Happy 15th Anniversary! (Part 6)

October 26, 2015
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Semper ad Meliora (Always towards better things)

This is the sixth and last in a series of posts celebrating Distributed Proofreaders’ 15th Anniversary.

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26000 Comic Insects, by F.A.S. Reid (1872), was posted October 1, 2013, as the 26,000th book. This is a collection of amusing poems about insects and features delightful illustrations by Berry F. Berry. The Hot off the Press blog post for this milestone, which coincided with DP’s 13th anniversary, can be found here.

27000 Number 27,000 was the 13-volume Storia della decadenza e rovina dell’impero romano (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire), an Italian translation of the classic work by British historian Edward Gibbon, posted March 28, 2014. It was originally published in London in separate volumes between 1776 and 1789. Italian author Davide Bertolotti translated it to Italian, and his version was published in Milan between 1820 and 1824. See the Hot off the Press blog post here.

28000 For a change of pace, The Mystery of Choice, by Robert W. Chambers (1897), was posted as the 28,000th selection on August 16, 2014. This book is a collection of short, related stories with topics ranging from a murder mystery, to the ghost of a dark priest, to the search for dinosaurs — in short, something for everyone. The Hot off the Press blog post about it is here.

29000 Histoire de France (History of France), by Jules Michelet (1867), was posted on January 14, 2015, making it the 29,000th contribution from DP to Project Gutenberg. This 19-volume masterpiece took Michelet 30 years to complete, and it took DP over nine years to transform the complete set into a high-quality set of e-books — a tremendous accomplishment all around. Here is the Hot off the Press blog post celebrating this milestone.

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30000 As you may expect, the 30,000th title was represented not by a single book, but by 30, posted on July 7, 2015. They represent the vast scope of DP volunteers’ work, with books on science, technology, medicine, poetry, archaeology, folklore, literature, drama, history, autobiography, political science, and fiction, both general and juvenile. They include works in English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian. Each of the thirty titles represents countless hours of work by DP’s many volunteers, who performed myriad tasks such as preparing the page scans, setting up the projects, carefully proofing and formatting the texts page-by-page to ensure their high quality, post-processing, smooth-reading, and verifying them — not to mention those who make all that work possible by maintaining and improving DP’s online systems, mentoring, and performing a host of other essential tasks. This Hot off the Press blog post gives the list of books, with links, for this milestone.

PG’s 50,000th title DP had the honor of contributing Project Gutenberg’s 50,000th title just last month, on September 17, 2015. This was, appropriately, John Gutenberg, First Master Printer, His Acts, and most remarkable Discourses, and his Death, by Franz von Dingelstedt. The Hot off the Press blog post celebrating this achievement is here. As part of DP’s 15th Anniversary celebration, a DP volunteer recorded an audiobook of this title for Librivox.

Thanks and congratulations to the entire Distributed Proofreaders community, whose dedication to “preserving history one page at a time” has made this 15th Anniversary celebration possible.

These 15th Anniversary posts were contributed by WebRover, a DP volunteer.


Happy 15th Anniversary! (Part 5)

October 21, 2015
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Semper ad Meliora (Always towards better things)

This is the fifth in a series of posts celebrating Distributed Proofreaders’ 15th Anniversary.

21000 The 21,000th contribution, on August 22, 2011, was The Pros and Cons of Vivisection, by Charles Richet (1908). Vivisection (experimental surgery on living beings) has long been a controversial practice. The author, a distinguished French physiologist, tries to “set forth, as impartially as possible, the reasons which militate for and against vivisection. It is, however, a physiologist who is speaking, therefore no one will be surprised that he should defend a practice which is at the basis of the science he teaches.”

22000 We go to January 2, 2012 — and 1901 — for the 22,000th offering, The Nibelungenlied, the great medieval German epic poem, translated into English by William Nanson Lettsom. It tells the tale of the hero Siegfried, who slays a dragon, gains a treasure, fights a number of battles, and wins a fair lady — thereby setting into motion a tangled and tragic plot that is famously the basis for Richard Wagner’s great opera cycle, The Ring of the Nibelung.

Leaving the Ship

Leaving the Ship, from Crusoe’s Island

23000 June 5, 2012, gave us Crusoe’s Island: A Ramble in the Footsteps of Alexander Selkirk, by John Ross Browne, the 23,000th contribution. Published in 1864, this is an account of the Irish-born American author’s experiences in the Juan Fernández Islands, his stint as a government commissioner in California, and his life as an agent in the Nevada silver mines. The author’s sketches are included.

24000 French literature provided the 24,000th book, on October 31, 2012, Cours familier de littérature (Familiar Literature Courses, vol. 14, 1862), by M.A. de Lamartine. Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine, Chevalier de Pratz, was a French writer, poet, and politician who was instrumental in the foundation of the French Second Republic. He ended his life in poverty, publishing monthly installments of the Cours familier de littérature to support himself. You can find the celebratory blog post for this milestone here.

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25000 DP’s 25,000th book was, appropriately for the “silver milestone,” The Art and Practice of Silver Printing, by pioneering photographers H.P. Robinson and Captain Abney (1881), which was posted April 10, 2013. The authors noted, “The one defect of silver printing is the possibility of its results fading; but surely it is better to be beautiful, if fading, than permanent and ugly. It is better to be charmed with a beautiful thing for a few years, than be bored by an ugly one for ever.” You can read more about this book on Hot off the Press here.

Next: The celebration continues with milestones 26000 to 30000.

These 15th Anniversary posts were contributed by WebRover, a DP volunteer.


Happy 15th Anniversary! (Part 4)

October 16, 2015
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Semper ad Meliora (Always towards better things)

This is the fourth in a series of posts celebrating Distributed Proofreaders’ 15th Anniversary.

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16000 October 1, 2009, brought to Project Gutenberg ABC: Petits Contes (ABC: Short Stories), by Jules Lemaître (1919, French). This is a beautifully illustrated children’s book. Even if you can’t recognize a single French word, this book is worth downloading for the striking color illustrations by “Job” (Jacques Onfroy de Bréville).

17000 DP saw its next milestone book, the 17,000th, on March 4, 2010: The Position of Woman in Primitive Society, by British author and headmistress C. Gasquoine Hartley (1914). From the introductory chapter: “This little book is an attempt to establish the position of the mother in the family. It sets out to investigate those early states of society, when, through the widespread prevalence of descent through the mother, the survival of the family clan and, in some cases, the property rights were dependent on women and not on men.”

18000 The 18,000th book, made available June 15, 2010, is Area Handbook for Romania, by Eugene K. Keefe et al. (1972), a U.S. Government publication. The Foreword describes it as “one of a series of handbooks prepared by Foreign Area Studies (FAS) of The American University, designed to be useful to military and other personnel who need a convenient compilation of basic facts about the social, economic, political, and military institutions and practices of various countries. The emphasis is on objective description of the nation’s present society and the kinds of possible or probable changes that might be expected in the future.”

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10th Anniversary On October 1, 2010, DP kicked off a 10-day celebration of its 10th anniversary. This blog was inaugurated on that date with A Decade of Dedication, and continued each day until October 10 celebrating DP-produced books and DP volunteer stories: The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, An Introduction to Astronomy, “Turn around when possible,” Kipling’s Just So Stories, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Principles of Orchestration, the Encyclopedia of Needlework, In Pursuit of Poetry, Come out of the Kitchen, and, finally, a slice of DP history from its former General Manager, Garage Musings.

19000 The 19,000th title was a Dutch offering, Vanden Vos Reinaerde, Uitgegeven en Toegelicht, edited by W.J.A. Jonckbloet (1856), posted November 9, 2010. This is a critical edition of the medieval fables about the clever Reynard the Fox, which were satirical commentaries on human society disguised as animal tales.

20000 Then, on April 7, 2011, DP celebrated its 20,000th title with multiple books in multiple languages: English; Italian, including Neapolitan and Sicilian dialects; German, including Middle High German; Latin, including Latino sine flexione; Dutch; French; and Esperanto. You can find the full list, with links, in this celebratory blog post.

Next: The celebration continues with milestones 21000 to 25000.

These 15th Anniversary posts were contributed by WebRover, a DP volunteer.


Happy 15th Anniversary! (Part 3)

October 11, 2015
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Semper ad Meliora (Always towards better things)

This is the third in a series of posts celebrating Distributed Proofreaders’ 15th Anniversary.

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Sigmund Freud

11000 The Northern Nut Growers Association Thirty-fourth Annual Report (1943) was the 11,000th title that Distributed Proofreaders posted to Project Gutenberg, on September 12, 2007. This was part of what we at DP call an “uberproject” — a large-scale multi-volume project, in this case a series of annual reports of the non-profit Northern Nut Growers Association from 1911 to 1963.

12000 DP’s 12,000th title — one of three milestones reached in 2008 — was Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens (The Psychopathology of Everyday Life), by Sigmund Freud (1904, German), posted on January 26, 2008. This classic work by the father of psychoanalysis is a study of the so-called “Freudian slip” — a mistake that theoretically has a deeper psychological meaning.

13000 The 13,000th title, posted on June 24, 2008, was A World of Girls (1891), by the Irish author L.T. Meade. Meade was a prolific writer of moral tales, romances, and adventure stories, as well as scientific articles. A World of Girls was her first school story, and an early example of the genre.

14000 On December 1, 2008, DP posted its 14,000th title, The Art of Stage Dancing, by Ned Wayburn (1925). Wayburn was a successful Broadway dance “director” (he didn’t like the term “choreographer”) of the early 20th Century. This book shares his method of teaching different styles of dancing and his experiences. You can find a “Hot off the Press” review of it here.

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15000 The 15,000th title, halfway to our present milestone, was Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (vol. I, 1665-1666), edited by Henry Oldenburg. It was posted on May 12, 2009. The subtitle says it all: “Giving Some Accompt of the Present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours of the Ingenious in Many Considerable Parts of the World.” This is the first issue of the journal of The Royal Society, the oldest scientific society still in existence. Philosophical Transactions is still being published today, and is celebrating its 350th anniversary this year.

Next: The celebration continues with milestones 16000 to 20000.

These 15th Anniversary posts were contributed by WebRover, a DP volunteer.


Happy 15th Anniversary! (Part 2)

October 6, 2015
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Semper ad Meliora (Always towards better things)

This is the second in a series of posts celebrating Distributed Proofreaders’ 15th Anniversary.

6000 For its 6,000th title, DP submitted the two volumes of The Journal of Sir Walter Scott. This diary of the famed Scottish novelist runs from 1825 to 1832. Two days after he started the diary, Scott expressed concerns about the financial stability of his publisher, in which he was a significant investor. The following year, the publisher failed, leaving Scott with some £130,000 of debt (the equivalent of about £9.5 million today). Scott then spent the next seven years — the rest of his life — churning out more novels in his bestselling Waverley series, as well as other writings, to pay off this massive debt. You can find a blog review of it here.

7000 On June 23, 2005, DP contributed three books, each in a different language, to celebrate its 7,000th title and the language diversity of its work:

DuBois

W.E.B. Du Bois

8000 February 8, 2006, saw the 8,000th title from DP, The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870, by W. E. B. Du Bois. Du Bois was a leading African-American scholar and activist. This, his first book, published in 1896, was a revised version of his 1895 doctoral dissertation at Harvard University, where he was the first African-American student to earn a Ph.D. degree. Du Bois helped found the NAACP in 1909. He published over one hundred articles and essays, and authored twenty-one books, including two novels.

9000 On September 4, 2006, DP again offered multiple books for a milestone, with “a trinity of diversity” to celebrate its 9,000th title. This was represented by:

  • Kelly Miller’s History of the World War for Human Rights, by Kelly Miller. This 1919 treatise by a noted African-American mathematician and author “sets forth the black man’s part in the world’s war with the logical sequence of facts and the brilliant power of statement for which the author is famous,” according to the publisher’s introduction. It contains numerous historic photographs.
  • Poems, by Christina G. Rossetti. British poet Christina Rossetti, sister of the equally famous Pre-Raphaelite poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, wrote children’s, devotional, and romantic poems. She is best known for “Goblin Market,” “Remember,” and the lyrics to the Christmas carol “In the Bleak Mid-Winter,” all of which appear in this 1906 collection.
  • Hey Diddle Diddle and Baby Bunting, illustrated by Randolph Caldecott. This 1882 picture book of two nursery rhymes, illustrated by the famed British artist, is a lovely example of Caldecott’s work. The prestigious Caldecott Medal, awarded to the most distinguished American picture book for children, was named after him.

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10000 For the 10,000th title milestone on March 9, 2007, DP offered a collection of fifteen books:

Next: The celebration continues with milestones 11,000 to 15,000.

These 15th Anniversary posts were contributed by WebRover, a DP volunteer.


Happy 15th Anniversary! (Part 1)

September 30, 2015
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Semper ad Meliora (Always towards better things)

Fifteen years ago, on October 1, 2000, Distributed Proofreaders volunteers began “preserving history one page at a time” by preparing public-domain e-books for Project Gutenberg. Since then, DP has contributed over 30,000 unique titles. In honor of DP’s 15th Anniversary (and the 5th Anniversary of both DP Italy and Hot off the Press), here is the first of a series of posts recognizing DP’s first contribution to Project Gutenberg, and every 1,000th offering thereafter.

1 The first book that DP posted to Project Gutenberg was an English translation of The Iliad of Homer. This is believed to have occurred November 22, 2000 (record-keeping at both DP and PG was not as meticulous back then). The Iliad is a classic Greek poem set during the last few weeks of the ten-year Trojan War between the ancient city of Troy and a group of Greek states. The poem relates a fateful quarrel between the Greek commander-in-chief, Agamemnon, and one of his captains, Achilles. The putative author, Homer, is thought to have been born more than 100 years after the events in the poem.

1000 DP believes that its 1,000th book was Tales of St. Austin’s, by the great British humorist P.G. Wodehouse. This was posted to Project Gutenberg on February 19, 2003. It is a collection of amusing “school stories” plus a few essays, published in 1903, and was one of Wodehouse’s first published books. Wodehouse was one of the most widely read writer of humorous novels in the 20th century. He left a career in banking to become a successful author, lyricist and playwright.

2000 On September 3, 2003, just short of seven months later, Project Gutenberg posted the 2,000th book from DP. This was The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke: The First (‘Bad’) Quarto. Published in 1603, this edition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet was lost until discovered in 1823. It was first believed to be an earlier version of the play, then believed to be a pirated copy, possibly created by an actor who had played a minor part in the play and had reconstructed it from memory.

Anatomy of Melancholy

3000 Just three and a half months later, on January 14, 2004, DP posted the 3,000th book: Robert Burton‘s masterful study of depression, The Anatomy of Melancholy, first published in 1621. The Project Gutenberg version is based on a 19th Century edition, in which the introduction notes, “The work now restored to public notice has had an extraordinary fate. At the time of its original publication it obtained a great celebrity, which continued more than half a century. During that period few books were more read, or more deservedly applauded. It was the delight of the learned, the solace of the indolent, and the refuge of the uninformed.” The writer of that introduction could not have predicted that the book’s “extraordinary fate” would include being made available to all in cyberspace.

4000 On April 6, 2004, less than three months later, DP posted its 4,000th book. Aventures du Capitaine Hatteras (Adventures of Captain Hatteras), by Jules Verne (1864, French), demonstrates that DP has a long tradition of producing books in languages other than English. Verne’s adventure novel contains two parts: “Les Anglais au pôle Nord” (“The English at the North Pole”) and “Le Désert de glace” (“The Desert of Ice”). After a mutiny destroys their ship, Captain Hatteras and what is left of his crew spend the winter on an ice island, build a boat from a shipwreck, and travel to a volcano situated right on the Pole.

5000 On August 24, 2004, a little over four months later, the third milestone book in a calendar year and fourth in a rolling year was posted. This was A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John William Cousin, and published in 1910 by Everyman’s Library. There’s a good reason DP chose this book as its 5,000th contribution, as Everyman’s Library shares DP’s core philosophy. In 1906, the founder of Everyman’s Library, J.M. Dent, resolved to create a library of 1,000 carefully selected books from around the world in the hope of making them as easily accessible as possible. In those days, books were expensive, and Everyman’s Library was among the first to publish affordable editions of classic works. Like Project Gutenberg, it paved the way to a new approach to making books widely accessible. It is fitting to celebrate this milestone with the quotation from Milton’s Areopagitica that Dent had printed on the very first volume of Everyman’s Library: “A good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured upon purpose to a life beyond life.”

Next: The celebration continues with milestones 6,000 to 10,000.

These 15th Anniversary posts were contributed by WebRover, a DP volunteer.

 


Project Gutenberg celebrates 50,000 titles

September 18, 2015

Project Gutenberg 50,000 Books

Distributed Proofreaders proudly brings to you Project Gutenberg’s 50,000th title, John Gutenberg, First Master Printer, His Acts, and most remarkable Discourses, and his Death, by Franz von Dingelstedt, translated from the German and published in 1860.

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I couldn’t think of a more appropriate title to celebrate this milestone. Johannes Gutenberg is known as the inventor of the moveable-type printing press, which led to the mass production of printed books and subsequent growth of literacy, knowledge and learning.

The project was first suggested by a DP volunteer. It was quickly picked up by one of our newer project managers, ably assisted by one of our more experienced and prolific project managers, who helped convert the long “s” used in the original publication to the regular “s” in use today.

With notification that PG was nearing its 50,000th book, the project manager suggested that if we hurried, perhaps we could finish it in time to be considered as a contender.

More than 30 volunteers joined in with no notice and made sure the pages were proofread and formatted to a standard of excellence, so that there was very little for the post-processor to have to do to assemble and check the pages for the final ebook. A draft was made available, and in next to no time smooth readers had read the book and reported their findings to ensure the ebook represented the original.

The book is a biography of the man, born Johann Gensfleisch, who preferred to be known as Johann Gutenberg (John Gutenberg in the translation). His inventions led to the printing of the first book published using moveable type, the Bible in Latin. He had little money and was unable to continue his experiments without financial backing. He met John Fust, who bankrolled Gutenberg’s venture, and the Bible was completed in time for the wedding of Fust’s daughter:

The Bible, on its part, had its silver clasps well rubbed and polished, and, being placed on a table, it shone, to the edification and admiration of all beholders.

The book quotes Gutenberg as saying:

My art belongs to me as much as to the rest of the world; let it remain the property of intelligence, and only be practised by those who have been initiated in it.

Yet he felt that his:

… art is not like any other art; a painter sketches his figures on the canvas, and he perfects the creation of his thought; the same with the poet, the engraver, the architect, and the musician; we, on the contrary, with our presses, are only the servants of others; printing is only an instrument for thinkers. Of what importance are the fingers which regulate the letters in a book? Of what importance is the hand which works the press, which arranges the pages and the leaves, which gives a visible form to the action of the mind?

Gutenberg toiled long and hard, working in dark, oppressive and humble conditions, but eventually he lost his business to Fust and died “neglected and in destitution.” His legacy, however, lives on, and his namesake, Project Gutenberg, continues the philosophy of sharing the printed word with the world.

This post was contributed by a DP volunteer.


Celebrating 30,000 Titles

July 7, 2015

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Distributed Proofreaders has reached another milestone: we’ve posted 30,000 unique titles to Project Gutenberg!

We’re celebrating this achievement with a collection of 30 works, the product of DP volunteers’ perseverance and hard work in making a wide range of books available online:

These titles are an excellent illustration of what DP volunteers do every day:  We preserve and make available, for the delight and enlightenment of readers everywhere, a broad array of books on many subjects and in many languages. Congratulations to all who made this achievement possible!

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


The Campaign of 1776 around New York and Brooklyn

July 4, 2015

Every once in a while, when my usual route home to Brooklyn from my job in Queens is clogged with traffic, I opt to take what I like to think of as the Revolutionary War Route. This route takes me past the site of a brilliant strategic move by the British that nearly cost the brand-new American nation its independence. You can learn much about that move from Henry Phelps Johnston’s fascinating account, The Campaign of 1776 around New York and Brooklyn, published in 1878.

map The campaign actually began months before the American Continental Congress issued its Declaration of Independence (the first e-book, by the way, that Project Gutenberg ever posted). Johnston relates how in January 1776, George Washington, rightly suspecting that the British would try to occupy New York City, obtained the Continental Congress’s approval to raise the city’s defenses. By August 1776, enough forts, batteries, barricades, and redoubts had been constructed so that the Americans “had inclosed themselves on the Brooklyn peninsula.”

The Americans, however, hadn’t reckoned on one key weakness in their position. Between them and the British lay a long, thickly wooded ridge, the product of glaciers receding thousands of years before. Today, this ridge is filled with parks and cemeteries, and along it runs the parkway I sometimes take to get home. Back in 1776, it was a wilderness. The Americans believed that they had all the important passes through this ridge under control.

But there was another pass that they had left essentially unguarded: the Jamaica Pass. Four miles to the east of the American lines, it was too isolated to keep covered effectively. Just a handful of officers were assigned to patrol it, for the Americans confidently believed that the British would be approaching from a different direction.

As Johnston puts it,

But little did the Americans suspect that at the very moment their defence seemed well arranged and their outguards vigilant they were already in the web which the enemy had been silently weaving around them during the night. That flanking column!… [W]ith crushing weight was it now to fall upon our outpost guards, who felt themselves secure along the hills and in the woods.

British troops poured through the pass, and the Americans were outflanked. They lost the Battle of Long Island, and eventually lost control of New York to the British. The war, fought on many fronts throughout the colonies, would not end until 1783.

The depth of Johnston’s scholarship is evident, but his writing is so clear that the reader never feels mired in detail. There are helpful maps, and a special bonus in Part II of the book: dozens of documents from the campaign that not only illustrate the strategies and concerns of the American generals, but also give a fascinating glimpse into everyday military life in the 18th Century. Johnston’s book is an outstanding contribution to American history.

Today is the 239th anniversary of American independence.

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


Sunday School Stories

April 4, 2015

Maybee’s Stepping Stones by Archie Fell is a book of Sunday school stories for each week of the year. As I read it, I experienced a wide range of emotions — love, kindness, patience, life, death, naughtiness, guilt, fear, consequences, tolerance, forgiveness, family, community, happiness, sorrow, adversity, hope, loneliness, sadness, joy….

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I gasped with alarm when Dick shot himself; when Tryphosa was overcome with the fire. I wanted to cry when Dick lay in the woods unheard, when Phosy and Aunty McFane became ill, and I rejoiced when Mrs. Harte and Bill Finnegan went to the Sabbath School, and when Dan Harte resolved to overcome his addiction to alcohol. I shared the children’s frustrations as they struggled with doing the right thing, and smiled unashamedly when their good deeds worked near miracles.

The stories may be old-fashioned, and based on Christianity, but the lessons are for us all, whether we believe in a god or not, whether our deeds are in person or via social media, whether we are young or old. We can all put out a hand in comfort and together we can grow in strength no matter what our trials and tribulations.

She had just been reading a chapter in the Bible out loud, and Aunty McFane said there was a promise for every ache she had. Isn’t it funny,” he  continued, turning to Miss Marvin, “that folks just as different as can be find exactly what they want in the Bible? — Maybee’s Stepping Stones, page 224.

Reading these stories, I couldn’t help but reminisce about when I was a little girl going to Sunday school.

Denomination meant nothing to us so the church we attended was the one within walking distance — I think it was Presbyterian. Our parents didn’t seem particularly religious, but they did make us go to Sunday school. Our father had in mind that if we weren’t christened it would be easier for us if we wanted to marry someone of strong faith in a particular church.

I never did work out my father’s beliefs. I suspect my mother was quite devout, although I did not know her to go to church, and she didn’t speak about religion much. She did go to a Catholic primary school — she had me shocked and in fits of laughter when she told me of the time she had to stand in front of an open fire with a piece of soap in her mouth because she had sworn at the nuns.

…  then she tried scrubbing the inside of his mouth with soap-suds — Maybee’s Stepping Stones, page 19.

My sister only recently told me the story of her second son who, at age six, when admonished for swearing, was threatened with a similar fate of having his mouth washed out with soap. The little boy went to the bathroom, grabbed some soap, foamed it up in his mouth, and went out to his mother and said, “Now I can swear.” I think there’s quite a bit of my mother’s determined spirit in both my sister and my nephew. The same son said to my sister the other week: “Do what you want, mother, you will anyway.”

My mother also told the story of a family member who was a Major in the Salvation Army. I heard her say many times that only the good die young. And I learnt that she had a very difficult time accepting the death of a daughter before I was born.

Upon the pine coffin, the girls in Miss Cox’s class laid a wreath of beautiful hot-house flowers; but all over the lid, and inside, around the pale face and over the white robe, were fresh, fragrant pond-lilies, their subtile perfume filling the room. — Maybee’s Stepping Stones, page 149.

We had Sunday School stories, much like those told in Maybee’s Stepping Stones. We collected a stamp for each story lesson we attended. When our stamp sheet was full, we were presented with a little book.

We had our “Sunday best” clothes, and how we did love dressing up, putting on our delicate little dresses with ribbons and bows, and polishing our little shoes. Going to Sunday school was exciting and something to look forward to. It added a purpose to our lives, spiritual and social.

But she made her appearance, bright and early, Sabbath morning, comparatively quite docile, submitted to be washed, shampooed, braided, and ruffled, with a most martyr-like air, and came out from the process not so very unlike the five other girls, among whom Say seated her, with such a happy look in her own blue eyes. Just to see her sitting there more than repaid the trouble. — Maybee’s Stepping Stones, page 106.

Our Sunday school was at the back of the church in a prefabricated corrugated steel “Nissen hut” like those used for temporary accommodation during the war years. The building is still there but it is no longer a church, and the hut has been replaced by a brick addition attached to the main building.

I mentioned above it was within walking distance. Back then, there was a church nearby almost everywhere. I thought about this in recent years when a neighbour who had become almost housebound because of poor vision and declining mobility told me that one of the things she missed most was being able to walk to church. Her old church building was still there, too, at the end of the street where she had lived most of her adult life, along with the convent buildings that had been converted first to a school, and then to an art gallery, and now left to crumble. The nearest church for her was now on the other side of town. Buses don’t run on Sundays in this small community so, with few friends or family interested in taking her to church, she had only television services to comfort her.

So much inward soul searching from a little children’s book — literary merit?… Well, the stories stand up to the test of time, is all I can conclude.

This post was contributed by a DP volunteer.


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