Distributed Proofreaders is 20! (Part 1)

Happy 20th Anniversary, Distributed Proofreaders! It’s hard to believe that today marks two decades since we began “preserving history one page at a time.” Since then, our volunteers have contributed nearly 40,000 unique titles to our partner, Project Gutenberg (watch for that next milestone very soon).

We had a massive celebration for our 15th Anniversary here at Hot off the Press, in which we explored, in six blog posts, the many milestones we had achieved since DP’s founding in 2000. By 2015, we had reached over 30,000 titles. Take a look:

For our 20th anniversary, we’d like to celebrate, this time in three blog posts on three successive days, the three key resources that make us what we are: The Books, without which we wouldn’t exist; the People – the volunteers who do the work and the partners who distribute what we produce; and the Tools, which make it possible to do what we do. After that, we’ve got a couple of fun surprises to wrap up the festivities.

Today, we celebrate:

The Books

Two months after our 15th anniversary, we posted our 31,000th book to Project Gutenberg. Now we’re fast approaching 40,000. That’s nearly 10,000 books we produced in five years – a little over six books a day. Some books fly through and get posted to Project Gutenberg in a matter of days from being made available to work on. Other more challenging ones take years. Each book is “touched” by scores of volunteers, and their ability to work together is enabled and supported by a small team of volunteer software developers, system administrators, testers, and facilitators, led by our volunteer General Manager. Here are just a few of our significant milestones over the last five years:

Public Domain Day. January 1, 2019, was the first time the pool of public domain books expanded since DP started, with books published in 1923 shedding their copyright restrictions in the United States – like Tutankhamen and the Discovery of his Tomb by the Late Earl of Carnarvon and Mr Howard Carter, published only few months after the 1922 discovery, and P.G. Wodehouse’s The Inimitable Jeeves. We celebrated a second U.S. Public Domain Day on January 1, 2020, for books published in 1924, such as Tarzan and the Ant Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs and The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley. Our content providers and project managers were pleased to identify significant works that were now freely available for us to work on and provide to Project Gutenberg for all to enjoy. We’re eager for the next one this January, when the 1925 books become free of copyright.

31,000 titles. Our 31,000th book, posted on December 27, 2015, was Colour in the Flower Garden. The author, Gertrude Jekyll, was a famous horticulturist and garden designer whose approach to garden design has had a huge impact on gardens throughout Europe, England, and North America. You can read more about her and her book in this celebratory blog post.

Holinshed’s Chronicles. On May 23, 2016, we uploaded the last of the multi-volume Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland by Raphael Holinshed. Written in the 16th Century, this extensive history of Britain was the source of many of Shakespeare’s history plays, including King Lear and Macbeth.

32,000 titles. For our 32,000th project, we posted the 8th book in L. Frank Baum’s beloved Oz series on May 28, 2016, Tik-Tok of Oz. DP volunteers worked on all the Oz books. All are available on Project Gutenberg as text-only versions; but most, like our 32,000th title, have been redone with all of the original illustrations!  See this blog post for more on this milestone.

33,000 titles. DP volunteers love to work on books with beautiful illustrations. On November 28, 2016, we posted our 33,000th project, A Flower Wedding, by the marvelous children’s book illustrator Walter Crane. In a loving tribute to this milestone, a DP volunteer tells us, “‘… decorated by Walter Crane.’ As soon as I saw those words I knew I was sunk.” There are few better examples of our volunteers’ enthusiasm for the books we preserve.

34,000 titles. And we love how our books are made! Our 34,000th title, posted on July 5, 2017, was A Manual of the Art of Bookbinding. This has everything you ever wanted to know about the hands-on side of bookbinding, and then some. It was designed for the amateur who wanted to bind just one book; or the collector who wanted to bind his private library of books; or the “practical workman” who wanted to learn the trade. You can read more about it here.

35,000 titles. Our 35,000th book was posted January 26, 2018. Shores of the Polar Sea is a gripping chronicle of an 1875 British expedition into the Arctic and the beauty, danger, and privations the explorers experienced. The author was a remarkable young man who, in addition to serving as the expedition’s medical officer, was both an artist and a scientist. We marked this milestone in this blog post. And for this 20th anniversary celebration, our friends at Librivox have recorded an audiobook version of this book more on Librivox in tomorrow’s blog post.

36,000 titles. Special recognition for 14 years of work was due to our volunteers for our 36,000th title on September 7, 2018: The 124th issue of The American Missionary that we contributed to Project Gutenberg. We posted our first issue of that periodical in 2004. Read more about it here.

37,000 titles. On April 16, 2019, we submitted our 37,000th project, French Painting of the 19th Century in the National Gallery of Art. This booklet, described in more detail here, contains many vivid colour plates and descriptions of several of the masterpieces in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. This type of booklet has helped make the world of art accessible to readers and to highlight the offerings of this major museum – and, by creating this online version, DP helped extend that audience still further.

Annali d’Italia. In May 2019, we completed and posted the 8th volume of the Annali d’Italia series, Annali D’Italia dal Principio dell’Era Volgare Sino All’Anno 1750. These important books, written by Lodovico Antonio Muratori, present the history of Italy from its beginnings until 1750.

Project Gutenberg’s 60,000th title. In July 2019, we were proud to contribute Project Gutenberg’s 60,000th title, The Living Animals of the World (volume 1 of 2). You can learn more about this milestone here. And Librivox has recorded an audiobook version of this fascinating project to help us celebrate our 20th anniversary.

The Golden Bough. In September 2019, we posted the final volume of James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough, with all 12 volumes prepared at DP. This masterwork on mythology and religion had a huge influence on the literature of the time and on modern thought. We marked this major achievement here.

Southey’s History. At the end of September 2019, we also posted the final volume of Robert Southey’s History of the Peninsular War, with all six volumes prepared at DP. Though perhaps better known for his Romantic poetry, Southey was also a fine historian, as demonstrated by his detailed account of Spain and Portugal’s struggle against Napoleon. The completion of the set at Project Gutenberg is an accomplishment of which to be proud.

38,000 titles. Our 38,000th contribution to Project Gutenberg, on November 8, 2019, was The Birds of Australia (volume 3 of 7). The seven volumes of this masterpiece of ornithology were published between 1840 and 1848 and introduced readers to 681 species, almost half of which had never been described before. The lithographic plates in the books, many produced by the author’s wife Elizabeth, are exquisite. Learn more about it in this blog post.

39,000 titles. For our 39,000 book, we were thrilled to highlight a project in a language other than English. Volume 6 of Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke in sechs Bänden (Wilhelm Hauff’s Collected Works in Six Volumes) was posted on April 27, 2020. The 19th-Century German poet and novelist Wilhelm Hauff died young, but his legacy lives on in his Märchen (fairy tales), contained in this volume, which remain favorites of German-speaking children even now. We celebrated this achievement in a blog post in both English and German.

Captain Cook and Pliny. In July 2020 we posted the last volumes of two major sets of volumes to Project Gutenberg:

Tomorrow, we take a look at the People who make all this possible. Congratulations to everyone at Distributed Proofreaders on 20 years of great books!

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

8 Responses to Distributed Proofreaders is 20! (Part 1)

  1. Jeroen Hellingman says:

    Love the bank-note design. Can we have a high-resolution version for printing as bookmarks (with appropriate text on the back…)

    • olive says:

      This bank-note reminds me of what you said some months ago: no one can pay DP volunteers for what they do.

      Looking forward to padding my pockets with wads of DP bucks, and giving them away with instant poems scribbled on the back.

  2. LCantoni says:

    The fabulous 20-dollar bill was designed by donovan, and I believe a high-resolution version is or will be available.

  3. genknit says:

    Cool! I want to print one of the bank notes, too. I’m so proud to be part of DP/PG. It gives me a reason to get up every day and do something useful. ^_^

  4. LCantoni says:

    Me too! 🙂 If you look in the celebratory forum thread (donovan’s post), you’ll find a link to the hi-res version of the banner.

  5. Tejas Nair says:

    Keep up the good work, guys. Well done!

  6. […] wrap up Distributed Proofreaders’ 20th Anniversary celebration, we feature the creative work of one of our teams. DP has numerous teams on a wide variety of […]

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