In 1848, W.F. Wakeman, a young Irish draughtsman who had helped to map Ireland for the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, published a ground-breaking study of Irish archaeology, Archaeologia Hibernica. It featured numerous drawings he had made of the ancient buildings, monuments, and objects that he had come across in the course of his mapping work. The selling point of his book was that these archaeological wonders were “within easy access of Dublin.” He noted that a whole host of monuments, such as burial mounds, stone circles, cromlechs, and other artifacts, “lie within a journey of less than two hours from our metropolis.”
In 1891, Wakeman published an updated edition of his handbook. He died in 1900, but his work remained in the forefront of Irish archaeology. John Cooke, a fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquarians of Ireland, took up the challenge of further updating Wakeman’s handbook, publishing a much expanded third edition in 1903 under the title Wakeman’s Handbook of Irish Antiquities, which is the edition now available at Project Gutenberg. Following Wakeman’s lead, Cooke’s edition uses decorative capitals at the start of each chapter that were taken from the famous Book of Kells. And it adds 60 illustrations to the already extensive list of Wakeman’s original drawings, for a total of 185. It even brings Wakeman’s work into the 20th Century by adding several photographs. (Cooke himself may have taken some of these photographs; he is best known today for his 1913 photographs of the slums of Dublin for a report on housing conditions among the poor.)
Many monuments omitted from the previous editions of Wakeman’s handbook are featured in Cooke’s edition, such as Knockmany Chamber, a photograph of which (above) is the frontispiece of that edition. Of course, archaeology continues to march on — that monument is now known as Knockmany Passage Tomb, and rather than dating from 500 B.C., as Cooke has it, it is now believed to date from about 3000 B.C. But Wakeman’s and Cooke’s patient groundwork in documenting these antiquities made further study possible, and, even more importantly, prevented them from being overlooked or even inadvertently destroyed by the unknowing.
The e-book version of Wakeman’s Handbook of Irish Antiquities is an outstanding example of the important books that the volunteers of Project Gutenberg and Distributed Proofreaders work hard to preserve and make freely available to the world. It is a fitting way to celebrate the milestone of Project Gutenberg’s 70,000th title.
This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.
This post celebrates the 45,000th unique title Distributed Proofreaders has posted to Project Gutenberg: Down the Mackenzie and Up the Yukon in 1906. Congratulations and thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who worked on it!
Canada’s vast Northwest Territories province is comprised of nearly half a million square miles of land with a total population of only 41,970 as of the 2016 census. The harsh subarctic and polar climate has always made life difficult for humans, but that didn’t stop indigenous peoples from settling there, along with later incursions of Europeans in search of fur, gold, oil, and adventure.
In the summer of 1906, Elihu Stewart, the Canadian Chief Inspector of Timber and Forestry, embarked on a journey of thousands of miles on the Mackenzie and Yukon Rivers in order to assess the timber resources of the region. His report to the Canadian Government was published in 1913 as Down the Mackenzie and Up the Yukon in 1906. But it is no dry bureaucratic report. Stewart’s account vividly expresses his deep appreciation of the beauties of the landscape and his respect (from a white person’s point of view) for the indigenous and mixed peoples of the area. Part I of the book recounts his journey; Part II contains his observations of the natural resources and inhabitants of the region.
Travel in the region wasn’t easy in 1906, and Stewart – who was then over 60 years old – must have had a very hale constitution, not to mention courage, to undertake this journey. It began in Edmonton, Alberta, overland by a horse-drawn conveyance to the Athabasca River, where he boarded a steamer appropriately named Midnight Sun. The passengers included the noted explorer and ethnologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who spent the winter of 1906-07 living among the Inuit. Stewart and his fellow travelers journeyed on various steamers and scows hundreds of miles to the Great Slave Lake, the deepest lake in North America. This is the source of the thousand-mile-long Mackenzie River, which ultimately empties into the Arctic Ocean.
Stewart and the others continued north on the Mackenzie River to its delta and the tiny settlement of Arctic Red River (now known as Tsiigehtchic, still tiny today with a population of 138 as of 2021). There he found a rather desolate community:
“It certainly was the least desirable place for any civilised man to choose for a home, that I had yet seen in all this Northland. A few houses, the church and the graveyard were all crowded on the side of a hill rising abruptly from the river. Perpetual frost was found only a foot beneath the surface of the soil, and we no longer beheld the emblems of civilised life, the vegetable and flower gardens, that go so far to make many of those lonely posts seem somewhat cheerful.“
The travelers then turned west to Fort McPherson, from where Stewart intended to travel “alone” (but actually with several native assistants) by canoe. After an arduous journey of canoeing, portaging, and camping, they reached the Yukon Territory. On the way, he experienced a strange mirage of a great city, and was shocked to find instead a rather sad Indian encampment:
“I saw only about forty half-starved creatures out on the bank to welcome us, while behind among the trees were a dozen dilapidated tents; the entire surroundings indicating want and starvation, sickness and a struggle for existence known only to those who are condemned to live in this Arctic land.“
It was experiences like this that led Stewart to include in his book an impassioned plea for a centrally-located hospital, reachable by canoe from the various outposts of the Northwest Territories. He suggested Fort Simpson on the Mackenzie River, and indeed the Roman Catholic Church built a hospital there in 1916.
Stewart continued south on the Yukon River and gradually back to more “civilised” communities, such as the Klondike Gold Rush towns of Dawson City and Skagway, with their modern conveniences, entertainments, and colorful adventurers. He ended his journey at Vancouver, three months and 4,250 miles from where he started.
Elihu Stewart retired from his government job in 1907; he died at the age of 90 in 1935. During his tenure he initiated highly successful conservation programs under which millions of trees were planted and forest fire prevention measures were implemented all across Canada. Distributed Proofreaders is proud to celebrate its 45,000th title with this fascinating account of his extraordinary trip down the Mackenzie and up the Yukon.
This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.
This post celebrates the 44,000th title Distributed Proofreaders has posted to Project Gutenberg: The Trial of Emile Zola. Congratulations and thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who worked on it!
The Trial of Emile Zola is a first-hand account of a crucial stage in one of the most important events of French history: the Dreyfus Affair. In September of 1894, an operative of French counterintelligence found, in a wastebasket at the German embassy in Paris, an unsigned note (generally referred to as the “bordereau”) that proved that French military secrets were being delivered to foreign powers. Immediately an investigation was launched, and before long the military authorities had settled on Captain Alfred Dreyfus as the culprit: because he was taciturn and unpopular, because his handwriting bore a vague resemblance to that on the bordereau, and, most of all, because he was Jewish. Dreyfus was convicted in a closed military trial on the basis of tenuous evidence such as his handwriting, and other evidence that was wholly fabricated, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the awful conditions of the penal colony of Devil’s Island in the Caribbean. Before his deportation, he was stripped of his rank in a ceremony wherein his marks of rank were torn off his uniform, his sword was taken from him and broken, and he was made to parade around a square in front of his former comrades and a huge crowd of civilians shouting, among other things, “Death to the Jew.”
Dreyfus’s family believed his claims of innocence, and campaigned for his release to what was, initially, an overwhelmingly hostile public, influenced by extreme anti-Semites for whom Dreyfus’s supposed guilt was a vindication of their beliefs about the Jewish race. Gradually, evidence emerged that pointed to a Catholic French officer, Ferdinand Esterhazy – a heavily indebted drunkard – as the bordereau’s likely author. His handwriting matched it perfectly. French society became split between the Dreyfusards, who believed in Dreyfus’s innocence, and the anti-Dreyfusards, who believed in his guilt. Both camps felt themselves to be defending their own vision of French society – the Dreyfusards defending the liberal Republic against a reactionary, anti-Semitic political Catholicism, and the anti-Dreyfusards defending Catholic France against a conspiracy of liberal intellectuals, Jews, and foreign agents. By January of 1898, the Dreyfusards had sufficient support to compel the military to place Esterhazy on trial for the same crimes of which it had convicted Dreyfus, but this trial was another closed military tribunal, and Esterhazy was acquitted.
It was at this point that Émile Zola, already a notable novelist, entered the controversy. He had published in L’Aurore, a liberal newspaper edited by future French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, an open letter addressed to President Félix Faure, with the now-famous title “J’Accuse…!” The letter, which is reprinted in full in this volume, accused the leadership of the French military of a conspiracy to condemn an innocent man, because of an initial incompetent and prejudiced investigation, and the subsequent necessity to defend the false verdict it reached because, otherwise, “the war offices would fall under the weight of public contempt.” He directly accused the trials of both Dreyfus and Esterhazy of illegality, and of having convicted Dreyfus and acquitted Esterhazy according to orders, asserting: “It is my duty to speak; I will not be an accomplice. My nights would be haunted by the spectre of the innocent man who is atoning, in a far-away country, by the most frightful of tortures, for a crime that he did not commit.” Unable to ignore Zola’s accusations – which would have been a tacit admission of their truth – the government sued Zola, as well as the legally-responsible editor of the article, Alexandre Perrenx, for libel, and thus on February 7, 1898, the trial of Zola, which is recorded in this book, began.
Zola’s trial lasted fifteen days in total, with each day the courtroom’s public gallery packed with anti-Dreyfusards, and Zola obliged to pass through hostile crowds to enter the courthouse. From the first day, the difficulties which the defence would face became apparent – after each side had set out their case initially, the day was taken up by the reading of refusals to appear on the part of most of the high-ranking military witnesses, including Esterhazy himself, whom the defence had called. On the second day, the defence called its first witness, Alfred Dreyfus’s wife, and began to question her regarding her husband’s innocence in order to establish Zola’s good faith in making his accusations. Immediately, the judge cut him off, establishing another pattern for the trial, as the judge, prejudiced against Zola and unwilling to have embarrassing details of the Dreyfus trials publicly revealed, repeatedly prevented the defence from justifying those allegations for which Zola was on trial. Similar restrictions were not placed upon the prosecution, nor upon those witnesses hostile to Zola. At the end of this first exchange, Zola’s lawyer, Fernand Labori, asked the judge, given these restrictions, “what practical means you see by which we may ascertain the truth?”
“That does not concern me,” came the reply.
In the days that followed, a long sequence of witnesses spoke of the inconsistencies of the trial of Esterhazy; various generals made evasive or obstructive answers without reproach from the judge. More than once, witnesses were called by the defence, and then prevented by the judge from taking the stand, on the grounds that their testimony would relate to the Dreyfus case. On the sixth day, the Socialist Jean Jaurès recounted a remark from a right-wing editor which perhaps sums up the anti-Dreyfusard position, loyalties and prejudices superceding truth: “I believe profoundly in the guilt of Dreyfus. I believe it, because it seems to me impossible that French officers, having to judge another French officer, should have condemned him in the absence of overwhelming evidence. I believe it, because the power of the Jews, very great four years ago, as it is today, would have torn Dreyfus from the hands of justice, if there had been in his favor the slightest possibility of salvation.”
On the eleventh day, Major Esterhazy himself was called to the stand, protesting that “during the last eighteen months, in the shadow, there has been woven against me the most frightful conspiracy ever woven against any man. During that time I have suffered more than anyone of my contemporaries has suffered in the whole of his life.” He then refused to answer any questions that would be put by the defence, and for some time, Clemenceau, who had been present throughout the trial, proffered dozens of questions, all met with silence. Finally, as the judge attempted to prevent him from speaking, Clemenceau asked “how is it that one cannot speak of justice in a court?”
The judge replied: “Because there is something above that,—the honor and safety of the country.”
“I note,” finished Clemenceau, “that the honor of the country permits these things to be done, but does not permit them to be said.”
Finally, after fifteen days, the summing-ups were concluded and the jury retired to deliberate on their verdict. Just thirty-five minutes later, they returned, and declared both Zola and Perrenx guilty of libel. Minutes after that, the judge handed Zola the maximum sentence: a fine of 3,000 francs and a year’s imprisonment. The court was filled with the shouts of the audience: “Long live the army! Long live France! Down with the insulters! To the door with Jews! Death to Zola!” Zola appealed, but was defeated again, and fled to England to avoid jail.
On the face of it, Zola and the Dreyfusards had suffered a massive defeat – the law was brought down against Dreyfus’s highest-profile supporter, and Dreyfus himself was still suffering on Devil’s Island. However, where both Dreyfus’s and Esterhazy’s trials were conducted in the secrecy of a closed military tribunal, Zola’s took place in a public court. Every day, the newspapers of France summarised the trial’s proceedings, and this 1898 edition shows that the full text of the court records had been translated into English and published in New York not long after it took place. Thus, a great deal of new information had been made available to the public, and while it did not convince the jury, it did, over time, convince an increasingly large proportion of the French population. Civil unrest increased, and a new left-wing government was formed in response to the crisis. In September 1899, the new president, Émile Loubet, pardoned Dreyfus, who was released after almost five years of imprisonment for a crime he had not committed. Finally, in July 1906, a civilian court of appeals formally cleared Dreyfus of all charges; he was reinstated as a captain and made a knight of the Legion of Honour. The Radical governments which emerged from the Dreyfus Affair would inaugurate a strict policy of secularism in the French government, which has survived to the present day – realising, ironically, some of the deepest fears of the anti-Dreyfusards.
Among many other things, the Dreyfus Affair illustrates the importance of public access to information, and conversely the danger of its restriction, without which the French military could not have conducted its closed, unfair trial of Dreyfus in the first place. It was only when the truth became public property, through the Zola trial and subsequent revelations, that justice could be done. It is a wonderful thing, therefore, to have been able to contribute to the free, maximally-accessible publication of these records through Project Gutenberg. I hope that, if you read them, they remind you of the value of the work that Distributed Proofreaders does in bringing such texts to light. As Zola wrote in “J’Accuse!”, the letter that triggered his trial, “when truth is buried in the earth, it accumulates there, and assumes so mighty an explosive power that, on the day when it bursts forth, it hurls everything into the air.”
This post was contributed by Thomas Frost, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer who post-processedThe Trial of Emile Zola.
Tomorrow kicks off the first of two Children’s Book Weeks for 2022 – May 2 to 8 and November 7 to 13. Established in 1919, Children’s Book Week has engaged children with books through events at schools, libraries, bookstores, and, in recent years, online. Distributed Proofreaders and Project Gutenberg have been proud to be part of this online initiative by making available to everyone, for free, a wide variety of public-domain children’s books. And over the past year, DP has contributed some fun and interesting children’s books to Project Gutenberg in celebration of Children’s Book Week.
Animals are always a popular category in the juvenile genre. Elizabeth Stafford Fry’s Bully Bull Frog and His Home in Rainbow Valley (1921) is a series of gentle stories about various animals in idyllic Rainbow Valley, with pretty color illustrations by Frances Beem. Published the same year, The Woodcutter’s Dog is a translation of 19th-Century French author Charles Nodier‘s short story about a heroic canine. It features charming color illustrations by English artist Claud Lovat Fraser. And from the previous century is Eliza Grey’s The Adventures of a Marmotte (1831), the whimsical “memoir” of a large ground squirrel. This book is unusual in that it was “sold for the distressed Irish,” apparently a reference to the 1830 potato crop failure and subsequent food riots in Ireland (not to be confused with the later, and far worse, Great Famine).
Children have always loved book series with engaging heroes and heroines. In 1842, educator and clergyman Jacob Abbott followed up his successful educational “Rollo” series (many of which are at Project Gutenberg) with one for girls featuring Rollo’s Cousin Lucy. Cousin Lucy at Play and Cousin Lucy at Study are both interesting slices of a child’s life in pre-Civil War America, with an emphasis on good conduct and kindness to others.
Good conduct for children is meticulously laid out in the 1856 guide, Etiquette for Little Folks, by an anonymous author. Given how highly class-conscious that era was, it’s not surprising to find advice such as, “Be meek, courteous, and affable to your inferiors; not proud nor scornful. To be courteous, even to the lowest, is a true index of a great and generous mind.” And in The School-Girls in Number 40, published in 1859 by the American Sunday-School Union, the boarding-school heroines learn about sharing, tolerance, penitence, and forgiveness.
The antebellum period in America is also represented by Fanny Fern‘s story collection The Play-Day Book, published in 1857. Fern was the most highly paid newspaper columnist of her day and is said to have coined the saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” The Play-Day Book followed on the success of her first children’s book, Little Ferns for Fanny’s Little Friends (1853). Fern’s conversational style made both her newspaper columns and her breezy little stories highly readable.
The author of Alice and Beatrice, published in 1881, is listed simply as “Grandmamma,” who is also the character who tells young Alice and Beatrice the stories in the book. Each story has an educational component, on such diverse subjects as lacemaking, life in Russia, rainbows, bees, and more.
Poetry is a perennial childhood favorite. Miriam Clark Potter’s Rhymes of a Child’s World (1920) has delightful line drawings and decorations by Ruth Fuller Stevens. Its dedication reads:
TO MY MOTHER AND FATHER WHO ALWAYS HAD TIME TO WAIVE GROWN-UP MATTERS AND READ A SMALL RHYME:
WHOSE HEARTS EVER HELD THROUGH THE FLIGHT OF THE YEARS A SOFT UNDERSTANDING OF SMALL JOYS AND TEARS.
A much earlier little volume of children’s poetry, Simple Poems for Infant Minds (1856), anonymously written and illustrated, contains just what the title says, with a blend of whimsy and moral instruction.
Dime novels were wildly popular in the 19th Century and beyond. The Boy Ranger; or, The Heiress of the Golden Horn, by Oll Coomes, published in 1874, is a good example of the kind of Western adventure much loved by children back then. This one is a bit unusual for the time in that it portrays a Native American tribal chief and his warriors in a heroic light.
Lastly, music makes an appearance with The Pinafore Picture Book (1908), a delightful children’s version of Gilbert & Sullivan’s popular operetta H.M.S. Pinafore. It was written by W.S. Gilbert himself and beautifully illustrated by Alice B. Woodward. The e-book version contains audio files so you can listen to the musical excerpts from the operetta that were printed in the original book.
We hope these selections will delight your inner child this Children’s Book Week!
This article was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.
This post – in English and German – celebrates the 43,000th title Distributed Proofreaders has posted to Project Gutenberg: Die Sitten der Völker, Zweiter Band (The Customs of Peoples, Volume II). Congratulations and thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who worked on it!This post was contributed by salmonofdoubt, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.
‘… much of the material possession of the tribes on their way to extinction, their weapons, tools, clothes, and many other everyday objects could just be preserved and included in the ethnographical museums. This is much less the case with the spiritual and intellectual heritage of the peoples in question, such as customs, practices, religious views, and so forth, even though some of the explorers attach importance particularly to this area of interest; but, unfortunately, an enormous amount of time and effort is needed to penetrate deeply into the inner life of the primitive peoples, which is quite different to how it is with us civilised people, and on the other hand, their perceptions have been subject to change in earlier times, as a result of European influences, which wound their way to them, sometimes in a roundabout way that one might never had expected.’
Georg Buschan, in his time, was a quite well-known and prolific author who devoted himself to anthropological, ethnological, and ethnographical questions, thereby reaching a large audience. His works counted among the most eminent and most comprehensive depictions in this range of subjects. Without doubt, Buschan still belongs to the older branch of ethnographers, classifying the cultures of peoples into ‘uncivilised’ and ‘civilised,’ even though the sense of mission and the narrow-mindedness of social scientists of the 18th and 19th Centuries can be found in Buschan’s works merely in a somewhat reduced form. At the same time, he was well aware that the original and unaltered cultural practices were already a thing of the past.
After serving as a military surgeon, Buschan travelled to Eastern Asia and to the Balkan Peninsula, but he was especially interested in the former German colony of Cameroon. Most of the chapters in The Customs of Peoples concerning this region of Africa can be ascribed to his authorship. Many of the book chapters from other regions of the world were written by well-known and renowned explorers, such as Sven Hedin, the Swedish explorer of Asia, and the Australian biologist and ethnologist Sir Baldwin Spencer.
‘Ethnography can be considered a fundamental methodology of the social sciences. Over the past century, ethnographic methodology has led to the discovery of some of the most valuable concepts, theory and data produced in the social sciences.’
Faye Allard and Elijah Anderson, Encyclopedia of Social Measurement, 2005.
The past decades have brought a substantial change to ethnography, particularly after the heyday of colonialism gradually came to an end after the First World War. Up to that time the depiction of foreign peoples had always been compared to the paradigm of the own culture. The ‘alien’ was considered to be the less developed, with a need for development; the colonial powers’ culture, on the other hand, was made out to be the shining example. This perspective also provided a pretext for the colonial powers to actively interfere in the affairs of foreign peoples.
Today, ethnography rarely depicts entire groups of peoples but rather addresses smaller social groups, even units as small as a football team or a work group. One important reason for this reorientation might be found in the intense mixing of cultures. Probably, an environment unaffected by the outside world no longer exists anywhere.
Even by the time Buschan published his three-volume The Customs of Peoples in 1914-1916, this was more or less true. The contributors to the work keep encountering outside influences of European culture wherever they go. Sometimes the influences manifest themselves very plainly, as seen in the omnipresent Christian symbolism in some colonies, for example, in Central and South America. Objects of European production can be seen in some of the illustrations, sometimes subtly hidden, but they are still there; for example, articles of clothing or tools that found their way into the everyday life of the observed peoples, having thus changed their traditional practices.
Without doubt, The Customs of Peoples can be considered one of Buschan’s most important works. In the first volume, Buschan focused on the peoples of Australia, Oceania, and the southern and eastern parts of Asia. In the second volume he delved into the civilisations of the remaining parts of Asia, as well as Northern, Eastern, and Southern Africa. The third volume, in progress at Distributed Proofreaders, concludes the series with the description of the peoples of Western Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Each of the three volumes contains about 500 illustrations, mostly photos and colour drawings. In fact, the books create the impression of being picture books, probably to appeal to a wider audience. Today the choice of the subjects might not be classed as ‘politically correct.’ A disproportionately high number of illustrations show scantily dressed women and young girls, which might be intended to get the predominantly male readers interested in the contents of the books.
Yet, it would not be right to impose today’s standards on yesterday’s ways of thinking. Our variety of different cultures is continually changing. A great number of things are changing almost daily, and in a hundred years’ time our view of the world may well be just greeted with smiles.
Dieser Blog-Artikel auf Englisch und Deutsch würdigt das 43.000ste Projekt, das Distributed Proofreaders bei Project Gutenberg veröffentlicht hat: den Die Sitten der Völker, Zweiter Band. Herzlichen Glückwunsch und vielen Dank an alle Freiwilligen bei Distributed Proofreaders, die an diesem Projekt gearbeitet haben!Dieser Blog-Beitrag auf Deutsch wurde von salmonofdoubt, einer Freiwilligen für Distributed Proofreaders, verfasst.
„… vieles von dem materiellen Besitz der im Aussterben begriffenen Stämme, also von ihren Waffen, Werkzeugen, Kleidung und vielen anderen Gegenständen des täglichen Lebens konnte noch gerettet und den ethnographischen Museen einverleibt werden. Weniger trifft dies aber für den geistigen Kulturbesitz der fraglichen Völker, wie Sitten, Gebräuche, religiöse Ansichten und dergleichen zu, obwohl manche der Forschungsreisenden gerade auch auf dieses Gebiet bei ihren Forschungen Gewicht legten; aber leider gehört, um in das Innenleben der primitiven Völker einzudringen, das ein ganz anderes als bei uns Kulturmenschen ist, viel Zeitaufwand und Mühe, und zum anderen haben ihre Vorstellungen verschiedentlich durch europäischen Einfluß, der manchmal auf Umwegen, auf denen man es gar nicht vermuten würde, schon in früheren Zeiten zu ihnen gelangte, eine Abänderung erfahren.“
Georg Buschan war in seiner Zeit ein ziemlich bekannter und produktiver Autor, der sich mit anthropologischen, ethnologischen und ethnographischen Fragen beschäftigte und damit ein großes Publikum erreichte. Seine Werke zählten zu den bedeutendsten und umfassendsten Darstellungen dieser Themengebiete. Buschan selbst muss zweifellos noch dem älteren Zweig der Ethnographie zugerechnet werden, der die Kulturen der Völker wertend in „primitiv“ und „entwickelt“ einordnet, wenngleich sich das Sendungsbewusstsein und die Engstirnigkeit der Sozialwissenschaftler des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts sich bei ihm nur noch in abgeschwächter Form findet. Ihm selbst war dabei sehr wohl bewusst, dass die Inhalte der ursprünglichen und unverfälschten Kulturen bereits der Vergangenheit angehörten.
Nach seinem Dienst als Militärarzt reiste Buschan nach Ostasien und auf die Balkanhalbinsel, vor allem aber galt sein Interesse der damaligen deutschen Kolonie Kamerun; die meisten seiner Buchbeiträge, die sich mit dieser Region Afrikas beschäftigen, stammen daher aus seiner eigenen Feder. Die Beiträge für seine Bücher, die aus anderen Weltgegenden stammen, wurden oft von berühmten und angesehenen Forschern, wie beispielsweise dem schwedischen Asienreisenden Sven Hedin und dem australischen Biologen und Ethnologen Sir Baldwin Spencer verfasst.
„Ethnographie kann als eine fundamentale Methodik der Sozialwissenschaften begriffen werden. Im Laufe des vergangenen Jahrhunderts hat die ethnographische Methodik zur Entdeckung einiger der wertvollsten Konzepte, Theorien und Fakten geführt, die in den Sozialwissenschaften hervorgebracht wurden.“
(Faye Allard, Elijah Anderson, Encyclopedia of Social Measurement, 2005)
Die vergangenen Jahrzehnte haben der Ethnographie einen beträchtlichen Wandel beschert, insbesondere nachdem die Blütezeit des Kolonialismus mit dem ersten Weltkrieg allmählich zu Ende ging. Bis dahin wurde die Beschreibung fremder Völker ausschließlich am Paradigma der eigenen Kultur gemessen. Das „Fremde“ wurde stets als das weniger Entwickelte, Entwicklungsbedürftige, angesehen, die eigene Kultur dagegen als leuchtendes Vorbild dargestellt. Diese Sichtweise lieferte dann auch einen Vorwand der Kolonialmächte, als selbsternannte Weltverbesserer in die Geschicke anderer Völker eingreifen zu dürfen.
Die moderne Ethnographie beschreibt heute nur noch selten ganze Völkergruppen, sondern widmet sich vielmehr kleineren sozialen Einheiten, sogar bis hinunter zu Fußballmannschaften oder Arbeitsteams. Ein wichtiger Grund für diese Umorientierung dürfte unter anderem in der starken Durchmischung der Kulturen zu finden sein. Eine von der Außenwelt unbeeinflusstes Umfeld kann heute nirgendwo mehr bestehen.
Bereits zur Entstehungszeit der „Sitten der Völker“, von 1914–1916, lagen die Dinge schon ganz ähnlich. Wo immer sie hinkommen, treffen die Beitragenden der Bücher in den jeweiligen Gegenden der Welt auf die Einflüsse europäischer Kultur. Manchmal treten diese Einflüsse so deutlich zutage wie bei der allgegenwärtigen christlichen Symbolik in einigen Kolonien, beispielsweise in Mittel- und Südamerika. Bei vielen Gelegenheiten erkennt man in den Abbildungen Gegenstände aus europäischer Produktion, manchmal subtil versteckt, und dennoch sind sie vorhanden; zum Beispiel Kleidungsstücke oder Werkzeuge, die schon längst in das Alltagsleben der betrachteten Völker Einzug gehalten, und somit die althergebrachten Gebräuche verändert hatten.
Zweifelsohne können „Die Sitten der Völker“ als eines der wichtigsten Werke des Autors betrachtet werden. Im ersten Teil widmet sich Buschan den Völkern Australiens und Ozeaniens sowie dem südlichen und östlichen Teil Asiens. Im zweiten Band befasst sich der Autor mit den Kulturen aus den restlichen Teilen Asiens sowie dem nördlichen, östlichen und südlichen Afrika. Der dritte Teil beschließt die Reihe mit der Beschreibung der Völker Westafrikas, Amerikas und Europas. (Der dritte Band ist bei Distributed Proofreaders in Arbeit.) Jeder der drei Bände enthält etwa 500 Abbildungen, meist Fotos und farbige Zeichnungen. Tatsächlich erwecken die Bücher manchmal den Eindruck eines Bildbandes, sicher auch um ein breiteres Publikum anzusprechen. Die Wahl der Motive würde man heute wohl kaum als „politisch korrekt“ einstufen. Überdurchschnittlich viele Abbildungen zeigen spärlich bekleidete Frauen und junge Mädchen, was möglicherweise die überwiegend männliche Leserschaft für den Inhalt der Bücher interessieren sollte.
Es wäre jedoch nicht richtig, die heutigen Maßstäbe an die Denkweisen von gestern anzulegen. Auch unsere heutige Vielfalt an verschiedenen Kulturen ist in immerwährendem Wandel. Viele Dinge ändern sich beinahe täglich, und in hundert Jahren wird man für unsere Sicht auf die Welt wohl nur noch ein mildes Lächeln übrig haben.
This week (September 26 to October 2) is Banned Books Week, a celebration of our freedom to read. And, coincidentally, Distributed Proofreaders is 21 years old today – all grown up, as it were, with a world of books, banned or not, to contribute to Project Gutenberg, making them freely available to anyone with an electronic device.
Both Distributed Proofreaders (DP) and Project Gutenberg (PG) follow the principles of the American Library Association’s Freedom to Readstatement – “free communication is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture.” As long as the book is in the public domain in the United States, there is no restriction on content at DP or PG. Below are some highlights of the once-banned books that DP and PG volunteers have preserved as e-books.
Book-banning has been around for centuries. It has been said that the ancient Roman poet Ovid was exiled for his Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love), published in 1 BCE (but some theorize that the exile was politically motivated). Henry Fielding‘s English translation of it was published under the title The Lover’s Assistant, or New Art of Love in 1759. Fielding’s own wildly popular novel, Tom Jones, was belatedly banned as “indecent” in 1913 by one library in England, because “whatever might have been the habits 150 years ago, it was not a suitable book … to have access to in a free public library.”
Not surprisingly, books of prurient interest are frequently the target of the guardians of morality. The very bawdy L’Escoles des Filles (The School for Girls) of 1655, said to be the earliest of the French “libertine” novels, got its Parisian publisher, Michel Millot, into hot water. He had to flee the city, and the public prosecutors burned every copy they could get their hands on. But they must have missed some. In February 1668, Samuel Pepys got hold of a reprint, in a “plain binding,” from his London bookseller. Claiming in his Diary to have read it strictly “for information sake,” he found it “mighty lewd,” apparently enjoyed it, and then “burned it, that it might not be among my books to my shame.” (And, speaking of lewdness, the part of this passage involving his enjoyment was excised from the 19th-Century edition that was used to prepare the e-book version of his 1668 diary entries at PG.)
The Roman Catholic Church officially banned thousands of books through its Index Librorum Prohibitum (Index of Prohibited Books), begun in the 16th Century. Protestant theology works were naturally on the list as being heresy, but the Church also went after scientific books. For example, it considered heliocentrism – the idea that the earth revolves around the sun, rather than the other way around – particularly heretical. And so, among many other astronomical works, the Church banned all of Galileo‘s books, including The Sidereal Messenger, in which he reported his observations supporting heliocentrism through the newly-invented telescope. In 1633, Galileo was found guilty of heresy and forced to formally reject heliocentrism (though he is said to have muttered afterward, “Eppur si muove” – “Still, it moves”). Despite mounting scientific evidence, the Church did not remove books on heliocentrism from the Index until 1835. The Church abolished the Index altogether in 1966 and officially exonerated Galileo in 1992.
The combination of politics and religion was also a recipe for censorship. America’s first banned book, Thomas Morton’s The New English Canaan, published in 1637, was an exposé of the misdoings of the Puritan settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It led to Morton’s arrest and exile to what was then the wilderness of Maine. You can read all about it in this blog post.
What we now consider classics did not escape censorship when they were published – and some are still targeted today. Mark Twain‘s beloved Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was banned by libraries in Massachusetts and New York shortly after its publication in 1885, on the grounds that it was “rough, coarse and inelegant.” Today, it continues to be challenged for its use of racial stereotypes and epithets, even though the story of the friendship between Huck Finn, a runaway white boy, and Jim, a runaway black slave, is clearly anti-racist in intent.
James Joyce‘s famed stream-of-consciousness novel, Ulysses, was banned – and burned – in both England and the United States after its publication in Paris in 1922. One Irish critic called it “[t]he most infamously obscene book in ancient or modern literature,” citing its “flood of unimaginable thoughts, images, and pornographic words” and its “unclean lunacies … larded with appalling and revolting blasphemies.” That particular criticism found its way into the U.S. government’s argument in the second trial of the book for obscenity in 1933 – and that time, the government lost, finally allowing Ulysses to be legally published in the United States.
Another Irish writer, Frank Harris, also had a notorious work banned on both sides of the Atlantic at the same time. Harris was a knockabout journalist who hobnobbed with many celebrities of the turn of the last century (see his somewhat embellished biography of his friend Oscar Wilde). Harris’s steamy autobiography, My Life and Loves, was privately published in Paris in installments from 1922 to 1927, but it was not legally published in its entirety until 1963. You can see why if you take a peek at Volume 1: His accounts of his amorous adventures are quite graphic and are illustrated by photos and drawings of nude women.
Even poetry has had its censors. Walt Whitman‘s 1855 Leaves of Grass was a bit too erotic – specifically homoerotic – for 19th-Century librarians’ tastes. They refused to stock it, and Whitman even lost his government job thanks to the long-running controversy it engendered. Nearly thirty years after its first publication, the Boston district attorney insisted that some of the “obscene” poems (like “Song of Myself”) be excised from a new edition. Whitman refused, found another publisher, and saw the unexpurgated edition sell out in one day.
In celebrating Banned Books Week, let’s remember the warning of the great 19th-Century German poet Heinrich Heine, whose own books were banned in his lifetime and later burned by the Nazis:
Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen. That was just a prelude, where they burn books, they will also in the end burn people.
Distributed Proofreaders celebrates the 42,000th title it has posted to Project Gutenberg: Carry On, Jeevesby P.G. Wodehouse. Congratulations and thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who worked on it!
Fellows who know all about that sort of thing – detectives, and so on – will tell you that the most difficult thing in the world is to get rid of the body. I remember, as a kid, having to learn by heart a poem about a bird by the name of Eugene Aram, who had the deuce of a job in this respect. All I can recall of the actual poetry is the bit that goes:
“Tum-tum, tum-tum, tum-tumty-tum, I slew him, tum-tum tum!”
But I recollect that the poor blighter spent much of his valuable time dumping the corpse into ponds and burying it, and what not, only to have it pop out at him again.
From “Jeeves Takes Charge,” in Carry On, Jeeves.
There are few things better calculated to put a smile on your face than a dip into the sunlit world of P.G. Wodehouse. And that’s particularly true of his famed stories of that brilliant “gentleman’s personal gentleman,” Jeeves, and his master, the upper-class twit Bertie Wooster. As the above quotation shows, Bertie narrates the stories in a marvelous potpourri of the King’s English, Jazz-Age slang, and half-remembered literary quotations – the hallmark of Wodehouse’s unique wit.
Thanks to the expiration of the 95-year copyrights that the U.S. Congress had accorded works published from 1923 through 1977, much of Wodehouse’s best work is coming into the public domain. Our 42,000th title, Carry On, Jeeves, a 1925 collection of 10 short stories, is among his many classics.
The first story, “Jeeves Takes Charge,” was originally published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1916. It recounts the first meeting between Jeeves and Bertie, whose previous valet he’d had to fire for “sneaking my silk socks, a thing no bloke of spirit could stick at any price.” Bertie is grappling with a hangover from the previous night’s revels and at the same time trying to read a tome called Types of Ethical Theory. Bertie’s usual fare is detective stories, but his fiancée – “a girl with a wonderful profile, but steeped to the gills in serious purpose” – has essentially ordered him to read this rather daunting volume. Jeeves arrives from the employment agency and gives him a hangover remedy that at first makes him feel “as if somebody had touched off a bomb inside the old bean and was strolling down my throat with a lighted torch.” But it works instantly, and Bertie hires him on the spot.
Thus began a fictional partnership that lasted another half a century, during which Jeeves masterfully extricated Bertie from numerous outlandish scrapes – including engagements, both deliberate and accidental, with utterly mismatched women. The last Jeeves/Wooster novel was Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen (The Cat-Nappers in the U.S.), published in 1974.
Wodehouse was amazingly prolific, writing over 90 novels, 40 plays, and 200 stories in the course of his long life. Project Gutenberg has more than 40 of his works, including four in the Jeeves/Wooster canon. Wodehouse’s other series, such as those featuring Lord Emsworth, Mr. Mulliner, Psmith, and Ukridge, are also much beloved. His works remain highly popular today, and his devoted fans have gathered in numerous Wodehouse Societies around the world. There are even websites like Madame Eulalie’s Rare Plums that provide scholarly resources, such as annotations explaining literary and cultural references in Wodehouse’s work. (See, for example, the annotations to Carry On, Jeeves.)
In tough times like these, the world needs more Wodehouse. Distributed Proofreaders is proud to celebrate its 42,000th title with one of his comic masterpieces. Let Bertie and Jeeves have the last word:
“… Do you know, Jeeves, you’re – well, you absolutely stand alone!”
“I endeavour to give satisfaction, sir,” said Jeeves.
This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer and a member of The Wodehouse Society.
Distributed Proofreaders celebrates the 41,000th title it has posted to Project Gutenberg:The Story of My Childhoodby Clara Barton.Congratulations and thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who worked on it!
How appropriate that, in a month in which we celebrate International Women’s Day, Distributed Proofreaders’ 41,000th title should be the childhood autobiography of the amazing Clara Barton!
Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born on Christmas Day, 1821, in North Oxford, Massachusetts, the youngest of five children. From her brother, David, Clara learned at an early age to ride the semi-wild horses in nearby pastures. She wrote that “in later years, when I found myself suddenly on a strange horse in a trooper’s saddle, flying for life or liberty in front of pursuit, I blessed the baby lessons of the wild gallops among the beautiful colts.”
Her older sisters and brothers taught her reading and mathematics at such an early age so that “no toy equalled my little slate.” And her father, who had served as a non-commissioned officer in the French and Indian Wars, instructed her on military and political affairs, including military etiquette. She wrote, “When later, I, like all the rest of our country people, was suddenly thrust into the mysteries of war, and had to find and take my place and part in it, I found myself far less a stranger to the conditions than most women, or even ordinary men for that matter….”
From that beginning, Clara Barton proceeded to several remarkable achievements. Throughout her long life she held many roles: teacher, patent office clerk, Civil War nurse, American and international relief organizer, founder of the Office of Missing Soldiers to find, identify and bury soldiers killed during that war, founder and then long-term president of the US branch of the Red Cross, and founder of the National First Aid Society. She was also involved with the suffragette movement and was a civil rights activist.
By age 17, Clara had passed her school examinations and began teaching in the Oxford, Massachusetts, schools. She later established a school for her brother’s mill workers’ children and, after attending the Clinton Liberal Institute, established the first free public school in Bordentown, New Jersey. Replaced by a male principal at the school she had founded, Clara then moved to Washington, DC. There she became the first woman to work in a federal government clerkship at a man’s salary, when she accepted the role of recording clerk at the U. S. Patent Office. After complaints about women occupying well-paid government positions, her salary was cut and then her job eliminated, but, a few years later, under the Lincoln administration, her position was reinstated.
With the start of the American Civil War, Clara Barton’s life took a new path. When the 6th Massachusetts Infantry was attacked by mobs of southern-sympathizing Baltimoreans and quartered in the U.S. Capitol, Barton personally furnished supplies for their needs. A few months later, she tended to the wounded soldiers returning from the Battle of Bull Run. By 1862, she was passing through battle lines to transport supplies. Thus started her career as the “Angel of the Battlefield.”
Throughout the war, Barton worked tirelessly (even through a bout of typhoid) tending wounded and ill soldiers and arranging medical supply shipments. While treating the wounded at the Battle of Antietam, she was nearly killed by a bullet that passed through the sleeve of her dress and killed the wounded man she was attending.
After the war, at the request of President Abraham Lincoln, Clara Barton directed a four-year search for the large numbers of missing soldiers. Under her guidance, nearly 13,000 Union graves from the Andersonville Prison were located and marked. At the dedication of Andersonville National Cemetery, Clara raised the flag. When the Office of Correspondence with Friends of the Missing Men was closed in 1869, 63,182 letters had been received and answered and 22,000 missing men had been identified.
Many people identify Clara Barton with the work she did during and immediately following the Civil War. However, that was just the start of her career. She gave lectures across the United States, often sharing platforms with Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, and Mark Twain. She also met and befriended Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony thus beginning her association with the suffrage movement. During the Franco-German War, Barton organized relief efforts for war victims.
While in Europe, Clara Barton became associated with the International Red Cross and realized that there was a need for such an organization in the US. By 1877, she began gathering support for organization and, on May 21, 1881, Barton founded the American Red Cross. She served as its first president and continued as president for more than 20 years. In that role, she directed operations for the Johnstown Flood, which became the most celebrated relief effort in American Red Cross’s early history. She coordinated civilian relief during the Spanish-American War, established orphanages, supported military hospitals, and provided supplies for Colonel Theodore Roosevelt’s wounded Rough Riders. As Red Cross President she also directed the relief effort for the Galveston hurricane in 1900 that left 6,000 dead.
Clara Barton made a true difference to the world around her. A tireless, caring person, a consummate organizer, a visionary – she is a true role model to today’s women and men.
This post was contributed by Rick Tonsing, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.
From ancient Greek and Roman times all the way up to Shakespeare’s day, women weren’t permitted to act on the legitimate stage. Female roles were usually played by boys. (The plot of the film Shakespeare in Love turns on this practice.) The development of opera in the 17th Century began to open up possibilities for female performers, but they didn’t become fully accepted in England until after Charles II retook the throne in 1660. Charles enjoyed theater and saw no reason to bar women from the stage. Indeed, his longtime mistress, Nell Gwyn, was a star of Restoration comedy.
Female performers reached new heights of celebrity in the 19th Century. With travel becoming safer, faster, and more comfortable, great actresses could command adoring audiences all around the world. On Sarah Bernhardt‘s first American tour in 1880, she performed Adrienne Lecouvreur in French to a New York audience willing to pay up to $40 a ticket – over $1,000 in today’s money. The spectators were so enraptured, even though many didn’t understand French, that she was compelled to make 27 curtain calls.
The volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders have contributed to Project Gutenberg a number of fascinating accounts of the great actresses of those bygone years. For example, Heroines of the Modern Stage, published in 1915, gives thumbnail sketches of the careers of Bernhardt, Ellen Terry, Eleanora Duse, and other legendary female performers of the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Bernhardt and Duse also feature in Jules Huret’s 1901 slice of theatrical life, Loges et Coulisses (in French), which includes contemporary interviews with both of them as well as with Gabrielle Réjane.
Memoirs and recollections of these stars abound. English actress Ellen Terry was best known for her spectacular success in the Shakespeare productions of her professional and romantic partner, the great actor-manager Henry Irving. Her memoir, The Story of My Life: Recollections and Reflections, published in 1908 when she was in her sixties, recounts her long career on the stage from the age of nine. Terry came from a theatrical family; her parents, both of them actors, had 11 children, of whom five became actors (Kate Terry was John Gielgud’s grandmother). Ellen Terry and Her Sisters, by theatrical historian T. Edgar Pemberton, gives an account of the siblings’ careers.
Sarah Bernhardt was the daughter of a courtesan whose clientele included some of Paris’s richest and most influential men. Though Jewish by birth, she was educated in an exclusive Catholic convent. In her 1907 memoir, My Double Life, she recalls that she wanted to become a nun, but, after a “family council,” she was prevailed upon to study acting at the Paris Conservatoire. She was initially not a success. But her career skyrocketed after she appeared as the female lead in Alexandre Dumas’s play Kean in 1868. She continued acting well into the 20th Century, even after having a leg amputated in 1915 due to an earlier stage injury, and she even appeared in several silent films. Distributed Proofreaders volunteers contributed several works relating to Bernhardt to Project Gutenberg, such as her 1921 novel The Idol of Paris, as well as reminiscences by people who knew her (Sarah Bernhardt as I Knew Her, by Mme. Pierre Berton, Sarah Bernhardt, by Jules Huret, and a chapter of The Puppet Show of Memory, by Maurice Baring).
Fanny Kemble was another well-known English actress of the 19th Century. Born, like Ellen Terry, into a noted theatrical family, Kemble rose to stardom immediately after her 1829 debut, at the age of 20, as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Her tour of the United States with her father in 1832 is recounted in her Journal of a Residence in America. In 1834, she retired from the stage to marry Pierce Butler, a wealthy American who inherited vast plantations – and hundreds of slaves – in Georgia. Kemble lived on one of the plantations in the winter of 1838-1839, and she was appalled at the treatment of the slaves. She kept a meticulous journal of the horrors she witnessed, Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation. But it remained unpublished until 1863, years after she had left her husband, when friends urged her to publish it in an effort to stop England from recognizing the Confederacy during the American Civil War. After retiring from the stage, she also published two memoirs, Records of a Girlhood and Records of Later Life.
The stories of these great ladies of the stage are just a small part of the theatrical gems glittering in Project Gutenberg’s collection – and admission is free.
This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer, in celebration of Women’s History Month.
Distributed Proofreaders celebrates the 40,000th title it has posted to Project Gutenberg, all four volumes ofLondon Labour and the London Poor, by Henry Mayhew. Congratulations and thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who worked on it.
[My husband] became paralyzed like, and was deprived of the use of all one side, and nearly lost the sight of one of his eyes.… Then we parted with everything we had in the world; and, at last, when we had no other means of living left, we were advised to take to gathering ‘Pure.’ At first I couldn’t endure the business; I couldn’t bear to eat a morsel, and I was obliged to discontinue it for a long time. My husband kept at it though.… When I saw that he, poor fellow, couldn’t make enough to keep us both, I took heart and went out again, and used to gather more than he did; that’s fifteen years ago now; the times were good then, and we used to do very well. If we only gathered a pail-full in the day, we could live very well; but we could do much more than that, for there wasn’t near so many at the business then, and the Pure was easier to be had.… Six years ago, my husband complained that he was ill, in the evening, and lay down in the bed—we lived in Whitechapel then—he took a fit of coughing, and was smothered in his own blood. O dear” (the poor old soul here ejaculated), “what troubles I have gone through! I had eight children at one time, and there is not one of them alive now. My daughter lived to 30 years of age, and then she died in childbirth, and, since then, I have had nobody in the wide world to care for me—none but myself, all alone as I am.
This is one story among many in Henry Mayhew‘s “Cyclopædia” of London Labour and the London Poor — four volumes cataloguing the lives of the city’s underclass in the 1840s. This speaker touches on a series of points which recur throughout the many tales which Mayhew relates: poverty, illness, loss of family members, but also a resourcefulness and determination to make a living in any way possible, in this case, by scouring the streets for “pure” — dog excrement — which was then sold on to tanneries.
The other pillar of Mayhew’s technique is the collection of hard data, which he sets out in 710 tables over the four volumes. These cover everything from the monetary value of a dead horse (£2 4s. 3d., including 1s. 5d. for the maggots bred on its flesh and used to feed pheasants), to the number of illegitimate children born in each county of England and Wales (Middlesex, including London, notably recording the fewest), to the annual takings of London’s six blind street-sellers of tailors’ needles (a round £234).
To these we must add mention of the illustrations, many of them based on photographs attributed to the pioneering photographic businessman Richard Beard:
This illustrative style may be familiar from Punchcartoons. Mayhew was one of that magazine’s founders in 1841, though he left it in 1845. By the end of the 1840s he had begun the series of articles for the Morning Chronicle newspaper which was eventually to be reworked and collected as London Labour and the London Poor.
Thackeray praised the original Chronicle reports as “so wonderful, so awful, so piteous and pathetic, so exciting and terrible,” and contrasted the benign disposition of the upper classes with their ignorance of the “wonders and terrors … lying by your door” (Punch, 1850, Volume 18, p. 93). Mayhew had begun to remove that veil. Ever since, the work has continued to be influential as a source for writers interested in the period, including Philip Larkin for his poem “Deceptions,” Alan Moore (“the best surviving account of how people actually thought, talked and lived” — From Hell, Appendix 1, p. 9), and Terry Pratchett, who included Mayhew as a character in his Dickensian novel Dodger.
The book also has a substantial history on Distributed Proofreaders! Proofreading of the first volume started in 2005. It was transferred for a time to another e-book preparation site, then came back to DP. Volume one was finally posted to Project Gutenberg in 2017, and the appearance of volume four today marks the final completion of the project. The number of people who have involved in this project is countless: those who provided the original scans, proofers and formatters on both sites, and those who worked behind the scenes to coordinate it all can each take a bow.
There are some caveats, of course. Mayhew was a man of his time, and at the very beginning of volume one, he outlines his curious theory that the poor are a separate race, distinguished for “their high cheek-bones and protruding jaws—for their use of a slang language—for their lax ideas of property—for their general improvidence—their repugnance to continuous labour—their disregard of female honour—their love of cruelty—their pugnacity—and their utter want of religion.” The sheer bulk of the book, and the relentless repetition of the themes of poverty and squalor mean that few will choose to read it from start to finish. The tables of data are of limited interest to the modern reader, while Mayhew’s editing of his interviews with his subjects allowed some scope for dramatic licence. Despite these issues, Mayhew deserves great credit for undertaking his journeys to this “undiscovered country of the poor” and bringing back their stories. In these pages, the costermongers, the prostitutes and the pure-collectors live on, and speak to us as vividly as ever.
This post was contributed by Henry Flower, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer who post-processed all four volumes of London Labour and the London Poor.