour. As her literary star ascended, her marriage deteriorated. Her husband philandered. She fell passionately and fruitlessly in love with the caddish journalist Morton Fullerton (“My life was better before I knew you,” she heartbreakingly wrote him after his ardor had cooled). Her husband plundered her trust fund. She was nearly 50 in 1911 when she finally left him, The Mount, and America to begin a new idyll in France.

Le Pavillon Colombe

Edith Wharton’s garden at the Pavillon Colombe outside Paris

Wharton spent the rest of her life there, finally free to live the literary life she had long yearned for. She initially established herself in Paris, where she wrote Ethan Frome (1911) and several other novels. As she put it in her autobiography, A Backward Glance (1934), “In Paris no one could live without literature, and the fact that I was a professional writer, instead of frightening my fashionable friends, interested them.”

During the First World War, Wharton worked tirelessly to provide shelter, employment, schools, and hospitals for refugees. To raise money for Belgian refugees, she organized and edited The Book of the Homeless (1915), a compilation of donated works by noted writers, artists, and composers of the day. She visited the front, chronicling the devastation she saw in Fighting France (1915). The lovely pastoral landscape she had toured by car less than a decade earlier was now a wasteland:

The country between Marne and Meuse is one of the regions on which German fury spent itself most bestially during the abominable September days. Half way between Chalons and Sainte Menehould we came on the first evidence of the invasion: the lamentable ruins of the village of Auve. These pleasant villages of the Aisne, with their one long street, their half-timbered houses and high-roofed granaries with espaliered gable-ends, are all much of one pattern, and one can easily picture what Auve must have been as it looked out, in the blue September weather, above the ripening pears of its gardens to the crops in the valley and the large landscape beyond. Now it is a mere waste of rubble and cinders, not one threshold distinguishable from another.

Though extremely busy with her war-work, which later earned her medals from both France and Belgium, she still managed to write several novels during the war, including Summer (1916) and, directly inspired by the war, The Marne (1918).

In 1919, Wharton left the bustle of post-war Paris for a quiet home on its outskirts, the Pavillon Colombe, and later took a winter home at Hyères in the south of France. In her loving tribute to the French, French Ways and Their Meaning (1919), she observed:

The French are the most human of the human race, the most completely detached from the lingering spell of the ancient shadowy world in which trees and animals talked to each other, and began the education of the fumbling beast that was to deviate into Man. They have used their longer experience and their keener senses for the joy and enlightenment of the races still agrope for self-expression. The faults of France are the faults inherent in an old and excessively self-contained civilisation; her qualities are its qualities; and the most profitable way of trying to interpret French ways and their meaning is to see how this long inheritance may benefit a people which is still, intellectually and artistically, in search of itself.

Wharton went on to write many more books, including The Age of Innocence (1920), a novel about the New York society of her youth, for which she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. She returned to the United States only a couple of times, once to receive an honorary doctorate from Yale University in 1923 — another first for a woman. There was otherwise no need to return: She had found her true idyll. She died peacefully at the Pavillon Colombe in 1937.

This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer and a member of The Mount and the Edith Wharton Society. Wharton’s time in France is chronicled in a newly published book, Edith Wharton in France (Lenox: The Mount Press/Prospecta Press, 2018), by the late Claudine Lesage, which was the source of some of the information in this post.


Our 18th Anniversary

October 1, 2018

18th anniversaryEighteen years ago, on October 1, 2000, Distributed Proofreaders volunteers began “preserving history one page at a time” by preparing public-domain e-books for Project Gutenberg. Since then, DP has contributed over 36,000 unique titles. Here’s a look back at some of DP’s accomplishments since our last retrospective.

Milestones

33,000 titles. In November 2016, Distributed Proofreaders posted its 33,000th unique title to Project Gutenberg, A Flower Wedding, by the great children’s book illustrator Walter Crane. You can read all about it in this celebratory post.

34,000 titles. Our 34,000th title was, appropriately, A Manual of the Art of Bookbinding, and was posted in July 2017. The DP blog post on this milestone is here.

35,000 titles. DP contributed its 35,000th title, Shores of the Polar Sea, in January 2018. This beautifully illustrated account of a 19th-Century expedition to the North Pole is celebrated in this blog post.

36,000 titles. Just last month, DP celebrated 36,000 titles with the May 1882 issue of The American Missionary. You can find out more about this historic periodical — of which DP has posted over 125 issues, with more to come — here.

Significant Projects

Over the past two years, Distributed Proofreaders has also contributed to Project Gutenberg a number of projects of particular historic and literary significance. These include:

Motor Matt. DP posted the last of 32 issues of this popular dime novel series in November 2016. Read all about it in this blog post.

The History and Romance of Crime. In February 2017, we posted the 12th and final volume, Oriental Prisons, in this series of sensational accounts of crime and punishment around the world by a 19th-Century British prison administrator.

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. This is an important series of reports, in French, Latin, and Italian, with English translations, from Jesuit missionaries in the territory that became Canada. We celebrated the posting of eight volumes of these reports in a blog post in both English and French commemorating the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation on July 1, 2017.

The Gallery of Portraits: with Memoirs. In November 2017, DP posted the seventh and final volume of this important set of books, which was produced under the superintendence of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, a 19th-Century organization devoted to providing resources for self-education.

Songs of the West. We posted this important 19th-Century collection of folk songs from Cornwall and Devon — with audio files so you can hear the music — in February 2018. Read all about it here.

Development

Site development has flourished at Distributed Proofreaders over the past two years, thanks to the unflagging efforts of our “squirrels” (DP’s nickname for its administrators), our developers, and the many volunteers who helped us design and test these changes. Some major undertakings:

  • We updated our operating system to Ubuntu 16.04 and migrated to a new server and hosting facility.
  • The OS update made possible some important upgrades to our forum and wiki software.
  • We also made important updates to our site coding and some of our page designs to enhance consistency, usability, accessibility, security, and future support.
  • We updated our official documentation and placed it in our wiki to improve our members’ access to it.
  • The entire DP site is now available in French.
  • We updated our code of conduct and privacy policy.

In Memoriam

Distributed Proofreaders is a close-knit community, and we all mourned when we lost three well-loved members during the past two years.

Pucon, a retired geologist, was a prolific proofreader who completed over 27,000 pages in his three and a half years at DP.

Long Green, whose friends knew her as Mama Beth, was an active proofreader and formatter who also post-processed a number of projects, some of them quite challenging. Her final project is celebrated in this memorial.

Miller, known to her friends as Emmy, performed numerous roles at DP. As a project manager, she contributed 321 books, which she also post-processed, and she post-processed over 700 books contributed by others. Her legacy is celebrated here.

Collaborative Projects

Distributed Proofreaders is collaborating with Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institute in Project PHaEDRA. This project involves transcribing original notebooks created during the 19th and early 20th Centuries by researchers at the Harvard College Observatory, including early female astronomers and the famous Harvard Computers. Our General Manager, Linda Hamilton, recently participated in a video interview about our participation in Project PHaEDRA.


Many thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers, past and present, who made this 18th anniversary possible!

This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a DP volunteer.


Celebrating 36,000 Titles

September 7, 2018

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Distributed Proofreaders celebrates the 36,000th title it has posted to Project Gutenberg, The American Missionary, May 1882. Congratulations and thanks to all the DP volunteers who worked on it.

americanmissionary_cover

The American Missionary was published by the American Missionary Association (A.M.A.) from 1846 to 1908, and continued publication under the guidance of other Congregational missionary societies until 1934. The American Missionary Association itself continued under that name until 1999, when it was incorporated into another department in the Congregational Church. The periodical was published monthly for much of its lifetime, but occasionally less frequently. Throughout the era of Reconstruction, it served as the marketing arm of the A.M.A., educating the readers of its 20,000 monthly copies about the work of the A.M.A., and openly soliciting support for the continuance of that work. The aim and work of the A.M.A., stated in each issue of the magazine, was

To preach the Gospel to the poor. It originated in a sympathy with the almost friendless slaves. Since Emancipation it has devoted its main efforts to preparing the FREEDMEN for their duties as citizens and Christians in America, and as missionaries in Africa. As closely related to this, it seeks to benefit the caste-persecuted CHINESE in America, and to co-operate with the Government in its humane and Christian policy toward the INDIANS. It has also a mission in AFRICA.

Although written primarily from a single point of view — that of white, northern Congregational Christians — The American Missionary provides an interesting real-time view of how social opinion and public policy developed through the era of Reconstruction and beyond. During the 1870’s and 1880’s, it chronicled history seldom taught in schools — the impact of yellow fever on commerce and education in the South, the fear of Northern states that Southern illiteracy was a danger to U.S. democratic institutions, and national concern that California’s response to Chinese immigration would cause another secession from the Union, to name just a few. The periodical chronicled society’s gradually increasing awareness of the essential humanity of all races, decrying the missteps along the way, and sometimes inadvertently revealing the prejudices of the A.M.A. itself. These developments were reported and commented upon as they occurred, without hindsight to distort their contemporaneous meaning and impact.

The May 1882 American Missionary issue is Distributed Proofreaders’ 36,000th unique title prepared for Project Gutenberg. It is a typical issue for the 1880’s. It contains an announcement of President Chester A. Arthur’s veto of Congress’s first attempt to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act and a daily journal of a trip up the Nile by steamer and across the desert by camel, through Thebes and Cairo. It also contains a description of the Chinese New Year as celebrated by the Chinese-American community, and a biology lesson by a teacher in Atlanta. As do all American Missionary issues, it contains a list of donations, by city, church, and name, for a single month, useful for historical and genealogical research.

DP provided the first American Missionary project to Project Gutenberg in April 2004. It was the issue for January 1888. Since that time, we have finished over 125 issues. Over 120 others have finished the rounds, and are awaiting completion—most due to missing pages and covers still to be collected by volunteers. The projects still in process cover the period of June 1882 to the fourth quarter of 1901.

Although most of the American Missionary issues are partially available from online sites other than Project Gutenberg, such as the Hathi Trust, the scans at those sites are generally missing the front and back covers, which were either not included in the bound collections of issues, or which were bound separately from the issues at the backs of the volumes. These cover pages often list the officers and meeting notices of the A.M.A., as well as some of the advertisements.

Many online copies, other than those at Project Gutenberg, are also missing all of the advertisement pages. The advertisements cover church organs and corsets, guns and fencing, architectural services and theological books, stove polish and life insurance—a cross-section of the goods and services available for purchase in the latter part of the 19th Century. Many advertisements include pricing and street addresses useful for historical research. These missing pages are included in most of the American Missionary issues prepared for Project Gutenberg by Distributed Proofreaders. Dedicated volunteers search out original copies from university libraries and other sources, obtaining high-resolution copies of the missing pages and matching them to the appropriate magazine issues. Some of the engravings in the advertisements are particularly fine, although time has taken a toll on their clarity. The rotary printing press, Singer factory and Remington guns in the May 1878 issue are excellent examples.

This post was contributed by ArleneJoyce, a DP volunteer who is the Project Manager and Post-Processor for many of the American Missionary projects.


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