Celebrating 42,000 Titles

August 3, 2021

Distributed Proofreaders celebrates the 42,000th title it has posted to Project Gutenberg: Carry On, Jeeves by 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.
cover

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.


Celebrating 41,000 Titles

March 5, 2021

Distributed Proofreaders celebrates the 41,000th title it has posted to Project Gutenberg: The Story of My Childhood by 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!

clara_bartonClarissa 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.


Heroines of the Old-Time Stage

March 1, 2021
Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth,
by John Singer Sargent

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.


Celebrating 40,000 Titles

October 10, 2020
https://www.pgdp.net/d/dp-images/40k_Banner.jpg

Distributed Proofreaders celebrates the 40,000th title it has posted to Project Gutenberg, all four volumes of London 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:

THE STREET DOG-SELLER.

This illustrative style may be familiar from Punch cartoons. 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.


Distributed Proofreaders is 20! (Part 3)

October 3, 2020

As part of Distributed Proofreaders’ 20th anniversary celebration, we’ve taken a look at the books we work on and the people who make our e-books possible. Today we take a look at:

The Tools

There have been many updates behind the scenes in the past few years to modernize and maintain our website, software, databases, and documentation. Some of these changes are visible to users in the interfaces we use, and some are invisible but critical. Our “Squirrels,” the site administrators responsible for keeping Distributed Proofreaders’ (DP’s) website running smoothly, and our developers have been very busy.

First, a quick word about the complexity of our operation: Crowdsourced processing of e-books through several rounds of proofreading and formatting, one page at a time, takes a lot of moving parts from a technical point of view. To get a better idea of the user experience, check out our Walkthrough — it’s an excellent preview of the basic process.

Here are just a few technical highlights from the past several years:

2016

  • Set up an Official Documentation section in the DP Wiki so that core official DP documents can be easily located by volunteers and maintained by DP administrators.
  • Converted and loaded our Proofreading and Formatting Guidelines (in all their languages) into the Wiki official documentation for better accessibility and maintenance.
  • Migrated to new and more powerful development and test servers.
  • Updated the DP logo in all our environments.
  • Added Formatting Preview capability to help formatters check for potential formatting problems.
  • Modernized DP code and migrated to a more modern and supported operating system (Ubuntu 14.04).

2017

  • Enhanced our website’s security and usability by introducing SSL.
  • Upgraded our operating system and migrated to a new hosting facility.
  • Launched the French version of the DP website – translated by French-speaking DP volunteers and implemented by our Squirrels.
  • Upgraded the forum and wiki software.
  • Redesigned the Project Manager page to make it more user-friendly.

2018

  • Moved the DP code to github.com for improved code management.
  • Upgraded our operating system to Ubuntu 16.04.
  • Introduced a question at registration to identify how new volunteers found us.
  • Added XML and RSS feeds for Smooth Reading, among many other updates.
  • Updated the DP Walkthrough.
  • Organized post-processing tools into a Post-Processing Workbench so that post-processors could check e-books for errors before submitting them to Project Gutenberg.

2019

  • Made major improvements to the Search Tool and Project Manager Page.
  • Completed work to speed up the site.
  • Added a French version of the DP Walkthrough – le Parcours Guidé.
  • Updated the forum software again and converted the forum database to allow a search for shorter words.
  • Upgraded memory on the production server.

2020

  • Made many system changes and added DP Sans Mono – a special font created by a DP volunteer – as a web font, in preparation to support Unicode.
  • Converted the site to support Unicode. This was a massive change. If there were only one system enhancement to list for these past five years, this and all the work that led to it would be the one!
  • Added our first extended Unicode character suite and have continued to add character suites since then. These suites are pre-defined groups of characters that we use for working with our texts and which allow us to use characters from languages such as Greek and Polish that are not available in the Basic Latin suite.
  • Made a major upgrade to guiguts, one of our important post-processing tools.
  • Issued a new release of the dproofreaders source code: R202009. This is a monumental release as it is the first one to fully support Unicode. Our source code is available under the terms of the GNU General Public License, version 2.

Over the past several years there have been many, many more documentation updates and software improvements, too numerous to list, and more are in the works. Thank you to everyone who identified the need for them, coded them, tested them, provided feedback, and installed them, and to everyone who continues to support them.


There it is! Twenty years of great Books, incredible People, and excellent Tools – all continuing to make e-books available to everyone, everywhere, for free. I’m looking forward to what the next 5 years — 10 years — 20 years brings!

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

Tomorrow: A special anniversary crossword!


Distributed Proofreaders is 20! (Part 2)

October 2, 2020

As part of Distributed Proofreaders’ 20th anniversary celebration, yesterday we took a look at the public domain e-books we’ve contributed to Project Gutenberg. Today we look at:

The People

Numerous people from around the world participate in our book-preserving mission – the volunteers at DP and those who work with our partners in other like-minded organizations.

Our Volunteers

Since DP’s founding 20 years ago, more than 55,000 volunteers from around the globe have contributed to creating our e-books – nearly 40,000 e-books – making them freely available to all at Project Gutenberg.

With many people spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, DP has had an influx of new volunteers this year. This has not been a short-term impact of a few days or even weeks, but a sustained addition of volunteers every month. Welcome, welcome to all of you! And thank you, thank you to all of the existing volunteers who have been working steadily to keep a variety of projects available for the new volunteers to work on, as well as answering questions, mentoring, and moving the projects through the rounds of proofreading and formatting.

Numerous volunteers wear numerous hats at DP. We have a General Manager, Linda Hamilton, at the helm, appointed by the Trustees of the Distributed Proofreaders Foundation (the non-profit corporation with overall stewardship of the organization). We have our Site Administrators – the folk who keep our wheels running, affectionately known as “Squirrels” because back in the olden days, our site server was in our founder Charlz’s garage, and sometimes squirrels would visit it… You’ll read some more about their work tomorrow, when we talk about the Tools. And there are Project Facilitators who smooth the path of a project on its way to becoming an e-book.

Then we have the many people who are involved in the direct production of our e-books. This blog post on the life of a book at DP, written by one of our Squirrels, will give you an excellent idea of the process and the people involved – Content Providers, Project Managers, Proofreaders, Formatters, Post-Processors, Smooth Readers, Post-Processing Verifiers. We even have specialists to help with things like mentoring, image processing, music transcription, and projects in languages other than English.

Some of our busy volunteers have reached milestones of their own over the last few years. In August 2016, one Project Manager created his 2000th project. That means that he alone had created 6% of the projects we had worked on at that point. Nearly every proofreader and formatter at that time had likely worked on at least one of his projects. Just last month, one Smooth Reader completed smooth reading more than 1,000 books since 2007. And one of our post-processors completed post-processing more than 1,000 books.

Our Partners

Project Gutenberg is our primary partner, making all the projects we work on available via online download. They are for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost. The user may copy them, give them away, or re-use them. The e-books are all in the public domain in the United States. Since its founding in 1971, Project Gutenberg has amassed a collection of over 60,000 e-books on a vast array of topics, nearly 40,000 of which were contributed by DP volunteers over the last 20 years. Both Project Gutenberg and DP follow the principles of the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement, which means that the e-books we work on are not restricted as to content.

We owe a great debt to Project Gutenberg, not only because they are a repository for our work, but also because their hardworking volunteers, like the “Whitewashers” who do the final checks on all e-books submitted to Project Gutenberg, share our high standards of quality.

We’re also celebrating our anniversary in partnership with Librivox, whose volunteers – people from all over the world – record audiobooks from books in the U.S. public domain. As with Project Gutenberg’s e-books, these audiobooks are freely available to anyone. In honor of DP’s 20th anniversary, Librivox has recorded DP’s 35,000th title, Shores of the Polar Sea, and Project Gutenberg’s 60,000th title (the e-book of which was also prepared by DP volunteers), The Living Animals of the World, vol. 1.

DP volunteers have also helped with a number of preservation projects in conjunction with educational and cultural institutions all over the world. In 2018, we began assisting in Project PHaEDRA, a joint project of Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institute, in transcribing some of the Harvard College Observatory’s 19th- and early 20th-Century astronomical logbooks and notebooks. These were produced by a group of Harvard researchers that included early female astronomers and the famous Harvard Computers. And in 2019, in connection with an exhibition in at the Mundaneum in Mons, Belgium, entitled “Data Workers,” DP volunteers transcribed French and French-English texts from the Mundaneum’s archive.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the Tools that make it possible for us to preserve history one page at a time. We’re so proud to have been doing that for 20 years!

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


Distributed Proofreaders is 20! (Part 1)

October 1, 2020

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

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

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

Today, we celebrate:

The Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


10 Years of Hot off the Press

October 1, 2020

October 1, 2020, marks not only the 20th anniversary of Distributed Proofreaders (DP), but also the 10th anniversary of this blog. For a decade, Hot off the Press has celebrated the great work DP volunteers do “preserving history one page at a time.” It was begun as part of the celebration of DP’s 10th anniversary – and it’s amazing how quickly these ten years have passed, and how much we’ve accomplished in that time. DP volunteers have contributed over 170 blog posts since then.

Here’s a selection from the Hot off the Press archives that we hope you’ll find absorbing and entertaining.

The posts published in the nine days following the blog’s founding on October 1, 2010, give an excellent idea of the wide range of work DP volunteers do. A post on Sir Walter Scott’s journal celebrated DP’s 6,000th title (posted to Project Gutenberg in 2005). A review of a 1916 astronomy book followed. Volunteer content providers shared stories of how they found projects for DP in “Turn around when possible”, Garage Musings, and In Pursuit of Poetry. Classic fiction was represented in reviews of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and Alice Duer Miller’s Come Out of the Kitchen (with photos from the hit Broadway play). A member of DP’s Music Team reviewed Rimsky-Korsakov’s masterful Principles of Orchestration. And there was a review of the equally masterful Encyclopedia of Needlework by Thérèse de Dillmont.

Over the past decade, our blog posts have looked at the work we’ve done on books that range across many different cultures. Among them was Music and Some Highly Musical People, a survey of African-American music and musicians in the 19th Century, written by former slave James Monroe Trotter. Castes and Tribes of Southern India was seven-volume subset of a large set of volumes on the peoples of India. We reviewed The Status of Working Women of Japan, a sociological study written by a Christian missionary. One of our volunteers who worked on a dictionary of Cebuano, a language of the Southern Philippines, turned it into a smartphone app!

Many DP volunteers are bilingual and even multilingual, so our projects range across a number of different languages other than English. Hot off the Press has often featured non-English books, like our 27,000th title, Storia della decadenza e rovina dell’impero romano, an Italian translation of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And we’ve had a few bilingual blog posts. For example, for the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation, our review of The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents was in English and French. And our review of our 39,000th title, volume six of Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke (Wilhelm Hauff’s Collected Works) was in English and German.

We DP volunteers take our mission of preserving books very seriously. This week being Banned Books Week, it’s a good occasion to mention that Hot off the Press featured America’s first banned book, The New English Canaan. Thanks to our volunteers, it’s freely available at Project Gutenberg, which shares our dedication to the Freedom to Read.

Our volunteers have also contributed accounts of the work they do at DP. In addition to the early blog posts by content providers mentioned above, we’ve had posts on the joys of proofreading, smooth reading, post-processing, mentoring, and music transcription. And a look at the life of a book at Distributed Proofreaders will give you an excellent idea of our process.

We know how to have a little fun, too. A DP volunteer created our first crossword, based on Marjorie Dean: Marvelous Manager, a juvenile fiction project we had worked on. There have been several crosswords since, including a 20th Anniversary special that you’ll see later this week.

This is just a small sample of what our volunteers have shared about the work they love at DP. Browse through our blog offerings – you’re bound to find something fascinating. Happy 20th to DP, and Happy 10th to Hot off the Press!

This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer and editor of Hot off the Press.


Celebrating 39,000 Titles

April 27, 2020

This blog post – in English and German – celebrates the 39,000th title that Distributed Proofreaders has posted to Project Gutenberg: the sixth and final volume of Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke. Congratulations and thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who worked on it!

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The German poet and novelist Wilhelm Hauff (1802-1827) died just before his 25th birthday, but he left behind an amazingly rich body of work for one so young. Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke (Wilhelm Hauff’s Collected Works) fill six volumes in the 1911 edition. Distributed Proofreaders’ 39,000th title contributed to Project Gutenberg, the sixth volume, contains his Märchen – fairy tales – still beloved by German-speaking children today.

Wilhelm Hauff was born in Stuttgart. His father, a civil servant, died when Hauff was only seven years old. His mother moved the family to her father’s home, where Hauff took delight in his grandfather’s extensive and varied library. He later attended the University of Tübingen and earned a degree in theology – more to please his mother than to satisfy his own desires.

His first published work, Der Märchen-Almanach (The Fairy Tale Almanac), which can be found in volume six of the collected works, appeared in 1826. He was then working as a tutor for the children of the Württemberg minister of war, and he wrote these delightful stories especially for them.

Hauff’s highly original wit and imagination are the key to the success of these tales, which enabled him to embark upon a full-time literary career. There are, for example, exotic adventures, set in the Orient, like “Der kleine Muck” (“Little Muck”), about a boy who finds a pair of magical slippers and a magical walking stick, and “Kalif Storch” (“Caliph Stork”), about a Caliph and his Vizier who turn themselves into storks and cannot remember the magic word to turn them back into humans.

Other stories are closer to home, like “Das kalte Herz” (“The Cold Heart”, also known as “Heart of Stone”), which is set in the Black Forest. This dark tale is said to have been inspired by Washington Irving’s “The Devil and Tom Walker,” from the 1824 collection Tales of a Traveller. Hauff’s story deals with a young charcoal-burner who is given three wishes by a little glass man he encounters in the forest. As in most tales of this kind, the young man chooses poorly.

Hauff’s fairy tales have been adapted for film and television many times in German-speaking countries, in Eastern Europe, and in Russia. The Internet Movie Database’s entry for Hauff lists 58 films crediting him as a writer, including the 1921 film version of “Der kleine Muck,” produced by the prominent German film company UFA. The most recent entries are two German films released in 2016, both based on “Das kalte Herz.” One was actually shot in the early 1930s but remained dormant for decades due to missing reels. The other is a modern production starring Frederick Lau. That Hauff’s fairy tales continue to inspire films today demonstrates their enduring popularity.

Hauff’s fairy tales were also well known to English-speaking children in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Distributed Proofreaders contributed The Little Glass Man and Other Stories (1894) to Project Gutenberg, as well as The Oriental Story Book (1855). And a beautifully illustrated edition from 1900 is in progress at Distributed Proofreaders.

Project Gutenberg has numerous other works by Wilhelm Hauff, in German, English, and even Esperanto, and you can download free audiobooks of Hauff’s works in German and English at Librivox. Distributed Proofreaders is proud to celebrate its 39,000th title with this special final volume of the six-volume edition of Hauff’s collected works.

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

Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke (1911)
Volume 1 (Poems and Novellas I, with a biographical introduction by Alfred Weile) Band 1 (Gedichte und Novellen I, mit einer biographischen Einleitung von Alfred Weile)
Volume 2 (Novellas II and The Wine-Ghosts of Bremen) Band 2 (Novellen II und Phantasien im Bremer Ratskeller)
Volume 3 (Lichtenstein, a historical novel) Band 3 (Lichtenstein, ein historischer Roman)
Volume 4, (Memoiren des Satan, a satire) Band 4, (Memoiren des Satan, eine Satire)
Volume 5 (Der Mann im Mond, a parody of the works of H. Clauren; Kontrovers-Predigt über H. Clauren und den Mann im Mond, Hauff’s diatribe against Clauren; and Sketches) Band 5 (Der Mann im Mond, eine Parodie auf H. Claurens Werke; Kontrovers-Predigt über H. Clauren und den Mann im Mond, Hauffs Schmähschrift gegen Clauren; und Skizzen)
Volume 6 (Fairy Tales)
Band 6 (Märchen)

Dieser Blog-Artikel auf Englisch und Deutsch würdigt das 39.000ste Projekt, das Distributed Proofreaders bei Project Gutenberg veröffentlicht hat: den sechsten und letzten Band von Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke. Herzlichen Glückwunsch und vielen Dank an alle Freiwilligen bei Distributed Proofreaders, die an diesem Projekt gearbeitet haben!

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Der deutsche Dichter und Schriftsteller Wilhelm Hauff (1802-1827) starb kurz vor seinem 25. Geburtstag. Trotz seiner kurzen Schaffensperiode hinterließ er ein umfangreiches literarisches Werk. Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke füllen sechs Bände in der Ausgabe von 1911. Der sechste Band enthält seine Märchen, die auch heute noch gern gelesen werden.

Wilhelm Hauff wurde in Stuttgart geboren. Sein Vater starb, als Hauff erst sieben Jahre alt war. Seine Mutter zog mit den Kindern zu ihrem Vater nach Tübingen, wo Wilhelm Hauff eine ausgezeichnete Ausbildung genoss. Später studierte er Theologie an der Universität Tübingen, wohl eher dem Wunsch der Mutter als den eigenen Neigungen folgend.

Hauff’s erstes veröffentlichtes Buch, Der Märchen-Almanach auf das Jahr 1826 für Söhne und Töchter gebildeter Stände, ist im sechsten Band der gesammelten Werke enthalten. Es erschien 1826, als er als Hauslehrer für den württembergischen Kriegsminister angestellt war, und er schrieb die Geschichten wohl zur Unterhaltung der Kinder. Dieser Band und die beiden Folgebände für die Jahre 1827 und 1828 sind im vorliegenden sechsten Band der gesammelten Werke zusammengefasst.

Die in den drei Bänden enthaltenen Märchen sind jeweils durch eine Rahmenerzählung zusammengefasst. Der erste Band spielt im Orient und enthält bekannte Märchen wie “Die Geschichte von dem kleinen Muck” und “Kalif Storch”. Das bekannteste Märchen des zweiten Bandes ist wohl “Zwerg Nase”, außerdem enthält dieser Band eine Nacherzählung des Grimm’schen Märchens “Schneeweißchen und Rosenrot”.

Die Rahmenerzählung des dritten Bandes, “Das Wirtshaus im Spessart”, ist insbesondere durch die Verfilmung von 1958 mit Lieselotte Pulver bekannt. Auch das darin eingebettete Märchen “Das kalte Herz” wurde oft verfilmt, das erste Mal bereits 1924 und das vorerst letzte Mal 2016.

Die Märchen sind der Teil von Wilhelm Hauff’s Werk, der bis heute immer wieder Neuausgaben in Buchform erhält und auch verfilmt wird.

Hauff’s Märchen waren auch englisch sprechenden Kindern im Zeitalter Victorias und Edward des VII. bekannt. Distributed Proofreaders hat The Little Glass Man and Other Stories (1894) und The Oriental Story Book (1855) für Project Gutenberg produziert. Außerdem ist eine wunderschöne illustrierte Edition von 1900 derzeit in Arbeit.

Bei Project Gutenberg sind zahlreiche andere Werke von Wilhelm Hauff zu finden, auf Deutch, Englisch und sogar Esperanto. Auf Librivox sind unter anderem alle drei Bände des Märchen-Almanachs als Hörbücher verfügbar. Distributed Proofreaders ist stolz darauf, seinen 39.000sten Titel mit dem letzten Band der sechsbändigen Ausgabe von Hauff’s gesammelten Werken zu feiern.

Dieser Blog-Beitrag auf Deutsch wurde von Constanze Hofmann, einer Freiwilligen für Distributed Proofreaders, verfasst.


Celebrating 38,000 Titles

November 8, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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