This post celebrates the 45,000th unique title Distributed Proofreaders has posted to Project Gutenberg: Down the Mackenzie and Up the Yukon in 1906. Congratulations and thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who worked on it!
Canada’s vast Northwest Territories province is comprised of nearly half a million square miles of land with a total population of only 41,970 as of the 2016 census. The harsh subarctic and polar climate has always made life difficult for humans, but that didn’t stop indigenous peoples from settling there, along with later incursions of Europeans in search of fur, gold, oil, and adventure.
In the summer of 1906, Elihu Stewart, the Canadian Chief Inspector of Timber and Forestry, embarked on a journey of thousands of miles on the Mackenzie and Yukon Rivers in order to assess the timber resources of the region. His report to the Canadian Government was published in 1913 as Down the Mackenzie and Up the Yukon in 1906. But it is no dry bureaucratic report. Stewart’s account vividly expresses his deep appreciation of the beauties of the landscape and his respect (from a white person’s point of view) for the indigenous and mixed peoples of the area. Part I of the book recounts his journey; Part II contains his observations of the natural resources and inhabitants of the region.
Travel in the region wasn’t easy in 1906, and Stewart – who was then over 60 years old – must have had a very hale constitution, not to mention courage, to undertake this journey. It began in Edmonton, Alberta, overland by a horse-drawn conveyance to the Athabasca River, where he boarded a steamer appropriately named Midnight Sun. The passengers included the noted explorer and ethnologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who spent the winter of 1906-07 living among the Inuit. Stewart and his fellow travelers journeyed on various steamers and scows hundreds of miles to the Great Slave Lake, the deepest lake in North America. This is the source of the thousand-mile-long Mackenzie River, which ultimately empties into the Arctic Ocean.
Stewart and the others continued north on the Mackenzie River to its delta and the tiny settlement of Arctic Red River (now known as Tsiigehtchic, still tiny today with a population of 138 as of 2021). There he found a rather desolate community:
“It certainly was the least desirable place for any civilised man to choose for a home, that I had yet seen in all this Northland. A few houses, the church and the graveyard were all crowded on the side of a hill rising abruptly from the river. Perpetual frost was found only a foot beneath the surface of the soil, and we no longer beheld the emblems of civilised life, the vegetable and flower gardens, that go so far to make many of those lonely posts seem somewhat cheerful.“
The travelers then turned west to Fort McPherson, from where Stewart intended to travel “alone” (but actually with several native assistants) by canoe. After an arduous journey of canoeing, portaging, and camping, they reached the Yukon Territory. On the way, he experienced a strange mirage of a great city, and was shocked to find instead a rather sad Indian encampment:
“I saw only about forty half-starved creatures out on the bank to welcome us, while behind among the trees were a dozen dilapidated tents; the entire surroundings indicating want and starvation, sickness and a struggle for existence known only to those who are condemned to live in this Arctic land.“
It was experiences like this that led Stewart to include in his book an impassioned plea for a centrally-located hospital, reachable by canoe from the various outposts of the Northwest Territories. He suggested Fort Simpson on the Mackenzie River, and indeed the Roman Catholic Church built a hospital there in 1916.
Stewart continued south on the Yukon River and gradually back to more “civilised” communities, such as the Klondike Gold Rush towns of Dawson City and Skagway, with their modern conveniences, entertainments, and colorful adventurers. He ended his journey at Vancouver, three months and 4,250 miles from where he started.
Elihu Stewart retired from his government job in 1907; he died at the age of 90 in 1935. During his tenure he initiated highly successful conservation programs under which millions of trees were planted and forest fire prevention measures were implemented all across Canada. Distributed Proofreaders is proud to celebrate its 45,000th title with this fascinating account of his extraordinary trip down the Mackenzie and up the Yukon.
This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.
Note for those who don’t yet know the e-book creation workflow at Distributed Proofreaders: After a scanned book is turned into editable text, it goes through three rounds of proofreading. The third, P3, is the most challenging, as it requires the most expertise and the closest attention, so sometimes a project has to wait awhile until P3-qualified proofreaders can get to it. The P3 Diehards team has dedicated itself to rescuing projects that are languishing in that round.
I woke up this morning with a minor headache, So the first line of business: There’s coffee to make!
The headache was due to some major proofreading, But I wanted to help move some books to smooth reading.
I found my new passion at DP last year ‘Cause there’s so much to do plus there’s fellowship here.
The challenge was huge, but my spirit was keen, And each day I leaned on my good friend: Caffeine.
Each day I made progress, but slow in my mind. The goal seemed beyond reach; I felt so behind.
This goal was to help in the most needed place Where projects sat languished, forgotten, misplaced.
But one thing that kept me on path to my goal Was seeking that something that feeds mind and soul.
So, first was the hurdle of gaining the level Where trust must be earned and to demonstrate mettle.
I thought I was hopeless to learn any more, But my mentors worked wonders with guidance galore!
Then one day my inbox had news I had hoped for: Clear access to P3; it made my heart soar!
Team Diehards is where I went skipping so quickly To help with those projects abandoned and prickly.
Some projects are tricky or boring or fun, And sharing with teammates is second to none.
The visions from Surgery of so many leeches Are far from the thought of a bowl full of peaches!
The sad Roll of Honour brought tears to my eyes, But the story of bravery and valor survives.
My headache is gone; I give thanks with “Amen.” And tomorrow I can’t wait to do it again!
This poem was contributed by Susan E., a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer. Hot off the Press wishes all its readers a happy and book-filled New Year!
For want of a male heir to the throne of England, tens of thousands of people were murdered when Henry VIII, defying the Pope, divorced Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn and declared himself head of the Church in England. Among the dead were, ironically, two diametrically opposed people: John Frith, a Protestant reformer who advocated religious toleration, and Thomas More, Henry’s Lord High Chancellor, a staunch Catholic who deplored Henry’s break with the Pope. A theological argument between Frith and More is laid out in A Boke Made by John Fryth, Prysoner in the Tower of London, written just before Frith was burned at the stake in 1533. Thanks to the volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders and Project Gutenberg, this important piece of Reformation history – a revised edition published in 1546 – is available with its original orthography intact.
Catherine of Aragon had failed to produce a son for Henry. He became infatuated with the young and beautiful Anne Boleyn and decided to make her his Queen in hopes that she would bear him a male heir. The sticking point was that divorce was impossible under Catholicism, then the official religion of England. In 1527, Henry asked the Pope to annul his marriage on the ground that Catherine was his brother’s widow, but the attempt failed. By 1531, Henry had had enough and began forcing the clergy to recognize him as the supreme head of the Church in England.
Despite Henry’s break with the Pope, persecution and execution of Protestant reformers in England continued. As Henry’s Lord High Chancellor, Thomas More was a vehement opponent of the Reformation and favored burning Protestants to root out heresy. More was also concerned that some of these “heretics” – like Frith – were rather well educated and well informed on religious doctrine, making them dangerous adversaries.
Frith, the son of an innkeeper, became acquainted with Protestant ideas while attending Cambridge University. In 1525 he had the honor of being invited to study at Cardinal Wolsey’s new Cardinal College (now Christ Church) at Oxford University. But the honor didn’t last long. In 1528, Frith and a number of other students were accused of possessing Protestant books and were imprisoned in the college’s fish cellar for six months. Four students died in the horrifying conditions, but Frith managed to survive. After his release, he fled to Antwerp.
While abroad, Frith wrote treatises criticizing the Pope and Catholic doctrines. Among them was a pamphlet, A christen sentence and true iudgement of the moste honorable sacrament of Christes body [and] bloude (available at Early English Books Online), outlining arguments against the Catholic concept of transubstantiation, i.e., the transformation of the Communion bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ. Frith unwisely returned to England in July 1532. Because England was still nominally a Catholic country in spite of Henry’s dispute with the Pope, Frith was arrested for heresy and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Thomas More, meanwhile, had already resigned as Lord Chancellor in May 1532 because he could not in good conscience sign an oath recognizing Henry as head of the Church in England. But More remained concerned about the advance of the Protestant Reformation. After Frith’s arrest, More got hold of a copy of A christen sentence. Realizing that Frith’s theories on transubstantiation were buttressed by impressive scholarship, More wrote a Letter against Frith refuting Frith’s arguments (available as a PDF from Thomas More Studies). Frith, despite his imprisonment, managed to get a copy of More’s Letter and wrote A Boke Made by John Fryth to rebut More’s points.
Frith’s argument was essentially that the sacrament of Communion at the Mass was merely symbolic of Christ’s death. It could not be an actual transformation of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood, because it was impossible for a physical being to be in more than one place at once.
The rationality of this argument posed a problem for More, who was a lawyer, not a clergyman. But More shrewdly couched his own arguments in his Letter against Frith in terms that laymen could understand. And because Frith’s pamphlet was in English, More wrote his rebuttal in English, not Latin as a Catholic clergyman might. Both Frith and More understood that this would give them the widest possible audience in England. The essence of More’s argument was that Christ’s physical body can be in many places at once (multilocation) because God, being omnipotent, can make it so. What might seem unreasonable to a human would be perfectly reasonable to God, who in his almighty wisdom can make anything happen.
Frith did not accept this position. In his Boke, he did not deny God’s omnipotence. His first argument rested on science: “Christe had a naturall bodye, euen as myne ys (savynge synne) and that yt coulde no more be in two places at ones then myne can.” His second rested on the fundamental Scriptural concept of Christ as human, asserting that those who argue for transubstantiation “do take awaye the truthe of hys naturall bodye, and make it a very fantastycall bodye: from the which heresye God delyuer hys faythfull.” Thus Frith, accused of heresy, turned the tables on his opponents by calling them the heretics. He even suggested that they were cannibals, for they believed that “hys very fleshe is present to the teth of them that eate the Sacramēte, and that the wycked eate hys verye bodye.”
Frith’s Boke appends an account of his examination at trial, written while he was in Newgate Prison awaiting execution. Although he was questioned on several aspects of his theological beliefs, he baldly states that “The cause of my deathe is thys, because I can not in conscyence abiure and swere, that our Prelates opynyon of the Sacramente (that is) that the substaunce of breade ād wyne is verely chaunged into the fleshe and bloode of our sauyoure Iesus Christ is an vndoubted artycle of the faythe, necessarye to be beleued vnder payne of dampnacyon.”
While Frith languished in prison, the royal divorce crisis had rapidly come to a head. In 1533, Henry secretly married Anne Boleyn, got his new and compliant Archbishop of Canterbury to annul his marriage to Catherine, then had Anne crowned Queen Consort in June 1533. On July 9, 1533, the Pope excommunicated Henry. But it was too late for Frith, who had already been burned at Smithfield on July 4 at the age of 30. He was commemorated in John Foxe’s famous Fox’s Book of Martyrs.
Almost exactly two years after Frith’s execution, Thomas More himself became a martyr. As depicted in the play and film A Man for All Seasons, More once again refused to sign an oath denying the Pope’s supremacy. This time, Henry had him arrested and imprisoned in the Tower. Though given many chances to change his mind, More refused to do so. He was beheaded on July 6, 1535. Four centuries later, the Roman Catholic Church canonized him as a saint.
Frith closes his Boke with Christ’s advice to his Apostles: “Be wyse as Serpentes, and innocent as Dooues.” The full quote from the King James Version is, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). Frith became a sacrificial sheep, but he was certainly wise: His position on Communion was later officially adopted by the Church of England.
This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.
Thanks to the volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders, the 1904 edition of A Classical Dictionary by John Lemprière is now available in the Project Gutenberg library. The complete title, A Classical Dictionary containing a copious account of all the proper names mentioned in ancient authors with tables of coins, weights, and measures used among the Greeks and Romans and a chronological table, shows just how comprehensive it is.
Lemprière (1765-1824) began work on the Classical Dictionary in 1786 while a student at Pembroke College, Oxford, possibly inspired by the ground-breaking Dictionary of the English Language compiled by fellow Pembroke graduate Samuel Johnson. Lemprière published the completed work in 1788 under the title Bibliotheca Classica. For over 200 years, it has been an essential reference work, not just for teachers and students of the ancient Greek and Roman classics, but also for novelists, journalists, playwrights, and poets. John Keats – whose poetry is filled with classical allusions – is said to have known the book almost by heart.
The study of classical literature has long been considered a fundamental requirement to understanding the development of our modern Western culture. The lack of classical studies in recent years leaves many feeling inadequate to the reading or study of classical literature. A Classical Dictionary is the perfect companion for those who are interested in a self-study of classical authors like Homer, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides, or Sophocles. When I prepared the e-book version, with the bountiful help of fellow DP volunteer Stephen Rowland, I took the liberty of expanding most name and title abbreviations to their full commonly known names, and changed many Latin abbreviations for books, chapters, lines, etc., to their common English abbreviations, to improve ease of reading.
A Classical Dictionary identifies and explains the plethora of Greek and Roman deities with their alleged authority and powers and the myths surrounding them. Names of rivers, cities, and regions are identified, when possible, with 19th-Century names and descriptions.
With this dictionary, you can travel along with Jason and the Argonauts in the Argonauticaof Apollonius of Rhodes; learn how Helen of Troy’s abduction sparked the Trojan War in Homer’s Iliad; or follow Odysseus on his 10-year journey home after the Trojan War in Homer’s Odyssey. It will bring to life for you the Greek tragedies of King Agamemnon, Orestes, and others, or enable you to study the Roman histories by Julius Caesar, Josephus, Tacitus, and many more. Open your horizons now to these ancient works that have had such an impact on the development of today’s society.
This post was contributed by Rich Hulse (BookBuff), a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer who post-processed the e-book version of A Classical Dictionary.
Distributed Proofreaders is 22 years old today, and we’re celebrating our anniversary with a bit of poetry. Congratulations to all the volunteers who have helped in “preserving history one page at a time” all these years!
The University of Illinois. At the time, Michael was a freshman working toward a Bachelor of Science degree. Both Michael’s parents were professors there; his father taught Shakespeare and his mother Mathematics. [See Michael’s obituary in the New York Times and the Encyclopedia Britannica article on PG for more.]
Typing on a computer keyboard. It took almost a decade to enter both Testaments. Each book of the Bible had to be saved as a separate file due to hardware size restrictions – there was no hard drive when the project began. [See Project Gutenberg 4 July 1971 – 4 July 2011: Album, by Marie Lebert.]
Pietro Di Miceli created the first website for PG in 1994. An Italian volunteer, Pietro developed and administered PG’s website between 1994 and 2004, winning a number of awards for his efforts. [See the New World Encyclopedia article on PG for more information.]
The “Whuffie” system. Based on Cory Doctorow’s sci-fi novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, the Whuffie system would award points for excellence in proofreading and take them away for poorly done work. Charles envisioned volunteers being able to collect and redeem Whuffie points for real merchandise like a DP t-shirt or mousepad. The system was ultimately not implemented. [Read more details in A Roadmap for Distributed Proofreaders, by Charles Franks.]
This post celebrates the 44,000th title Distributed Proofreaders has posted to Project Gutenberg: The Trial of Emile Zola. Congratulations and thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who worked on it!
The Trial of Emile Zola is a first-hand account of a crucial stage in one of the most important events of French history: the Dreyfus Affair. In September of 1894, an operative of French counterintelligence found, in a wastebasket at the German embassy in Paris, an unsigned note (generally referred to as the “bordereau”) that proved that French military secrets were being delivered to foreign powers. Immediately an investigation was launched, and before long the military authorities had settled on Captain Alfred Dreyfus as the culprit: because he was taciturn and unpopular, because his handwriting bore a vague resemblance to that on the bordereau, and, most of all, because he was Jewish. Dreyfus was convicted in a closed military trial on the basis of tenuous evidence such as his handwriting, and other evidence that was wholly fabricated, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the awful conditions of the penal colony of Devil’s Island in the Caribbean. Before his deportation, he was stripped of his rank in a ceremony wherein his marks of rank were torn off his uniform, his sword was taken from him and broken, and he was made to parade around a square in front of his former comrades and a huge crowd of civilians shouting, among other things, “Death to the Jew.”
Dreyfus’s family believed his claims of innocence, and campaigned for his release to what was, initially, an overwhelmingly hostile public, influenced by extreme anti-Semites for whom Dreyfus’s supposed guilt was a vindication of their beliefs about the Jewish race. Gradually, evidence emerged that pointed to a Catholic French officer, Ferdinand Esterhazy – a heavily indebted drunkard – as the bordereau’s likely author. His handwriting matched it perfectly. French society became split between the Dreyfusards, who believed in Dreyfus’s innocence, and the anti-Dreyfusards, who believed in his guilt. Both camps felt themselves to be defending their own vision of French society – the Dreyfusards defending the liberal Republic against a reactionary, anti-Semitic political Catholicism, and the anti-Dreyfusards defending Catholic France against a conspiracy of liberal intellectuals, Jews, and foreign agents. By January of 1898, the Dreyfusards had sufficient support to compel the military to place Esterhazy on trial for the same crimes of which it had convicted Dreyfus, but this trial was another closed military tribunal, and Esterhazy was acquitted.
It was at this point that Émile Zola, already a notable novelist, entered the controversy. He had published in L’Aurore, a liberal newspaper edited by future French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, an open letter addressed to President Félix Faure, with the now-famous title “J’Accuse…!” The letter, which is reprinted in full in this volume, accused the leadership of the French military of a conspiracy to condemn an innocent man, because of an initial incompetent and prejudiced investigation, and the subsequent necessity to defend the false verdict it reached because, otherwise, “the war offices would fall under the weight of public contempt.” He directly accused the trials of both Dreyfus and Esterhazy of illegality, and of having convicted Dreyfus and acquitted Esterhazy according to orders, asserting: “It is my duty to speak; I will not be an accomplice. My nights would be haunted by the spectre of the innocent man who is atoning, in a far-away country, by the most frightful of tortures, for a crime that he did not commit.” Unable to ignore Zola’s accusations – which would have been a tacit admission of their truth – the government sued Zola, as well as the legally-responsible editor of the article, Alexandre Perrenx, for libel, and thus on February 7, 1898, the trial of Zola, which is recorded in this book, began.
Zola’s trial lasted fifteen days in total, with each day the courtroom’s public gallery packed with anti-Dreyfusards, and Zola obliged to pass through hostile crowds to enter the courthouse. From the first day, the difficulties which the defence would face became apparent – after each side had set out their case initially, the day was taken up by the reading of refusals to appear on the part of most of the high-ranking military witnesses, including Esterhazy himself, whom the defence had called. On the second day, the defence called its first witness, Alfred Dreyfus’s wife, and began to question her regarding her husband’s innocence in order to establish Zola’s good faith in making his accusations. Immediately, the judge cut him off, establishing another pattern for the trial, as the judge, prejudiced against Zola and unwilling to have embarrassing details of the Dreyfus trials publicly revealed, repeatedly prevented the defence from justifying those allegations for which Zola was on trial. Similar restrictions were not placed upon the prosecution, nor upon those witnesses hostile to Zola. At the end of this first exchange, Zola’s lawyer, Fernand Labori, asked the judge, given these restrictions, “what practical means you see by which we may ascertain the truth?”
“That does not concern me,” came the reply.
In the days that followed, a long sequence of witnesses spoke of the inconsistencies of the trial of Esterhazy; various generals made evasive or obstructive answers without reproach from the judge. More than once, witnesses were called by the defence, and then prevented by the judge from taking the stand, on the grounds that their testimony would relate to the Dreyfus case. On the sixth day, the Socialist Jean Jaurès recounted a remark from a right-wing editor which perhaps sums up the anti-Dreyfusard position, loyalties and prejudices superceding truth: “I believe profoundly in the guilt of Dreyfus. I believe it, because it seems to me impossible that French officers, having to judge another French officer, should have condemned him in the absence of overwhelming evidence. I believe it, because the power of the Jews, very great four years ago, as it is today, would have torn Dreyfus from the hands of justice, if there had been in his favor the slightest possibility of salvation.”
On the eleventh day, Major Esterhazy himself was called to the stand, protesting that “during the last eighteen months, in the shadow, there has been woven against me the most frightful conspiracy ever woven against any man. During that time I have suffered more than anyone of my contemporaries has suffered in the whole of his life.” He then refused to answer any questions that would be put by the defence, and for some time, Clemenceau, who had been present throughout the trial, proffered dozens of questions, all met with silence. Finally, as the judge attempted to prevent him from speaking, Clemenceau asked “how is it that one cannot speak of justice in a court?”
The judge replied: “Because there is something above that,—the honor and safety of the country.”
“I note,” finished Clemenceau, “that the honor of the country permits these things to be done, but does not permit them to be said.”
Finally, after fifteen days, the summing-ups were concluded and the jury retired to deliberate on their verdict. Just thirty-five minutes later, they returned, and declared both Zola and Perrenx guilty of libel. Minutes after that, the judge handed Zola the maximum sentence: a fine of 3,000 francs and a year’s imprisonment. The court was filled with the shouts of the audience: “Long live the army! Long live France! Down with the insulters! To the door with Jews! Death to Zola!” Zola appealed, but was defeated again, and fled to England to avoid jail.
On the face of it, Zola and the Dreyfusards had suffered a massive defeat – the law was brought down against Dreyfus’s highest-profile supporter, and Dreyfus himself was still suffering on Devil’s Island. However, where both Dreyfus’s and Esterhazy’s trials were conducted in the secrecy of a closed military tribunal, Zola’s took place in a public court. Every day, the newspapers of France summarised the trial’s proceedings, and this 1898 edition shows that the full text of the court records had been translated into English and published in New York not long after it took place. Thus, a great deal of new information had been made available to the public, and while it did not convince the jury, it did, over time, convince an increasingly large proportion of the French population. Civil unrest increased, and a new left-wing government was formed in response to the crisis. In September 1899, the new president, Émile Loubet, pardoned Dreyfus, who was released after almost five years of imprisonment for a crime he had not committed. Finally, in July 1906, a civilian court of appeals formally cleared Dreyfus of all charges; he was reinstated as a captain and made a knight of the Legion of Honour. The Radical governments which emerged from the Dreyfus Affair would inaugurate a strict policy of secularism in the French government, which has survived to the present day – realising, ironically, some of the deepest fears of the anti-Dreyfusards.
Among many other things, the Dreyfus Affair illustrates the importance of public access to information, and conversely the danger of its restriction, without which the French military could not have conducted its closed, unfair trial of Dreyfus in the first place. It was only when the truth became public property, through the Zola trial and subsequent revelations, that justice could be done. It is a wonderful thing, therefore, to have been able to contribute to the free, maximally-accessible publication of these records through Project Gutenberg. I hope that, if you read them, they remind you of the value of the work that Distributed Proofreaders does in bringing such texts to light. As Zola wrote in “J’Accuse!”, the letter that triggered his trial, “when truth is buried in the earth, it accumulates there, and assumes so mighty an explosive power that, on the day when it bursts forth, it hurls everything into the air.”
This post was contributed by Thomas Frost, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer who post-processedThe Trial of Emile Zola.
Which major league contains these teams: United States, Poland, Texas, Yorkshire, Midnight Crew, P3 Archers, Procrastination, and more? Why, Distributed Proofreaders (DP), of course, a “major league” producer of e-books for Project Gutenberg.
Teams? Yes, DP volunteers have the chance to join any of over 400 Teams and “talk” online to other DP users with similar interests in the Team forums.
Let’s look at the range of topics the Teams focus on; the experience of being a Team member; and which Teams have stayed the course and flourished over nearly twenty years.
Types of Teams
We can broadly classify Teams as either “social” or “technical.”
Social Teams bring together those DP users who live in a particular part of the world, use a certain language, or share an interest outside DP.
Technical Teams are linked to some part of the DP process, such as proofreading, formatting, smooth reading, etc.; or to a special skill that may be needed in some of the books we work on, such as processing illustrations. There’s even a Team for DP Bloggers!
How Teams Work
Anyone registered with DP may join up to six Teams. They’re listed in the Team list, which gives a link for you to join any that interest you, or even enables you to start a new Team if you think you’ve identified a topic likely to support one.
Your Team memberships are listed on your profile for other users to see.
Each Team has a page with a mission statement and a link to the Team discussion thread, which appears in the Team Talk area of the DP Forums. You can take part in active Team discussions – which you can do even if you’re not a formal member of a Team – or see if you can revive an old Team with a peppy new post.
DP Teams: Facts
Oldest Teams: The first batch of Teams, established in February 2003, included Nederlands, Northern Virginia, Michigan, Florida, Aussies, Canada, Graduate Students, Finland, and the ironic Team Non-Competitive (“for people who hate the concept of teams and all the competition that goes with it”).
Newest Teams: The Teams to have got off the ground in 2022 are Vancouver and P2+1 (for volunteers who work in the second proofreading round and want to qualify for the third round). The next most recent Team to get started was launched in 2020: Cookbook Lovers.
Team with most members: UK, with 855 members.
Team with most posts: Keep Your Chin Up (“for those who proofread despite having some physical difficulty”), with 29412 posts.
Teams with the wackiest names: • Sgt. Proofers Lonely Hearts Club Team (“For every lonely heart feeling lonely and lost in this E-niversum”). • Distributed Avoirdupois Team (“for people who love proofing but don’t love the pounds that mysteriously attach themselves to a figure seated at a computer”). • No, really, I am not goofing off (“for those who should be doing their real work instead of proofing”).
Teams Then and Now
Teams became a feature of DP in 2003, not long after DP itself was born in October 2000. Since then, 413 Teams have been launched. Naturally not all of these have remained highly active, but those that are still active provide a lively environment for discussion.
Among “social” Teams, most of the active ones have a national or language focus: Western Europe makes the running with Team Germany, en français, Team Italia, Spanish, and Nederlands especially busy. There are also a few other “social” ones that have long been well attended, including Keep Your Chin Up, Proofing with Cats, and Knitters Who Read.
Active “technical” Teams, more closely focussed on DP work, include some centered on stages in the DP process: for instance, Smoooth [sic] Readers; the new P2+1 team described above; and F2 Fanatics, for volunteers working in the second formatting round. Some popular Teams offer specialist advice and assistance to other proofers, such as Music, Illustrators, Index, Turn the Tables, We’ve Got You Covered (designing custom covers for books without an original cover image), and Ad Addicts (some of our books were published with pages of adverts that present complex design issues).
The P3 round – the third stage of proofreading in which volunteers closely check each draft e-book to ensure that it matches the original – has two Teams with posts every day. One is the P3 Archers, who target projects calling for a quick finish. Then there are the P3 Diehards, who in recent months have made remarkable progress in “pushing along those P3 projects that are languishing in the list” – Diehards now usher even the largest and most challenging projects out of P3 within just a couple of months.
So, what place do Teams have within DP now? Do people still want to interact online in this way? After all, since Teams were first thought of, the rise of social media has provided many other opportunities for online socializing. The people who started the first DP Teams back in 2003 might not have predicted the proliferation of Teams and which Teams would be active now. But Teams have evolved to occupy several niches where people do find it satisfying and useful to take part, and the example of the P3 Diehards has shown how Teams can still do a lot for DP’s productivity. DP’s Teams provide both a sense of community and mutual aid in DP’s mission to “preserve history one page at a time.”
This post was contributed by Neil M., a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.
Film historians disagree on who invented the first movie camera – Louis Le Prince, who made a short film in 1888 and then disappeared before he could exhibit his new invention? Thomas Edison, who allegedly stole credit for an employee’s invention in 1892? But one thing is certain: “moving pictures” radically changed the face of entertainment worldwide. By 1914, technical developments had brought movies from short clips of only a few minutes to compelling narratives lasting an hour or more. Audiences flocked to “dream palaces” to be immersed in romance, comedy, suspense, and adventure on the silver screen. But few understood how exactly these “dreams” got there.
Moving Pictures begins with a lengthy history of “animated photography” that, not surprisingly, omits the vanished Le Prince and mainly focuses on Edison, who was not just a talented inventor but also a very shrewd businessman. The book also duly credits the Lumière Brothers, Robert Paul, George Eastman, and others with important advances in camera, film, and projection processes.
Talbot’s book is chock full of photos of devices, laboratories, studios, and film sets. We learn how celluloid – the old, flammable, perishable medium for film – was made from a chemical soup known as “dope.” There are chapters on how perforated film was developed to move film through the camera quickly, how film cameras worked, how film was developed, and how moving images were projected onto a screen. He explores the technical aspects of filming major events and natural processes, the creation of what were later called newsreels, and even the possibility of home movies.
We also learn how films were staged in the studio. Talbot tells us that Edison’s tiny “Black Maria,” built in 1892 and believed to be the world’s first film studio, had become a gigantic glass building by 1914, with a 2,400-square-foot stage and a 130,000-gallon water tank for “aquatic spectacles.” But film producers without such resources also knew how to answer when opportunity knocked. Talbot recounts how one producer, hearing of a huge fire in a Los Angeles department store, sped a film crew to the scene. They somehow persuaded the fire department to let the lead actor, costumed as a fireman, rush into the still-burning building to “rescue” an actress who was set in an upper window screaming for help. “The players ran great risks,” says Talbot, “but the film producer was satisfied.”
Talbot also pointed out the special problems presented by narrative films. We may find the exaggerated expressions and gestures of silent movies laughably quaint today, but the primitive medium of the time made them vitally necessary, as Talbot explains:
The stage management of a play before the celluloid film is far more exacting than the staging of a play behind the footlights. . . . The picture play is essentially pantomime and the camera is a searching, unequivocal critic. It produces a stern, matter-of-fact representation of what is enacted before it. There is no dialogue to conceal blemishes, or mitigate the deficiencies of the actors and actresses. Words have to be converted into action and gestures.
Although “talking pictures” were still 13 years in the future, Talbot has a chapter on early attempts to make sound films. But he didn’t think much of them. “[U]ntil the peculiar nasal sound is eliminated from the talking machine it will not prove popular. . . . [T]he majority of picture-theatre lovers, after the first wave of excitement and curiosity, will patronise those establishments where they can see movement alone.” One wonders what he would have made of today’s ultra-realistic Dolby sound systems. Talbot also bemoans the failure of attempts to make true-color films, which had begun as early as the 19th Century.
The six chapters on trick cinematography are especially fascinating, showing how early filmmakers thought outside the box to enthrall audiences with special effects – all created without the aid of a computer. Stop-motion photography, double-exposure, miniature models, invisible wires, and other devices, some still in use today, were all invented at this period. Camera tricks to make people look gigantic or tiny – in the 21st Century used to very great effect in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films – also dated from this time. One interesting, if sad, example of a film trick known as “stop and substitution” involved a real-life “legless cripple,” as Talbot calls him, who was paid to be a stunt-double in a French film about a car accident. A character played by the lead actor gets his legs severed by a car. The legless double, with fake severed legs, substitutes for the actor. The legs are then miraculously reattached by a passing doctor, the actor now substituting for the double. Talbot surmised, “Probably the unfortunate had never before found his misfortune so profitable to him.”
Film preservation was of great concern to Talbot, but he was fatalistic about it because of
the perishable character of the celluloid film, and also of the photographic image upon the emulsion. Both would deteriorate, even if preserved in hermetically sealed cases, with the flight of time, and the chances are if a film were held for one hundred years that it would be found useless when opened at the end of that period.
Talbot stays entirely on-topic in his discussion of the technical side of movie-making. You won’t find gossipy references to the top movie stars of the day, like Mary Pickford. But you will marvel at how early filmmakers developed the very equipment and techniques that still keep us entertained over a century later.
This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.
Tomorrow kicks off the first of two Children’s Book Weeks for 2022 – May 2 to 8 and November 7 to 13. Established in 1919, Children’s Book Week has engaged children with books through events at schools, libraries, bookstores, and, in recent years, online. Distributed Proofreaders and Project Gutenberg have been proud to be part of this online initiative by making available to everyone, for free, a wide variety of public-domain children’s books. And over the past year, DP has contributed some fun and interesting children’s books to Project Gutenberg in celebration of Children’s Book Week.
Animals are always a popular category in the juvenile genre. Elizabeth Stafford Fry’s Bully Bull Frog and His Home in Rainbow Valley (1921) is a series of gentle stories about various animals in idyllic Rainbow Valley, with pretty color illustrations by Frances Beem. Published the same year, The Woodcutter’s Dog is a translation of 19th-Century French author Charles Nodier‘s short story about a heroic canine. It features charming color illustrations by English artist Claud Lovat Fraser. And from the previous century is Eliza Grey’s The Adventures of a Marmotte (1831), the whimsical “memoir” of a large ground squirrel. This book is unusual in that it was “sold for the distressed Irish,” apparently a reference to the 1830 potato crop failure and subsequent food riots in Ireland (not to be confused with the later, and far worse, Great Famine).
Children have always loved book series with engaging heroes and heroines. In 1842, educator and clergyman Jacob Abbott followed up his successful educational “Rollo” series (many of which are at Project Gutenberg) with one for girls featuring Rollo’s Cousin Lucy. Cousin Lucy at Play and Cousin Lucy at Study are both interesting slices of a child’s life in pre-Civil War America, with an emphasis on good conduct and kindness to others.
Good conduct for children is meticulously laid out in the 1856 guide, Etiquette for Little Folks, by an anonymous author. Given how highly class-conscious that era was, it’s not surprising to find advice such as, “Be meek, courteous, and affable to your inferiors; not proud nor scornful. To be courteous, even to the lowest, is a true index of a great and generous mind.” And in The School-Girls in Number 40, published in 1859 by the American Sunday-School Union, the boarding-school heroines learn about sharing, tolerance, penitence, and forgiveness.
The antebellum period in America is also represented by Fanny Fern‘s story collection The Play-Day Book, published in 1857. Fern was the most highly paid newspaper columnist of her day and is said to have coined the saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” The Play-Day Book followed on the success of her first children’s book, Little Ferns for Fanny’s Little Friends (1853). Fern’s conversational style made both her newspaper columns and her breezy little stories highly readable.
The author of Alice and Beatrice, published in 1881, is listed simply as “Grandmamma,” who is also the character who tells young Alice and Beatrice the stories in the book. Each story has an educational component, on such diverse subjects as lacemaking, life in Russia, rainbows, bees, and more.
Poetry is a perennial childhood favorite. Miriam Clark Potter’s Rhymes of a Child’s World (1920) has delightful line drawings and decorations by Ruth Fuller Stevens. Its dedication reads:
TO MY MOTHER AND FATHER WHO ALWAYS HAD TIME TO WAIVE GROWN-UP MATTERS AND READ A SMALL RHYME:
WHOSE HEARTS EVER HELD THROUGH THE FLIGHT OF THE YEARS A SOFT UNDERSTANDING OF SMALL JOYS AND TEARS.
A much earlier little volume of children’s poetry, Simple Poems for Infant Minds (1856), anonymously written and illustrated, contains just what the title says, with a blend of whimsy and moral instruction.
Dime novels were wildly popular in the 19th Century and beyond. The Boy Ranger; or, The Heiress of the Golden Horn, by Oll Coomes, published in 1874, is a good example of the kind of Western adventure much loved by children back then. This one is a bit unusual for the time in that it portrays a Native American tribal chief and his warriors in a heroic light.
Lastly, music makes an appearance with The Pinafore Picture Book (1908), a delightful children’s version of Gilbert & Sullivan’s popular operetta H.M.S. Pinafore. It was written by W.S. Gilbert himself and beautifully illustrated by Alice B. Woodward. The e-book version contains audio files so you can listen to the musical excerpts from the operetta that were printed in the original book.
We hope these selections will delight your inner child this Children’s Book Week!
This article was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.