Working on Grote’s History of Greece

July 1, 2020

frontisGeorge Grote: You are not buried at Westminster Abbey for nothing! This thought summarizes my admiration for George Grote and his lifelong achievement, History of Greece, in twelve volumes, now complete at last at Project Gutenberg.

This History is a perfect example of the sound scholarship coming from 19th-Century English universities. But the author was not a scholar. He was not even a university graduate. He was a banker. His parents were rich enough to have him schooled in an upper-class secondary school where he became enamored with ancient Greek and ancient Greece. But his father did not allow him to enter a university to complete his education. George was needed at the family banking business in the City of London, and a good banker he became. His love for Greece was developed as a hobby, along with his taste for languages, philosophy and politics (radical politics, not usual in a banker).

Dissatisfied with the available accounts of Greek history in English, he began in 1822 to write his own in his spare time. Twenty-four years later, he decided at last to abandon his banking activities to focus on finishing this History which had developed into twelve volumes. It was published over a ten-year period, from 1846 to 1856.

Grote’s History at Distributed Proofreaders

Five years ago, I stumbled on this magnificent work at Distributed Proofreaders (DP). It was half-abandoned. A prolific Project Manager (PM) had prepared most of the volumes of this work starting from page scans of a somewhat simplified American edition without maps and side-notes. Some volumes were already proofread, others were in progress, others were not even begun, and one volume was missing. The PM had apparently left DP, so there was no one to keep an eye on the project’s progress.

I was not then a PM myself, only a post-processor (PPer, the person who assembles and finalizes a book after it has been proofread and formatted) who was looking for something exciting to post-process. Volume 9 of Grote’s History had just been given up by another PPer because of the huge number of quotations in ancient Greek. I had studied (and forgotten) some ancient Greek at Madrid University in a prior reincarnation, and I foolishly decided to have a try at this rejected volume.

Oh, my! The English text was interesting, but the amount of Greek was indeed daunting. Not willing to give up on this task, I began to invade an alien territory full of traps. There were 11,503 footnotes in the 12 volumes, an average of 875 footnotes per volume. About 40% of these footnotes included ancient Greek – not a word or two, but full paragraphs. And some 10% of the footnotes consisted solely of ancient Greek text. How was I going to handle all this?

The Greek challenge

But fortunately at DP you are never alone: unexpected resources appear when needed. DP resident gurus in Greek philology made me aware of the Perseus Digital Library, a website where most of the ancient classical texts in Latin and Greek are found in native and translated versions. For the most part it was a matter of finding the quoted Greek text and copy-pasting it into the project. But finding the quotation was not easy: a fair number of the references were not accurate or were simply missing. It was a matter of reading lots of Greek texts to locate the quotation or, if not found, to type in the Greek quotation myself. Later, I learned to perform searches in Greek, something rather difficult to do at Perseus.

When the reference was found at Perseus, it appeared as modern scholarly conventions require for ancient Greek. But in Grote’s volumes, quoted text was rendered according to the 19th-Century orthographical style, which had to be preserved, so some retyping was always needed. For instance, to incorporate middle dots instead of semicolons (ἀνθρώπων· versus ἀνθρώπων;), breathing marks over the rhos (as in παῤῥησία), or at least to change vertical modern Greek acute accents to slanted ancient Greek ones, as DP experts recommended. For example:

Socrates

Moreover, Grote had the habit of retouching the original quoted text without warning, and this retouching also had to be preserved. But typing or retyping Greek is hard: my trials with the Greek keyboard in Windows were disappointing. Fortunately, one of our experts directed me to a simple HTML page (with lots of JavaScript underneath) where it was easy to type Latin characters in order to get Greek output, and then cut-and-paste this Greek into your file.

One of my tricks when I feel insecure during post-processing is to have at hand a paper copy of the book I am working on. This is invaluable to check errors and typos or to re-scan illustrations. Through eBay, I was fortunate enough to find, at an affordable price, a complete set of the twelve volumes of Grote’s History, published in London in 1883 but printed in Leipzig, where printing houses were famous for producing classical texts devoid of typos (not so in this case, as it turned out, but still better printed than the American edition I was working on).

Every bit of Greek text was checked with this later edition, which brought a second opinion into the checking process. It was also invaluable to check some other modern language misprints. Grote was very fond of quoting in original languages, and he included Latin, French, German, Italian, and Spanish excerpts, sometimes lengthy and always in footnotes.

Finishing the full set

Well, I discovered I was able to accomplish the PP task of this first volume. After finding a kind PM for the half-baked remaining volumes, and scans for the missing one, I committed myself to finishing the other eleven volumes, which took five years.

Finding, checking, and typing all the Greek in a volume needed more than two months: it was a tiring task and had to be alternated with working on other things to be bearable. At least another month was needed to perform the rest of the PP work and then another month for smooth-reading the outcome. Smooth-reading proved to be essential (it always is!): a fair lot of mistakes which had not been detected in the DP proofreading rounds showed up now, on top of my own mistakes in handling the Greek and other languages in the text.

I was fortunate enough to have had very competent smooth-readers, not only for the Greek text (I believe that checking accurately lots of Greek text worked on by another person ought to bring you directly to heaven) but also for the English main part, finding out, for instance, that Acharnians and Phokæns are suspect words (the correct are Acharnanians and Phokæans) and other similar things of which I was not aware.

What Grote, or perhaps his publishers and printers, was somewhat lacking in was accuracy in citing authors, titles, and editions. Fortunately, in Internet times, it is possible, with some patience, to find a digital copy of almost every book cited, view its title page, and correct the names and references as originally printed.

DP’s added value

Now that all 12 volumes of Grote’s masterwork are available at Project Gutenberg, it is time to remember that a transcription like this would have been almost impossible to achieve outside of Distributed Proofreaders. A vast array of DP volunteers contributed their talents and efforts to this project. Lots of people have painstakingly checked, proofed, transliterated, formatted, and distilled their wisdom in the associated forum for each volume, with the constant help of DP administrators, project facilitators, and other DP roles.

It is wholly unfair that those tasks like post-processing that are not distributed absorb so great a part of the final credit for a DP project. The undistributed tasks are pointless without the distributed ones, which are the bulk and the force of DP contributing model. The truth is that these 12 volumes are an achievement of DP as a whole, of the DP model of distributed work, of the DP way of building and maintaining consensus among its members. I bow and take my hat off to all of them.

This post was contributed by rpajares, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.


Stonehenge

June 1, 2020

stonehenge

“What monstrous place is this?” said Angel.

“It hums,” said she. “Hearken!”

He listened. The wind, playing upon the edifice, produced a booming tune, like the note of some gigantic one-stringed harp. No other sound came from it, and lifting his hand and advancing a step or two, Clare felt the vertical surface of the structure. It seemed to be of solid stone, without joint or moulding. Carrying his fingers onward he found that what he had come in contact with was a colossal rectangular pillar; by stretching out his left hand he could feel a similar one adjoining. At an indefinite height overhead something made the black sky blacker, which had the semblance of a vast architrave uniting the pillars horizontally. They carefully entered beneath and between; the surfaces echoed their soft rustle; but they seemed to be still out of doors. The place was roofless… The couple advanced further into this pavilion of the night till they stood in its midst.

“It is Stonehenge!” said Clare.

– Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles

The mystical atmosphere of Stonehenge, the ancient stone circle on Salisbury Plain in England, has fascinated people for centuries. The area is believed to have been used for ritual purposes since about 8000 B.C.E. The first known monument, a chalk circle possibly ringed with standing timbers, was created around 3100 B.C.E. and was used as a burial ground. Evidence of standing stones at the site goes back to around 2600 B.C.E., and construction on the site continued periodically for another thousand years.

No one knows exactly why and how Stonehenge was built. Arthurian legends credit the wizard Merlin with magically transporting the massive stone blocks from Ireland. In fact, these bluestones, averaging 25 tons apiece, came from a site in Wales, about 150 miles (240 km) away. The stones are aligned to the sunset of the winter solstice and the sunrise of the summer solstice, suggesting that Stonehenge served some religious function – worship, healing, sacrifice, burial – perhaps all of the above. And these bluestones have long been known as “ringing rocks” – they make a mysterious clanging noise when struck – which perhaps explains the “hum” and “booming tune” that Tess and Angel Clare hear in the scene quoted above, and why the Neolithic builders went out of their way to haul the gigantic stones so far.

By the 17th Century, Stonehenge had slowly begun to go to ruin due to the depredations of nearby landowners, curiosity seekers, and treasure hunters – like the Duke of Buckingham, who dug a large hole at the site in 1620 looking for valuables. At the same time, serious archaeological studies had begun to be undertaken by men like the famed architect Inigo Jones, whose survey of Stonehenge, The Most Notable Antiquity of Great Britain, Vulgarly Called Stone-Heng, was posthumously published in 1655. Jones concluded that Stonehenge was actually a Roman temple, and his rather fanciful artist’s renderings of the site as imagined in Roman times were included in his book. But not everyone agreed with his conclusion.

Among those who held an entirely different view was the physician and antiquarian William Stukeley (1687-1765). Stukeley repeatedly visited Stonehenge beginning in the 1720s, painstakingly recording his observations. In 1740, he published Stonehenge, a Temple Restor’d to the British Druids, in which he argued that the Druids, not the Romans, had built Stonehenge.

Though his method was scientific, Stukeley’s purpose was actually religious:

My intent is (besides preserving the memory of these extraordinary monuments, so much to the honour of our country, now in great danger of ruin) to promote, as much as I am able, the knowledge and practice of ancient and true Religion; to revive in the minds of the learned the spirit of Christianity, nearly as old as the Creation, which is now languishing among us; to restore the first and great Idea of the Deity, who has carry’d on the same regular and golden chain of Religion from the beginning to this day; to warm our hearts into that true sense of Religion, which keeps the medium between ignorant superstition and learned free-thinking, between slovenly fanaticism and popish pageantry, between enthusiasm and the rational worship of God, which is no where upon earth done, in my judgment, better than in the Church of England.

Stukeley’s religious argument was based on his theory that the ancient British Druids were descended from the Phoenicians, who, he argued, had acquired their knowledge of “true” religion from the ancient Jews. He therefore posited that Stonehenge was built by these British descendants of the Phoenicians in order to worship the same “supreme Being” that the Jews, and later the Christians, worshiped.

While Stukeley was incorrect in this and other speculations, his work on Stonehenge was nonetheless of great archaeological value. He was the first to publish accurate drawings of the site, with measurements, from various vantage points. He also described and made actual-size drawings of various “Celtic ornaments” and burnt bones, human and animal, that he had found in one of the nearby barrows. He dismissed the Merlin legend and made cogent arguments refuting the Roman theory, based in part on Stonehenge’s complete lack of resemblance to any known Roman architecture. And he deplored that “great encroachments have been made upon it by the plough,” hoping that his drawings would at least preserve its memory.

Though still battered by neglect and vandalism over the next century and a half, Stonehenge was, eventually, preserved. Cecil Chubb bought it at an auction in 1915 for £6,600 and in 1918 gave it to the British government. Since then, under the aegis of English Heritage, the site has been carefully restored, excavated, and protected. It now casts its mystical spell on over a million visitors a year.

Note: Stonehenge usually attracts a huge crowd for the summer solstice. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the site is closed, but English Heritage plans to livestream the summer solstice on its Facebook page from about 8:30 p.m. BST on June 20 until about 5:30 a.m. BST on June 21.

This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.


Distributed Proofreaders Site Maintenance – 19 May 2020

May 17, 2020

The Distributed Proofreaders site is scheduled to be completely unavailable starting at 12 noon server time on Tuesday 19 May 2020 as we roll out Unicode support. The data conversion will take a while and we are estimating about 24 hours of downtime. During this time the main site will be down but the forums and the wiki will be available. If the data conversion and related checks are completed early, the site will return sooner.

Please consider using this maintenance window to do Smooth Reads that you have taken out prior to the downtime.

The code update requires logging out all volunteers. This means that you must save all of your work before we start the maintenance. Proofreading pages offline while the server is down and saving them when it comes back up will not work.

Thank you for your patience. As you wait for Distributed Proofreaders to become available again, please feel free to browse through the excellent articles in this Blog.

We’ll keep this blog post updated with progress during the outage. You can also find us on Facebook.

Note: Once the rollout has completed, there will be a brief forum and wiki outage as we restart the server.

Update 4:40pm EDT: Site is back up and operational. Thank you for your patience!

Update 3:00pm EDT: We are making good progress and hope to conclude soon. Once we complete our work, there will be a brief full-server outage (including the forums and wiki) as we restart the system.

Update 12:00pm EDT: Maintenance has started.

 


Fiction Writers on Fiction Writing

May 1, 2020

coverA big benefit of post-processing books for Distributed Proofreaders is discovering bewitching books that I probably won’t have seen otherwise. Such books include a biography of the writer Lafcadio Hearn, The Journal of the Debates in the Convention which Framed the Constitution, and Breaking into the Movies, a 1921 guide to breaking into silent movies.

My latest find is Fiction Writers on Fiction Writing, printed in 1923, in which the editor, Arthur Sullivant Hoffmann, asked 116 authors a set of questions about fiction writing. The authors included Sinclair Lewis and Booth Tarkington.

The book includes some very interesting answers. For instance, in answer to the question:

What is the genesis of a story with you–does it grow from an incident, a character, a trait of character, a situation, setting, a title, or what?

Samuel Hopkins Adams said:

“usually from an incident, sometimes from a single phrase which illuminates a character; never from a title.”

William Ashley Anderson said:

“No definite principle can be laid down as to the inspiration of a story. It may be based on an actual occurrence; a striking tradition; a strange custom. Or an argument may suggest a point to be proved by a story. An extraordinary character, an unusual scene, an atmosphere even (fog, storm, scorching heat). I think one of the basic principles is the desire to tell something unusual about things that are commonplace, or to tell something commonplace about things that are extraordinary.”

I will be posting questions and partial answers from the book to Twitter about once a week, with the hash #FWFW. The longer answers will be in the comments below.

This post was contributed by Ernest Schaal, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.


Celebrating 39,000 Titles

April 27, 2020

This blog post – in English and German – celebrates the 39,000th title that Distributed Proofreaders has posted to Project Gutenberg: the sixth and final volume of Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke. Congratulations and thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who worked on it!

Wilhelm_Hauff_1826

The German poet and novelist Wilhelm Hauff (1802-1827) died just before his 25th birthday, but he left behind an amazingly rich body of work for one so young. Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke (Wilhelm Hauff’s Collected Works) fill six volumes in the 1911 edition. Distributed Proofreaders’ 39,000th title contributed to Project Gutenberg, the sixth volume, contains his Märchen – fairy tales – still beloved by German-speaking children today.

Wilhelm Hauff was born in Stuttgart. His father, a civil servant, died when Hauff was only seven years old. His mother moved the family to her father’s home, where Hauff took delight in his grandfather’s extensive and varied library. He later attended the University of Tübingen and earned a degree in theology – more to please his mother than to satisfy his own desires.

His first published work, Der Märchen-Almanach (The Fairy Tale Almanac), which can be found in volume six of the collected works, appeared in 1826. He was then working as a tutor for the children of the Württemberg minister of war, and he wrote these delightful stories especially for them.

Hauff’s highly original wit and imagination are the key to the success of these tales, which enabled him to embark upon a full-time literary career. There are, for example, exotic adventures, set in the Orient, like “Der kleine Muck” (“Little Muck”), about a boy who finds a pair of magical slippers and a magical walking stick, and “Kalif Storch” (“Caliph Stork”), about a Caliph and his Vizier who turn themselves into storks and cannot remember the magic word to turn them back into humans.

Other stories are closer to home, like “Das kalte Herz” (“The Cold Heart”, also known as “Heart of Stone”), which is set in the Black Forest. This dark tale is said to have been inspired by Washington Irving’s “The Devil and Tom Walker,” from the 1824 collection Tales of a Traveller. Hauff’s story deals with a young charcoal-burner who is given three wishes by a little glass man he encounters in the forest. As in most tales of this kind, the young man chooses poorly.

Hauff’s fairy tales have been adapted for film and television many times in German-speaking countries, in Eastern Europe, and in Russia. The Internet Movie Database’s entry for Hauff lists 58 films crediting him as a writer, including the 1921 film version of “Der kleine Muck,” produced by the prominent German film company UFA. The most recent entries are two German films released in 2016, both based on “Das kalte Herz.” One was actually shot in the early 1930s but remained dormant for decades due to missing reels. The other is a modern production starring Frederick Lau. That Hauff’s fairy tales continue to inspire films today demonstrates their enduring popularity.

Hauff’s fairy tales were also well known to English-speaking children in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Distributed Proofreaders contributed The Little Glass Man and Other Stories (1894) to Project Gutenberg, as well as The Oriental Story Book (1855). And a beautifully illustrated edition from 1900 is in progress at Distributed Proofreaders.

Project Gutenberg has numerous other works by Wilhelm Hauff, in German, English, and even Esperanto, and you can download free audiobooks of Hauff’s works in German and English at Librivox. Distributed Proofreaders is proud to celebrate its 39,000th title with this special final volume of the six-volume edition of Hauff’s collected works.

This post in English was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.

Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke (1911)
Volume 1 (Poems and Novellas I, with a biographical introduction by Alfred Weile) Band 1 (Gedichte und Novellen I, mit einer biographischen Einleitung von Alfred Weile)
Volume 2 (Novellas II and The Wine-Ghosts of Bremen) Band 2 (Novellen II und Phantasien im Bremer Ratskeller)
Volume 3 (Lichtenstein, a historical novel) Band 3 (Lichtenstein, ein historischer Roman)
Volume 4, (Memoiren des Satan, a satire) Band 4, (Memoiren des Satan, eine Satire)
Volume 5 (Der Mann im Mond, a parody of the works of H. Clauren; Kontrovers-Predigt über H. Clauren und den Mann im Mond, Hauff’s diatribe against Clauren; and Sketches) Band 5 (Der Mann im Mond, eine Parodie auf H. Claurens Werke; Kontrovers-Predigt über H. Clauren und den Mann im Mond, Hauffs Schmähschrift gegen Clauren; und Skizzen)
Volume 6 (Fairy Tales)
Band 6 (Märchen)

Dieser Blog-Artikel auf Englisch und Deutsch würdigt das 39.000ste Projekt, das Distributed Proofreaders bei Project Gutenberg veröffentlicht hat: den sechsten und letzten Band von Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke. Herzlichen Glückwunsch und vielen Dank an alle Freiwilligen bei Distributed Proofreaders, die an diesem Projekt gearbeitet haben!

Wilhelm_Hauff_1826

Der deutsche Dichter und Schriftsteller Wilhelm Hauff (1802-1827) starb kurz vor seinem 25. Geburtstag. Trotz seiner kurzen Schaffensperiode hinterließ er ein umfangreiches literarisches Werk. Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke füllen sechs Bände in der Ausgabe von 1911. Der sechste Band enthält seine Märchen, die auch heute noch gern gelesen werden.

Wilhelm Hauff wurde in Stuttgart geboren. Sein Vater starb, als Hauff erst sieben Jahre alt war. Seine Mutter zog mit den Kindern zu ihrem Vater nach Tübingen, wo Wilhelm Hauff eine ausgezeichnete Ausbildung genoss. Später studierte er Theologie an der Universität Tübingen, wohl eher dem Wunsch der Mutter als den eigenen Neigungen folgend.

Hauff’s erstes veröffentlichtes Buch, Der Märchen-Almanach auf das Jahr 1826 für Söhne und Töchter gebildeter Stände, ist im sechsten Band der gesammelten Werke enthalten. Es erschien 1826, als er als Hauslehrer für den württembergischen Kriegsminister angestellt war, und er schrieb die Geschichten wohl zur Unterhaltung der Kinder. Dieser Band und die beiden Folgebände für die Jahre 1827 und 1828 sind im vorliegenden sechsten Band der gesammelten Werke zusammengefasst.

Die in den drei Bänden enthaltenen Märchen sind jeweils durch eine Rahmenerzählung zusammengefasst. Der erste Band spielt im Orient und enthält bekannte Märchen wie “Die Geschichte von dem kleinen Muck” und “Kalif Storch”. Das bekannteste Märchen des zweiten Bandes ist wohl “Zwerg Nase”, außerdem enthält dieser Band eine Nacherzählung des Grimm’schen Märchens “Schneeweißchen und Rosenrot”.

Die Rahmenerzählung des dritten Bandes, “Das Wirtshaus im Spessart”, ist insbesondere durch die Verfilmung von 1958 mit Lieselotte Pulver bekannt. Auch das darin eingebettete Märchen “Das kalte Herz” wurde oft verfilmt, das erste Mal bereits 1924 und das vorerst letzte Mal 2016.

Die Märchen sind der Teil von Wilhelm Hauff’s Werk, der bis heute immer wieder Neuausgaben in Buchform erhält und auch verfilmt wird.

Hauff’s Märchen waren auch englisch sprechenden Kindern im Zeitalter Victorias und Edward des VII. bekannt. Distributed Proofreaders hat The Little Glass Man and Other Stories (1894) und The Oriental Story Book (1855) für Project Gutenberg produziert. Außerdem ist eine wunderschöne illustrierte Edition von 1900 derzeit in Arbeit.

Bei Project Gutenberg sind zahlreiche andere Werke von Wilhelm Hauff zu finden, auf Deutch, Englisch und sogar Esperanto. Auf Librivox sind unter anderem alle drei Bände des Märchen-Almanachs als Hörbücher verfügbar. Distributed Proofreaders ist stolz darauf, seinen 39.000sten Titel mit dem letzten Band der sechsbändigen Ausgabe von Hauff’s gesammelten Werken zu feiern.

Dieser Blog-Beitrag auf Deutsch wurde von Constanze Hofmann, einer Freiwilligen für Distributed Proofreaders, verfasst.


Stories for a Pandemic

April 1, 2020

What do you do when a deadly disease is raging all around you? Pandemics aren’t new to mankind, one earth-shaking example being the Black Death that decimated medieval Europe, Asia, and the Middle East in the mid-14th Century. Now known as bubonic, septicemic, or pneumonic plague, depending on where it lands in the body, this nasty illness is believed to have killed off up to 200 million people in just a few years. (By contrast, the influenza pandemic of 1918 killed perhaps half that number.)

Accurate medical knowledge at the time was spectacularly lacking. Not only was there no understanding of what the plague was (a bacterial infection) or how it spread (fleas carried by rodents), there was no effective treatment for it (antibiotics). People randomly survived or died according to what they believed was God’s will. But one thing they did dimly understand was that being near people who had the plague made you more likely to get it.

Giovanni_Boccaccio_and_Florentines_who_have_fled_from_the_plague

Boccaccio and other Florentines fleeing the plague, from a 1485 French edition of The Decameron

So, if you lived in a city like Florence, and you had the means, what you did was flee to the countryside to escape the city’s “bad air.” And that was what gave the Florentine author and humanist Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) the framing device for his masterwork, The Decameron.

Written in the immediate aftermath of the plague that reduced Florence’s population by more than half in just two years, The Decameron is a collection of 100 stories, told by a group of young Florentines, three men and seven women, who have taken shelter in an empty villa in nearby Fiesole. Each is appointed to tell one story a night for 10 nights.

The stories range from the bawdy to the holy, the sweet to the horrific. The astonishing thing about them is that they are so modern and so universal. Boccaccio explored, with wit and wisdom, every aspect of humanity – vices, virtues, strengths, weaknesses – and he pulled no punches.

One of the most famous tragic stories concerns a young woman, Lisabetta, whose brothers have murdered her lover (Day 4, Tale 5). She finds his body and buries his head in a pot of basil, which she tends lovingly, watering it with her tears. The story inspired John Keats’s poem, “Isabella, or the Pot of Basil” (which can be found in Keats: Poems Published in 1820). That, in turn, inspired paintings by William Holman Hunt, John William Waterhouse, and Joseph Severn, among others, as well as a symphonic tone poem by Frank Bridge.

On the bright (and very naughty) side are tales like that of Caterina (Day 5, Tale 4), who dupes her parents into letting her sleep out on the terrace so she can hear the nightingale sing – a euphemism for something quite different involving her secret lover. Or the comic tale of the hapless Andreuccio (Day 2, Tale 5), whose slapstick accidents start in a latrine and go downhill from there.

Distributed Proofreaders volunteers worked on the e-text of John Payne’s 1886 English translation, which was originally published privately. It has the virtue of copious explanatory footnotes. It’s also considered to be the first complete English translation – but it’s not truly complete. Payne just couldn’t bring himself to translate part of the X-rated story of Rustico, a monk who teaches a heathen girl how the Devil is put into Hell (Day 3, Tale 10). Payne adds a footnote with the excuse that “The translators regret that the disuse into which magic has fallen, makes it impossible to render the technicalities of that mysterious art into tolerable English; they have therefore found it necessary to insert several passages in the original Italian.” But the Project Gutenberg e-book has a helpful transcriber’s note giving the passage in English from the 1903 translation by J.M. Rigg, who was apparently undaunted by that disused “magic.”

Project Gutenberg also has the very first English translation, by John Florio, published in 1620. It’s not complete; among other things, it replaces the Rustico tale with a rather cleaner story not written by Boccaccio. And Project Gutenberg has a Dutch version, De Decamerone, contributed by Distributed Proofreaders, as well as one in Finnish, Novelleja Decameronesta, but no Italian version. However, you can find free e-book and audiobook versions of the definitive Italian edition at Liber Liber – Progetto Manuzio, an endeavor with which Team Italia at Distributed Proofreaders has long collaborated.

During this time of modern pestilence, Boccaccio’s wonderful tales may be just the antidote to cabin fever that you’re looking for.

This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.


Transcribing Wagner’s Music

March 1, 2020

wagner

Richard and Cosima Wagner

I volunteer on the Distributed Proofreaders Music Team, which helps transcribe music in the books we work on for Project Gutenberg into audio for readers to listen to and enjoy. All kinds of books — not just books about music — can contain music: hymnbooks, children’s books, history books, biography books. All kinds of books contain music! These days, we are able to add sound files to what was once only a visual experience. What a wonderful technological advance!

The books we prepare for Project Gutenberg are in the public domain. Public domain means the music is old by today’s standards, and sometimes ancient by anyone’s standards. The internet in general, and YouTube specifically, offers an awesome amount of audio listening, even for musical relics! I’m always amazed when I go hunting for a specific tune and find it already online, sometimes in several versions. What a wonderful achievement! I no longer have just black noteheads on stave lines. Someone else has already thought this through and provided indications for tempo, dynamics, articulation, and instruments, things not always specified in the original score. Marvelous!

On the other hand, there are pieces that simply don’t have any guidance other than what’s provided in the book itself. Sometimes I just have to listen to lots of medieval music, or lots of African chants, or lots of Chinese opera to get a sense of the general direction, and then make my best guess.

Happily, Richard Wagner falls into the first category. Lots and lots of Wagner to listen to! Yet, when a book contains just snippets of his music, I have to find a handful of bars in any one of Wagner’s musical tomes to figure out how they should sound. His compositions not only go on for hours — sometimes they go on for days! Der Ring des Nibelungen comes to mind — four German-language epic music dramas spread over four consecutive evenings. The only solution for transcribing Wagner’s music is to take whatever hints I can find in the text, then start listening and researching full scores for all the information needed to recreate his glorious sounds. Armed with this knowledge, I then use music notation software and other tools to create the audio files.

I won’t bore you with all the details of getting from here to there. I will only say it was a committed effort of many, many hours over many weeks to pull this together. We’re volunteers, and as much as we love what we do, Real Life also has its demands.

Following are five excerpts from Wagner as Man and Artist by the eminent English musicologist Ernest Newman. Each excerpt contains Newman’s description of the music, an image of the music snippet, and an audio file (MP3) so you can hear it. To see and hear more, go to the HTML version of the e-book at Project Gutenberg, where you can also download PDF images of the music notation and MusicXML files that can be opened in just about any music notation program, as well as MP3 files. Enjoy!


From Die Walküre

Shakespeare’s magic is in the phrasing,—not, be it remembered, a merely extraneous, artificial grace added to the idea, a mere clothing that can be put on or off it at will, but a subtle interaction and mutual enkindlement of idea and expression. For the musician that enkindlement comes from the adding of music to the words: the music does for the idea what the style does for it in the case of the poet,—raises it to a higher emotional power, gives it colour, odour, incandescence, wings. Brynhilde comes to tell Siegfried that he must die. The mere announcement of the fact is next to nothing; the infinities and the solemn silences only gather about it when the orchestra gives out the wonderful theme.

 

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From Das Liebesverbot

Nor in any other work but this would Wagner have accompanied with so irresponsible a theme the appeal of Claudio (sentenced to death) to his friend Luzio to seek the aid of Isabella—

 

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In the third scene appears a theme that was afterwards expanded and put to splendid use in Tannhäuser. Here the nuns sing it behind the scenes to the words “Salve regina cœli.”

 

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In the opening scene of the second Act,—the garden of the prison in which Claudio is awaiting death—we have another employment of the leit-motive, the oboe giving out softly the theme to which Claudio had previously urged Luzio to implore the help of Isabella, but now with appropriately altered harmonies—

 

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The later Wagnerian method of accumulating excitement, which we have seen anticipated in Die Feen, is employed also in Das Liebesverbot, as in the following passage, which, like the one previously quoted, gives us a decided foretaste of the meeting of Tristan and Isolde—

 

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This post was contributed by Jude Eylander, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.


Crossword: Nothing to Do

February 1, 2020

Nothing to do on a bleak midwinter day (or, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, a hot midsummer day)? Try our latest crossword!

This one is based on Nothing to Do: A Tilt at Our Best Society, by Horatio Alger. It’s an early work by the not-yet-famous “rags to riches” novelist — a 300-line satirical poem in the epic style, poking fun at the idle rich.

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In order to solve the puzzle, first read the book. It’s short and entertaining. And, being an e-book, it’s searchable.

Then you can solve the puzzle in one of two ways:

  • 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. The interactive version can be used online or downloaded for offline solving.
  • Or, 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 printable 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.


Distributed Proofreaders Site Maintenance – 21 January 2020

January 19, 2020

The Distributed Proofreaders site is scheduled to be completely unavailable starting at 1pm server time on Tuesday 21 January 2020 as we do some database maintenance and install some disruptive code updates. It’s possible that these database changes could take a significant amount of time, possibly even a few days. During this time the main site will be down but the forums and the wiki will be remain available.

Please consider using this maintenance window to do Smooth Reads that you have taken out prior to the downtime or to help us test the new Unicode DP code on the test server. For more information about the testing, please visit our Distributed Proofreaders forums.

The code update requires logging out all volunteers. This means that you must save all of your work before we start the maintenance at 1pm server time. Proofreading pages offline while the server is down and saving them when it comes back up will not work.

We hope that the update will not take several days. If the upgrade and data conversion and related checks are completed early, the site will return sooner.

Thank you for your patience. As you wait for Distributed Proofreaders to become available again, please feel free to browse through the excellent articles in this Blog.

We’ll keep this blog post updated with progress during the outage. You can also find us on Facebook.

Update 10:30am EST: Site is back up and operational. Thank you for your patience!

Update 9:45am EST: Making good progress.

Update 12:00am EST: Proceeding as planned.

Update 10:00pm EST: Proceeding as planned.

Update 7:20pm EST: Proceeding as planned.

Update 4:20pm EST: Proceeding as planned.

Update 2:00pm EST: We’re making very good time so far and hope to be live sometime today.

Update 1:00pm EST: Maintenance has started.

 


Ten (Eleven) Years at DP

January 1, 2020

Dans la Bibliothèque by Auguste Toulmouche

I recently reached my ten-year anniversary at Distributed Proofreaders. I thought it would be interesting to acknowledge ten memories, observations, events, changes, or other items of nostalgia and hopefully of interest to others — Screeching halt! I wrote that a year ago and never finished. So now it’s eleven years and eleven items.

The Beginning — Welcome!

Someone had mentioned Distributed Proofreaders on another website, and I came to see what it was about. I started at the DP page, decided to create an ID, and started as a beginner. I immediately felt welcome. People’s answers to questions, appreciation for efforts, and encouragement are part of the palpable fabric of DP life. This year, someone posted in the forums, “Being helpful is the sort of thing that DP does so well.” I agree. There’s a blog article about Comments That Matter that expresses this in more depth.

Nitpickers

I found a group of fellow nitpickers, perfectionists, error spotters, spelling geeks, and grammar guards. It’s great to be in a place where you can question the use of a comma, semi-colon, duplicated word, mis-seplling misspelling, etc., and instead of getting a long-suffering sigh in response, to know that the comment is appreciated or in some cases leads to a thoughtful discussion or a thank-you. I found a group of fellow nitpickers! If you are one also, this may be for you!

Diffs: A Source of Enlightenment

An e-book project at DP goes through several rounds of proofreading and formatting. After each round, a proofer or formatter can check his or her “diffs” — the changes made to the text of a project’s individual pages as it progresses through each round. (A diff doesn’t necessarily mean there was something wrong, just that the page text coming out of the subsequent round is different.) I learned so much from my diffs. Yes, I got gentle feedback for the pages I did in Begin (projects set aside especially for beginners). However, by looking at the changes the next rounds of proofers made to my pages, I also learned an incredible amount. I learned what my eyes were glossing over and seeing what they expected to see instead of what was there. I learned to slow down. I learned to stop for the day or at least take a break every so often. I learned to go over a page another time if I found I was just reading instead of proofing. I learned that I still need to access the Proofreading Guidelines regularly.

Variety, Variety, Variety

Within the first few days I was at DP, I had the temerity to work on an English-Spanish dictionary as well as part of the Encyclopædia Britannica (in the G’s). I’m pretty sure I worked on an issue of The American Missionary (a challenging 19th-Century periodical) in early days as well. I know I also worked on some Begin projects, got helpful feedback, and forged on ahead. Over time I’ve been impressed with the wide variety of projects we work on. There are of course English-language books published across time periods, mostly up through 1923 (due to copyright) in standard library categories like fiction, reference, science fiction, cookbooks, adventure, history, military, music, anthropology, etc., etc. Add to that books in those same categories, but in other languages: French, German, Catalan, Spanish, Esperanto, Italian, Latin, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, and Cebuano. But there are more — think of the patience of the DP volunteers who provide content and manage the projects, and the dedication of proofers and formatters to work on single- and dual-language dictionaries, multi-volume encyclopedias, “Complete Works of…,” etc. I’ve also seen and worked on thesis papers and handwritten documents. There are also relatively modern government publications about parks, national monuments, nature guides, and more. The variety seems infinite.

Working Site – Not Just Social

While there is definitely a rich social aspect to DP through the volunteer forums, that’s not the primary focus. This is a working site. People contribute in many, many ways. I like the feeling of my efforts being a small part that feeds into a much larger contribution. People’s work gets recognized. There are places to announce accomplishments, and DP Anniversaries are acknowledged and celebrated. Without that, I wouldn’t be aware of my tenth eleventh anniversary.

Incredible Volunteers

It’s incredible that so many people volunteer so much time to make this happen. It ranges from a-page-a-day to what approaches or even exceeds enough time for a full-time job. Volunteers are not just incredible for the time and/or consistency they donate, but for their incredible knowledge and willingness to share it with others.

International Community

There is a considerable international community involved at DP. There are contributors from English-speaking countries, but also from many other parts of the world. I mentioned some of the different languages in the Variety paragraph above. There are perspectives brought to various discussions that I wouldn’t be exposed to on a U.S.-only site.

It’s a Learning Site

I learn a lot from other volunteers. They are always willing to share their knowledge and answer questions. I’ve learned some html coding in setting up project comments, using templates others have provided, and then finding resources on the Internet to figure out how to do other things. I’ve learned from discussions on various threads. And of course, I’ve learned a lot from the content of projects I’ve worked on.

The Custom Proofreading Font Looks Normal Now

DP is continually looking for ways to make the volunteers’ work easier. For example, a DP volunteer created a display font especially for proofreading, DPCustomMono2. When I first proofed with it, I was amazed at how much it helped. It clearly differentiates among I, 1, l. It distinguishes O and 0 without strain. It helps point out capital W that should be lower-case w and much more. Although at first it seemed odd looking and just plain weird, one day I realized that I had gotten used to it. It was the day I was sure DPCustomMono2 was missing and had been replaced by a “normal” font. Looking more closely, I saw the l with the curve and the 0 with the dot. DPCustomMono2 looked “normal” to me now.

Change and Accomplishments

Over my eleven years at DP, there has been a lot of change and many accomplishments. DP’s management has changed from a “benevolent dictatorship” (being run by a single overworked volunteer) to a non-profit corporation with a Board of Trustees and a General Manager. DP posted its 14,000th e-book to Project Gutenberg a few weeks before I joined. We just posted our 38,000th e-book last month. That’s 24,000 books since I joined. The site has been made available in French. Hardware, operating system, middleware, and forum upgrades have been rolled out. Now we’re gearing up to support additional character sets. The site changes, but the sense of purpose continues, as do the improvements and milestones.

Blogging

This Blog was introduced in 2010, and DP volunteers were invited to contribute blog posts. Surprising myself, I found I had thoughts to share. Thoughts grew to paragraphs and to contributions. It’s a good feeling to see something I’ve worked on show up as an official blog post. It’s something I don’t think I would have attempted otherwise. Once again, although a year late, here’s another article.

Thanks for joining me on my journey through the past.

This post was contributed by WebRover, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.

Distributed Proofreaders wishes everyone a Happy New Year!


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