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 DistributedProofreaders volunteer.


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!

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.


The Golden Bough

December 1, 2019
Turner Golden Bough

The Golden Bough, by J.M.W. Turner

Distributed Proofreaders recently completed posting to Project Gutenberg all twelve volumes of Sir James George Frazer’s masterwork, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (3rd edition, 1915). This monumental study of comparative mythology and religion, first published in two volumes in 1890, had a huge influence not only on the newly developing fields of social anthropology and psychology, but also on modern literature.

Frazer’s studies in classics at Cambridge sparked a deep interest in myths and religious rites. The Golden Bough was inspired by an ancient Roman myth depicted in J.M.W. Turner’s painting of the same name. As Frazer explains in Volume I:

Who does not know Turner’s picture of the Golden Bough? The scene, suffused with the golden glow of imagination in which the divine mind of Turner steeped and transfigured even the fairest natural landscape, is a dream-like vision of the little woodland lake of Nemi—”Diana’s Mirror,” as it was called by the ancients….

Within the sanctuary at Nemi grew a certain tree of which no branch might be broken. Only a runaway slave was allowed to break off, if he could, one of its boughs. Success in the attempt entitled him to fight the priest in single combat, and if he slew him he reigned in his stead with the title of King of the Wood (Rex Nemorensis). According to the public opinion of the ancients the fateful branch was that Golden Bough which, at the Sibyl’s bidding, Aeneas plucked before he essayed the perilous journey to the world of the dead.

Although he read extensively in ancient texts, Frazer’s research was not confined to Greek and Roman myths. He also sent detailed questionnaires to missionaries and British colonial officials all over the world, including Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific, seeking their observations of the natives’ customs and rituals. Today this method would cause a field anthropologist to raise an eyebrow, but it was a start. Until then, no one had attempted so vast a comparison of human beliefs.

Frazer’s global study of myths and rituals formed the basis for his theory that human civilization evolved from belief in magic, to faith in religion, to reliance on science. Of course, the implication that science is on an evolutionary plane higher than religion did not endear Frazer to Christian church authorities. And Frazer’s inclusion of events sacred to Christianity in his comparative studies, such as Christ’s resurrection, outraged some contemporary critics, because it implied that these events were the equivalent of pagan myths.

But to others, Frazer’s work was revolutionary and inspiring. Particularly fascinating was the realization that the essential archetypes of ancient myths are universal across all human cultures, “civilized” or not. This concept had a profound impact on modern literature, influencing artists as diverse as T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, H.P. Lovecraft, Jim Morrison, and even George Lucas (through the later work of Joseph Campbell). And the newborn science of psychology benefited as well, influencing Sigmund Freud’s theories in Totem and Taboo and, indirectly, Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious.

Some modern critics have faulted Frazer for what they perceive as his unscientific methods and Victorian biases. But others continue to appreciate the multicultural scope of Frazer’s work. The Golden Bough‘s vivid synthesis of worldwide myths about life and death, gods and monsters, heroes and kings — stories common to all human cultures — shaped modern thought in ways that cannot be underestimated.

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

 

 


Celebrating 38,000 Titles

November 8, 2019

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Distributed Proofreaders celebrates the 38,000th title it has posted to Project Gutenberg, The Birds of Australia, Volume III, by John Gould. Congratulations and thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who worked on it.

John Gould (1804-1881) began work as a gardener under his father. He later set himself up as a taxidermist and eventually became the first Curator and Preserver at the museum of the Zoological Society of London. This provided the opportunity for him to be the first to view new specimens donated to the Society. 

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Gould began to publish books on birds illustrated by his wife Elizabeth and other artists. After a string of successful works, John and Elizabeth moved to Australia to work on The Birds of Australia, published between 1840 and 1848. Elizabeth died in childbirth in 1841, soon after returning to England, and other artists completed the illustrations.

The bird specimens collected by Charles Darwin in his second voyage on the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836 were presented to the Zoological Society. Gould began identifying them and noticed that birds that were identified by Darwin as blackbirds, gross-bills, and finches were “a series of ground Finches which are so peculiar” as to form “an entirely new group, containing 12 species.” Gould met with Darwin and informed him that several of the birds Darwin had identified but supposed to be just varieties of the same species were actually distinct species on different islands. Darwin was then able to establish that the species were unique to the islands, leading to the inception of his theory of evolution. Gould’s research, with his wife’s illustrations, was published in 1838-1841 as Part 3 of The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, edited by Darwin.

The Birds of Australia was the first comprehensive survey of the birds of Australia. It is a seven-volume set that includes descriptions of 681 species, of which 328 were first described by Gould. Elizabeth Gould made hundreds of drawings and 84 color plates before her death. H.C. Richter produced 595 plates from her drawings. As Gould noted in the introduction to Volume I, there was no doubt a great deal more work to be done in the Australian wilderness:

If we compare the ornithology of Australia with that of any other country in similar latitudes and of the same extent, we shall find that it fully equals, if it does not exceed them all, in the number of species it comprises; and those parts of the country that are still unexplored doubtless contain many yet to be added to the list of its Fauna.

The Birds of Australia, Volume II, was previously posted to Project Gutenberg. Volumes I and IV through VII are in progress at Distributed Proofreaders.

This post was contributed by Richard Tonsing, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.

 


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