Celebrating 34,000 Titles

July 5, 2017

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Distributed Proofreaders proudly celebrates its 34,000th unique title posted to Project Gutenberg, with the very apt A Manual of the Art of Bookbinding, by James B. Nicholson. Many thanks to all the DP volunteers who worked on it!

The Manual of the Art of Bookbinding, originally published in 1856 and reprinted in 1878, 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. Bookbinding was a popular trade back then, but it gradually fell out of favor during the 20th Century – until a devastating flood hit Florence in 1966, and experienced bookbinders were desperately needed to save priceless books damaged by the floodwaters. Even with the rise of e-books, independent bookbinders and conservators are still thriving, and bookbinding workshops for amateurs can be found all over the world.

As the subtitle promibookbinding_endpaperses, the Manual contains “Full Instructions in the Different Branches of Forwarding, Gilding, and Finishing,” along with “The Art of Marbling Book-Edges and Paper” – including lovely full-color examples of marbling. The Preface sneers that “nearly all the works written upon the subject [are] obsolete; their descriptions no longer apply to the methods practised by the best workmen.” Nonetheless, the Manual borrows heavily from its predecessors, claiming to adopt the “best” of them while rejecting the “obsolete.”

After an introduction reviewing the history of bookbinding, Part I focuses on “Sheet-Work,” beginning with the basic but crucial work of folding the printed sheets, “the beauty of a book depending on its being properly and correctly folded, so that, when it is cut, the margin of the different pages may be uniform throughout, and present no transpositions, to the inconvenience of the reader and deterioration of the work.” There are instructions for “beating” the folded sheets into a solid block – that is, laying them out on a special stone and striking them repeatedly with a hammer, a process that even then was already mechanized with presses in commercial bookbinding, but is described for the benefit of the amateur who wants to hand-bind a book. There’s even advice to keep one’s legs together while beating, “to avoid hernia.”

Part II is devoted to “forwarding,” the process of attaching the boards that will become the front and back covers, adding in the end-papers, covering the boards with fabric or leather, and gilding the page edges. It’s a lot more complicated than it sounds; this part of the Manual occupies over 120 pages of detailed instructions. The author repeatedly emphasizes the need for special care in this phase of bookbinding, particularly when binding for a private customer: “Let the workman who strives to excel in his art remember that his work goes through the hands of critics and judges; that it possibly may be compared with the productions of the most celebrated artists.”

The fun part is in Part III, a treatise on “Ornamental Art.” After a brief review of ornamental styles from ancient Egypt to the time of Louis XIV, the reader is introduced to the art of “finishing.” Here the author warns the would-be bookbinder to have “correct ideas in regard to taste, and be able to distinguish it from caprice or mere fancy,” for the laws of taste “can be easily learned, and they are unchangeable.” There are examples of good taste and bad taste, and of how to make the ornamentation appropriate to the contents of the book. There follows an extended practical exposition of the art, with plates illustrating classic design styles that can be tooled or stamped into the covers and spine of the book. There are precise instructions on gilding, polishing, coloring, and other finishing touches, as well as advice on restoring old books. There’s even a handy glossary of bookbinding terms.

Mindful of who the ultimate beneficiary of these efforts would be, the book also contains “Hints for Book-Collectors,” starting with the all-important rule, “Never write your name upon the title-page of a book.” We promise not to, now that we know how much work and creativity go into the lovely art of bookbinding.

 


O Canada

June 30, 2017

July 1, 2017, marks the 150th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation. In celebration, we offer this post – in English and in French – to announce Distributed Proofreaders’ posting of eight volumes of The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents to Project Gutenberg. This is an important series of reports, in French, Latin, and Italian, with English translations, from Jesuit missionaries in what is now Canada to their superiors. The reports contain a wealth of detail about 17th Century native Canadian culture and the interactions between natives and Europeans. Congratulations to all the DP volunteers who worked on this monumental series, and to the people of Canada!

jesuitrelationsThe Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents are the reports of the Jesuit missionaries in New France, who wrote to their superiors to give an account of their work in the New France colonies in what is now Canada. The original texts were in French, Latin and Italian. According to Wikipedia, “Annually, between 1632 and 1673, the superior compiled a narrative or ‘Relation’ of the most important events which had occurred in the several missionary districts under his charge, sometimes using the exact words of the missionaries and sometimes summarizing the individual journals in a general account, based in part also upon the oral reports of visiting fathers. This annual ‘Relation’ was forwarded to the provincial of the Order in France. After he reviewed and edited it, he published the account in a series of duodecimo volumes, known collectively as The Jesuit Relations. At times the Jesuit Relations read like travel narratives, describing geographical features and observations about the local peoples, flora, and fauna.”

The story of New France is also, in part, the story of much of New England, and of States whose shores are washed by the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. It may truly be said that the history of every one of our northern tier of commonwealths, from Maine to Minnesota, has its roots in the French régime. It is not true, as Bancroft avers, that the Jesuit was ever the pioneer of New France; we now know that in this land, as elsewhere in all ages, the trader nearly always preceded the priest. But the trader was not often a letter-writer or a diarist: hence, we owe our intimate knowledge of New France, particularly in the seventeenth century, chiefly to the wandering missionaries of the Society of Jesus.

This is how the preface of The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents commences. The series is a large and ambitious project which assembles as many of the “Relations” as possible. The entire series consists of 73 volumes, including two volumes of indices. Edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites, secretary of the Wisconsin Historical Society, the series unifies numerous original Relations translated into English with cross-references across the volumes. The Jesuit Relations also include many other papers, manuscripts and letters from the archives of the Society of Jesus covering a period from 1610 to 1791.

The Relations are considered to be a rich ethnographic source, as they give a very detailed description of the lives of the native people: their habits, customs, their social structure, their religious rituals and beliefs, their cuisine, their games, their clothes, their governance. The Relations also offer geographical information on the weather and the location of New France.

Currently volumes one through eight can be found as e-books at Project Gutenberg. The series starts with a thorough introduction by the editor describing the different tribes of the native people in New France and the Jesuit missions that took place there. Each volume presents the original text and the English translation side by side and offers explanatory and bibliographical notes, as well as facsimiles, maps and portraits of the missionaries. The editor has remained faithful to the original text. Volumes one through three feature the Abenaki Mission in Acadia (now part of eastern Quebec, the Maritime Provinces, and the U.S. state of Maine) from 1610 to 1616. Volumes four through eight conclude the Abenaki Mission and continue with the Quebec and Huron Mission from 1625 to 1636.

This post was contributed by eleni, the DP volunteer who post-processed the eight volumes of The Jesuit Relations.


Le 1er juillet 2017 marque le cent cinquantième anniversaire de la Confédération canadienne. Nous offrons de le célébrer en annonçant ici — en anglais et en français — l’envoi au Projet Gutenberg de huit volumes des «Relations des Jésuites et Documents Connexes». Il s’agit d’une importante série de rapports, en français, en latin et en italien, avec une traduction anglaise, que les missionnaires jésuites envoyèrent à leurs supérieurs depuis le pays qui est aujourd’hui le Canada. Ces rapports contiennent une foule de détails sur les civilisations indiennes autochtones du 17e siècle, et sur les relations entre autochtones et Européens. Nos compliments à tous les bénévoles de DP qui ont travaillé sur cette série monumentale, et à la population du Canada!

Les «Relations des Jésuites et Documents Connexes» sont les rapports que les missionnaires jésuites de la Nouvelle-France envoyèrent à leurs supérieurs pour rendre compte de leur travail dans les colonies de la Nouvelle-France, le Canada d’aujourd’hui. Les textes originaux étaient en français, en latin et en italien. Selon Wikipedia, «Chaque année, entre 1632 et 1673, le Supérieur compila un récit ou “Relation” des événements les plus importants survenus dans les postes missionnaires dont il avait la charge; il le fit parfois selon les mots exacts des missionnaires, parfois en résumant les mémoires individuels sous forme de rapport général, ce dernier s’appuyant également sur les rapports oraux des Pères invités. Cette “Relation” annuelle était transmise au Provincial de l’Ordre en France. Après examen et révision, celui-ci publiait le rapport en une série de volumes in-12; l’ensemble est connu sous le nom de “Relations des Jésuites”. Celles-ci se lisent parfois comme des récits de voyage, détaillant des traits géographiques et des observations sur les populations locales, la flore et la faune.»

«L’histoire de la Nouvelle-France est aussi, pour une part, celle d’une grande partie de la Nouvelle-Angleterre et des États dont les rives sont baignées par les Grands Lacs et le Mississipi. En vérité, on peut dire que, du Maine au Minnesota, l’histoire de chacun de nos États du nord a ses racines dans le régime français. Il n’est pas vrai, comme l’affirme Bancroft, que le Jésuite ait été le pionnier de la Nouvelle-France; nous savons qu’en ce pays, comme ailleurs de tout temps, le commerçant a presque toujours précédé le prêtre. Mais le commerçant était rarement épistolier ou chroniqueur: c’est donc surtout aux missionnaires itinérants de la Compagnie de Jésus que nous devons notre connaissance détaillée de la Nouvelle-France, particulièrement au dix-septième siècle.»

Ainsi commence la préface des «Relations des Jésuites et Documents Connexes». La série est un vaste et ambitieux projet qui rassemble le plus grand nombre de «Relations» possible. Elle comporte au total 73 volumes, y compris deux volumes d’index. Éditée par Reuben Gold Thwaites, secrétaire de la Société Historique du Wisconsin, elle présente de façon cohérente un grand nombre de «Relations» originales traduites en anglais, avec des références internes d’un volume à l’autre. Les «Relations des Jésuites» comprennent aussi nombre d’autres documents, manuscrits et lettres des archives de la Compagnie de Jésus, couvrant les années 1610 à 1791.

Les «Relations» sont considérées comme une riche source ethnographique, car elles offrent une description très détaillée de la vie des peuples autochtones: leurs habitudes, leurs coutumes, leurs structures sociales, leurs rituels religieux et leurs croyances, leur cuisine, leurs jeux, leurs vêtements, leurs institutions. Elles offrent également des informations géographiques sur le climat et la région de la Nouvelle-France.

À ce jour, les volumes 1 à 8 sont disponibles sous forme de livre électronique sur le site du Projet Gutenberg. La série commence par une introduction approfondie dans laquelle l’éditeur décrit les différentes tribus des peuples autochtones de la Nouvelle-France, et les missions jésuites qui s’y déroulèrent. Chaque volume présente côte à côte le texte original et la traduction anglaise, offrant des notes explicatives et bibliographiques ainsi que des fac-similés, des cartes et des portraits des missionnaires. L’éditeur est resté fidèle au texte original. Les volumes 1 à 3 présentent la mission abénaquise en Acadie (aujourd’hui une partie du Québec oriental, des provinces maritimes et de l’État nord-américain du Maine), de 1610 à 1616. Les volumes 4 à 8 vont au terme de la mission abénaquise, passant ensuite à la mission du Québec et des Hurons, de 1625 à 1636.

Ce post est une contribution d’eleni, bénévole de DP qui a assuré le post-processing des huit volumes des «Relations des Jésuites».

 


Project Not Quite Nancy Drew

June 1, 2017

The Mystery Hunters at the Haunted Lodge coverSome of my early reading and re-reading included a few of the classics of juvenile literature: early books in the Hardy Boys series, Little Women and Little Men, the Little House on the Prairie series, and the lesser-known Maida series about a wealthy handicapped girl and her gang of friends. We were then living in Kingston, Rhode Island, whose public library had some Maida books in its collection, and after we moved, I never encountered any of that series again. Until the Internet came along, I was beginning to think I had imagined it.

Some of our family inside jokes and phrases came from the Hardy Boys books. As we remembered them, the Hardy Boys crept along “using every blade of grass for cover.” Mystery at Devil’s Paw, with its memorable line in the first chapter, “Dad! May Frank and I go to Alaska?” gave us this phrase as the echo for every improbable request. “The roadster sped along at 35 miles an hour!” was also a source of family amusement when stuck behind a slower moving automobile.

Project Not Quite Nancy Drew is a broad-based effort at Distributed Proofreaders tackling juvenile series like these, from Little Women and Little Men up through the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series – roughly from the 1880’s to the 1950’s. Started by DP volunteer hutcheson, it is open for anyone in the DP community to add to and participate in. Content Providers (people who provide page images) and Project Managers (people who shepherd books through the rounds) with books from a juvenile series are welcome to label their project as part of Project Not Quite Nancy Drew.

The Project Not Quite Nancy Drew label informs and attracts DP volunteers who have come to recognize these books as colorful and often humorous and unrealistic glimpses into the youth of the past, as youngsters fight crooks, fly through the air, solve mysteries, and outsmart adults. The kids use, and tinker with, all the new technologies introduced in the period – telegraph, radio, radar, motor cars, motor boats, cameras, airplanes, and submarines.

Another recurrent theme is exploring the world, going to remote places, meeting and living among strange people – sometimes with mass violence reflecting the world wars, sometimes learning mutual respect and tolerance. The books often use language and reflect attitudes unacceptable today. But you can also see some authors attempting to inculcate social and moral values that are still admirable.

According to Wikipedia, “Juvenile series are usually books written for a young adult audience beginning in the late 19th century, which feature a formulaic plot, continuing characters, and a positive conclusion.” Some of these series were written by an individual; others were organized by syndicates of anonymous authors, with plots centrally developed, and individual books contracted out for a fixed payment without royalty or byline. This type of book preparation continues today – a sort of distributed book-writing.

There has long been interest in juvenile series at DP. In 2005, there were discussions in the DP forums regarding a large number of books authored by Laura Lee Hope, which a volunteer had purchased to scan and upload to DP for eventual posting at Project Gutenberg. These included books in the Bobbsey Twins, Bunning Brown and His Sister Sue, Moving Picture Girls, Outdoor Girls, Six Little Bunkers, and Make-Believe Stories series.

“Laura Lee Hope,” incidentally, was a pseudonym used by the Stratemeyer Syndicate – best known for Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, among other series – whose books were written by unidentified ghostwriters for a flat rate. The Rover Boys series is believed to be the first Stratemeyer Syndicate series. Project Gutenberg has over two dozen Rover Boys books in its collection; DP volunteers posted 14 of them. Wikipedia has an extensive list of all of the Stratemeyer Syndicate’s series.

Project Not Quite Nancy Drew maintains a continuously updated list of juvenile series books in various states of progress at DP. Hutcheson began work with the Penny Parker series by Mildred A. Wirt, a ghostwriter for 20 of the early Nancy Drew stories, as well as Dana Girls, Kay Tracey, Ruth Darrow, and other series of her own. According to an interview with the author, Penny Parker was her favorite heroine.

Lesser-known juvenile series by notable authors include Aunt Jane’s Nieces, by Edith Van Dyne, a pseudonym for L. Frank Baum, author of the Oz series (one of which was DP’s 32,000th title); and Radio Man, by Ralph Milne Farley, a pseudonym for Roger Sherman Hoar, a Massachusetts state senator who was a descendant of an American founding father.

In addition to these books, there is a vast selection of others to chose from at Project Not Quite Nancy Drew; below are just a few. They range from not yet started to already posted to Project Gutenberg.

The Motor Boys by Clarence Young
Football Eleven by Ralph Henry Barbour
The Aeroplane Boys by Ashton Lamar (H. L. Sayler)
The Mystery Hunters by Capwell Wyckoff
The Girl Scouts by Edith Lavell
The Boy Chums by Wilmer M. Ely
Grace Harlowe Overland Riders by Jessie Graham Flower (Josephine Chase)
Sterling Boy Scouts by Scout Master Robert Shaler
Girl Scouts by Lilian Elizabeth Roy
The Radio-Phone Boys by Roy J. Snell
The Rover Boys by Edward Stratemeyer
The Campfire Girls (or Radio Girls) by Margaret Penrose
The Blue Grass Seminary Girls by Carolyn Judson Burnett
The Brighton Boys by James R. Driscoll
The Bungalow Boys by Dexter J. Forester
The Khaki Boys by Capt. Gordon Bates
Marjorie by Carolyn Wells
The Motor Rangers by Marvin West
Ocean Wireless Boys by Capt. Wilbur Lawton (John Henry Goldfrap)

Join us at DP and take a look at the Project Not Quite Nancy Drew wiki page (DP login required). You may enjoy proofing, formatting, smooth-reading, or post-processing these books, or even seeking out additional series or filling in missing books and running them through DP to make them available as e-books.

This post was contributed by WebRover with contributions by hutcheson, both DP volunteers.


Motor Matt

March 31, 2017

During the “age of the dime novel,” generally considered to run from 1860 to 1915, popular entertainment options were quite limited compared to today. There was no film, television, radio or Internet, and theatre was a rare luxury for most. Instead, when someone wanted a quick dose of escapist adventure or romance, chances were good they would turn to a dime novel.

The first dime novels were small pamphlets of about a hundred pages, each containing a complete story. As the years went on, publisher competition led to the format’s evolution, adding more illustrations and more color, and experimenting with different price points. While the “dime” name has stuck as a term for the format, many of the most popular titles were actually “nickel weeklies” – booklets closely resembling today’s comic books, but containing prose in place of comic panels.

One of the most influential dime novel series was actually a nickel weekly called Tip Top Weekly, published by Street & Smith and containing the ongoing adventures of ideal American boy Frank Merriwell (and later, his brother and son). The Merriwell saga was filled with sports victories, action sequences, and a bit of romance – as readers spent a good part of the series speculating on which female character Frank would ultimately marry. Quite a few Merriwell adventures can be found on Project Gutenberg, but the scope of the series – a novel a week for decades – makes this one of the longest works of serial fiction ever written.

Motor Matt cover

Another title, heavily influenced by Tip Top Weekly but of a more manageable size, has recently been added to the Project Gutenberg collection in its entirety, making it the first complete dime novel series to be found there. This series is Motor Stories, containing the adventures of “Motor Matt” King, a young man with a prodigious talent for working with gas-powered motors. Over the course of the series, he travels the country (and beyond), making friends and acquiring new vehicles to experiment with. The stories were clearly written with an eye on the news, as some of the technology described here – particularly heavier-than-air flight – was quite cutting-edge at the time of publication. There are 34 Motor Matt stories in all – 32 published as the Motor Stories nickel weekly, and two more published as part of Brave & Bold (a more general-purpose series) after Motor Stories was discontinued. While they hardly qualify as great literature, all of them remain surprisingly entertaining today.

The positive features of the series can all be attributed to its author, William Wallace Cook (writing as Stanley R. Matthews), an incredibly prolific writer who was one of the few to successfully bridge the gap from the dime novel era into the succeeding pulp era. Cook was fearless about approaching a wide variety of styles and genres, and he wrote very quickly. He also had a knack for plots, meaning that even though his stories were written speedily, they don’t feel hastily-constructed, and they usually contain at least one or two interesting twists. Cook is still remembered today for his creation of Plotto, a book containing a complex mechanism for generating plots and characters – it is still in print today. To learn more about Cook and his process, you can also take a look at his autobiographical work, The Fiction Factory, written under the name John Milton Edwards, which is available in the Project Gutenberg collection.

One of the ways in which Motor Stories is fascinating, but sometimes potentially offensive to modern readers, is in the way it portrays many of its characters. The series has a surprisingly diverse cast of characters, with many of its heroes and villains representing different parts of the world. It perhaps goes without saying that the prejudices of 1909, when the series was written, were a bit different than those of today, and much of this comes through in the text, which contains broad dialect, racial slurs and grossly stereotypical portrayals of certain ethnic groups.

In some ways, however, the books manage to contain surprisingly positive messages for the time. Matt himself, who is clearly designed as a model of ideal behavior for readers to emulate, treats everyone fairly and equally regardless of their race or nationality, even though his friends often do not. This is a dramatic change from earlier dime novel “heroes,” who in some cases were known to kill people on the basis of race without even asking questions (see Frank Reade and His Steam Horse in the Project Gutenberg collection for one example of this sort of behavior, though this is certainly not the only book to embrace the repellent philosophy that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”). The author is also uniformly kind to characters of mixed race, apparently demonstrating a broad belief in the potential of the American “melting pot.” In a few cases, particularly when Chinese characters join the narrative late in the series, he also attempts to show cultural differences without dehumanizing the underlying characters – a feat that he only partially succeeds at, but that he tried puts him in a class above many of his contemporaries. Finally, while the series was clearly marketed toward boys, and most adventures go by with scarcely the appearance of a female face, on those occasions where a woman figures in the narrative, she is usually more than just a token for the “Motor Boys” to rescue (and on at least one occasion, she does the rescuing).

Apart from matters of representation, the biggest complaint most readers will have about the series is the fact that it ends where it does, with certain mysteries and plot threads entirely unresolved. Clearly Cook had set himself up to write many more of these if reader demand had been greater. As it is, the stories ended up having quite a long life. Not only were several of the early Motor Stories reprinted in Brave & Bold, but many of the stories were later edited together into longer novels to be sold in both paper-covered and cloth-bound formats. This makes the saga not only one of the last original dime novel epics but also a fairly early example of the juvenile series book later epitomized by Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift. For some reason, some of the names were changed during these edits, so it is possible that more readers over the years have known Motor Matt as “Bob Steele.” However, the original versions, with their colorful covers and bite-sized delivery, may well be the most fun. It is wonderful to have them so conveniently available to the world, after more than a century in obscurity.

This post was contributed by Demian Katz, a DP volunteer.


Clever Hans

January 1, 2017
Clever Hans

Clever Hans

Can a horse think like a human?

To many people in the early years of the 20th Century, the answer to that question was “Yes!” After all, thousands had seen von Osten’s Russian trotting horse, Clever Hans, use hoof taps and head nods to solve multiplication and division problems, spell out words, name colours, and answer complex questions from a variety of people, even those who had never worked with him before. Sceptics were quickly convinced that what they were seeing was an animal capable of conceptual thought, limited solely by the lack of the ability to speak from taking his place in human society.

In Clever Hans (The Horse of Mr. von Osten), biologist/psychologist Oskar Pfungst disproved popular opinion regarding that clever horse — and, in so doing, created a landmark study in how to apply the experimental method to human and animal behaviour.

What made this horse seem so clever? Was it intentional fraud, rote behaviour, thought transference (yes, that too had been suggested), true intelligence or something else? Oskar Pfungst found the answer by means of a series of experiments. And the data, graphs and analysis of those experiments not only solved the mystery — they formed the foundation for future behavioural studies such as Experimental Psychology.

So, was Clever Hans truly clever? He was — for a horse. In order to win his carrot and bread rewards, he had learned how to interpret the tiny involuntary visual clues that helped him determine how many hoof taps or what sort of head nods were expected by his human companions. Pfungst’s hard work proved that, if Clever Hans’ handlers asked Hans a question for which they did not know the answer, Hans could not respond correctly; only when they did know the answer, and when the horse could see them as they awaited his response, did he give correct answers.

Oskar Pfungst’s colleagues recognized that this book represented an important step in understanding human and animal behaviour. But they also recognized the bravery of the writer — Clever Hans was not a “perfectly gentle” horse. In fact, Pfungst suffered several bites throughout the study.

This post was contributed by lhamilton, the DP General Manager.


Memoirs of a Post-Processor

December 1, 2016

When I joined Distributed Proofreaders, I started with proofing and formatting as I assume most people do. I came across some fascinating snippets that I would never have read otherwise, but found I lacked the patient attention required to do a good job. This left smooth reading, at which I knew I would be hopeless, or post-processing, so post-processing it was. It probably helped that I had been a programmer in a previous existence, but I started, foolishly, with more difficult books but benefited from some very helpful and supportive post-processing verifiers.

With a hundred or so books and counting, why do I do it? Certainly to make the books available again. It produces a useful product: To ensure that the work of the many proofers, formatters and smooth readers is not in vain. But I do it mostly for the satisfaction of seeing a working ebook emerge from the collection of plain text and images I start with.

I do not specialise and the sheer range and variety of books available never fails to amaze. My reading of 18th and 19th Century books never got much beyond Sheridan le Fanu and Wilkie Collins, so I have come across a world of literature – biography, humour, philosophy, religion, science, poetry, history, fiction – which I did not realise even existed. Thank you, DP!

Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey, from The Gate of Remembrance

One highlight is The Gate of Remembrance, subtitled, “The Story of the Psychological Experiment which Resulted in the Discovery of the Edgar Chapel at Glastonbury,” by the noted British architect, archaeologist, and psychical researcher Frederick Bligh Bond. This is a detailed account of an experiment with automatic writing over a period of years, which, the author maintains, led to the discovery of the lost chapels at Glastonbury. The author shows total confidence in the method and tackles criticism head-on in the preface. Written in a more credulous (or perhaps less hidebound) age, it is hard to imagine any serious architect or archaeologist even contemplating this approach today. Publishing would now be instant professional suicide. I am very sceptical, yet, it seemed to work, and the sincerity of the protagonists seems beyond doubt.

A completist approach to science  writing was still feasible in the late 19th Century and surprisingly popular. Now no author could possibly undertake such a venture and no publisher would consider it. Popular Scientific Recreations, by French scientist Gaston Tissandier, probably published in the 1880s, at 770 pages and 900 illustrations covering every scientific discipline known from Astronomy to Zoology, via parlour games, is an example of the genre. While it is incomplete and sometimes incorrect, it is remarkably comprehensive and up to date. Given that the author developed and flew an electric dirigible (how far has electric manned flight developed in the last 130 years!) this should not be surprising.

Another example is Outlines of Creation, by Elisha Noyce, a more modest 1858 publication of 340 pages, limiting itself to astronomy, geology and life. While unequivocally creationist in outlook, it presents the scientific evidence comprehensively and  comprehensibly, and is beautifully illustrated. As the author explained in the Introduction,

The want of a general knowledge of those works of the Great Creator which are constantly spread out before us, in these days of easy acquirement, amounts almost to a sin, for it is by the study of Nature in all her varied forms and associations, that we learn to “look from Nature up to Nature’s God;” for who can look upon the works of God without a feeling of awe and admiration?

Staying positive and not dwelling on the horrors of war, vivisection, adulteration of food, primitive medicine, etc., I enjoyed the gentle humour and the depiction of genteel life in the books by American author John Habberton, Helen’s Babies and Budge and Toddie. Concerning  the generally disruptive adventures of the two toddlers and, perhaps, marred by the author’s excessive use of baby talk, they are very light, but enlivened by excellent illustrations.

A final curio, for those who might want definitions of futtocks, dead rising, spirketing, breast hooks and many more, is A Naval Expositor by Thomas Riley Blanckley, a dictionary of naval terms from 1750.

This post was contributed by throth, a DP volunteer.


Decorated by Walter Crane

November 28, 2016

33K banner

Distributed Proofreaders celebrates its 33,000th title posted to Project Gutenberg.

“. . . decorated by Walter Crane.” As soon as I saw those words I knew I was sunk. When a fellow Distributed Proofreaders volunteer wrote and told me she’d stumbled across this book and it just reminded her of me (okay, she said it jumped up and down and screamed my name, but I digress), I had to check it out. And there it was: “. . .decorated by Walter Crane.” Walter Crane is one of my favorite illustrators. Right up there with H. R. Millar, Randolph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway. . .

A Flower Wedding title page“Decorated by Walter Crane.” A Flower Wedding is Distributed Proofreaders’ 33,000th e-book production. This beautiful little book tells the tale of the wedding of two flowers, their guests and even the feast. It was reprinted in 2014 for the exhibition of Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Young LAD’S LOVE had courted Miss Meadow·Sweet,
And the two soon agreed at the Altar to meet.

The flowers for the most part, scorn the names chosen by the botanists and claim the ones given them by the grandmothers, great-aunts, uncles and other loving gardeners who named them for their shape, beauty, colour and charm.

In Ladysmocks, Bridesmaids, Forget·me·not blue,
With their sashes all tied in Love·knot·true.

The gifts the guests brought would fill a fanciful home with treasures . . . decorated by Walter Crane.

Buttercups gold, and a Pitcher-plant
Nay, everything that a house could want.

The bride and groom ride off in a Venus flytrap with the guests calling after:

“Speedwell, and be happy,” their friends gaily say;

and the party continues.

The Wild-thyme they had, and the fuss that was made
Kept the guests in a rout thro’ the Deadly night shade.

Lavishly decorated by Walter Crane. He was remarkably prolific, painting not only illustrations in many children’s books, but also murals, flyers and posters for the Socialist movement, wallpapers, tiles, pottery. He also taught, and two of his books based on his lecture series, The Bases of Design and Line and Form, can be found on Project Gutenberg as well. He was not above scandal for the time. Firstly, he supported Socialist causes and, speaking of support, whilst Vice President of the Healthy and Artistic Dress Union, he illustrated a pamphlet, “How to Dress Without a Corset.” He attended a meeting of Boston anarchists and declared that he thought the Haymarket Square Riot convictions were wrong. This cost him a great deal of public support in the United States, including financial support. But it eventually blew over, and his beautiful art continued on. Our lives may be a bit richer, our children’s imaginations a bit fuller, because they were decorated by Walter Crane.

A Flower Wedding final illustration

This post was contributed by a DP volunteer.


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