The April Baby’s Book of Tunes

May 1, 2019

This post is published in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Children’s Book Week, April 29 to May 5, 2019.

Greenaway illustration

Distributed Proofreaders volunteers have always loved preserving children’s books, from the famous to the obscure. Hot off the Press has highlighted quite a few of our outstanding e-book versions of works for young people, such as L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, popular juvenile series starring the likes of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, dime-novel series like Motor Matt, and books illustrated by beloved artists like Walter Crane. But these are just a tiny fraction of the total: Distributed Proofreaders has contributed over 3,700 children’s books to Project Gutenberg.

One very recent example is The April Baby’s Book of Tunes, published in 1900. It tells the story of three little girls in Germany who are stuck indoors during an unexpected April snowstorm just before Easter. Their mother entertains them by setting a variety of well-known English nursery rhymes to music.

Though credited only as “the author of Elizabeth and her German Garden,” the author was Elizabeth von Arnim, then known as the Countess von Arnim-Schlagenthin. Born Mary Annette Beauchamp in Australia but raised in England, she married a Prussian count in 1891. They had five children (three of whom were the models for the little girls in The April Baby’s Book of Tunes), but the marriage was not a happy one. The count’s propensity for racking up debts eventually led to his being imprisoned for fraud. This in turn led to her writing her successful semi-autobiographical novel, Elizabeth and Her German Garden (1898), under the pseudonym “Elizabeth.” She wrote some 20 books, mainly novels; two of them, The Enchanted April (1922) and Mr. Skeffington (1940), were made into popular films. After the count’s death in 1910, a turbulent affair with H.G. Wells, and another unhappy marriage, this time to the 2nd Earl Russell (whom she satirized in her 1921 novel Vera), she led a peripatetic life that took her all over Europe and the United States. She died in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1941.

Perhaps the most delightful part of The April Baby’s Book of Tunes are its 16 charming color illustrations by the great children’s book artist Kate Greenaway. It was one of Greenaway’s last published works; she tragically died in 1901 of breast cancer at the age of 55. She was justly famous for her use of vibrant color in depicting beautiful children in beautiful surroundings, and The April Baby’s Book of Tunes is no exception.

As if that weren’t enough, the book features 10 little songs, prettily arranged for voice and piano (presumably by von Arnim herself; the composer is not credited). In the HTML version at Project Gutenberg, you can click on links to hear the music and download the notation if you wish.

The April Baby’s Book of Tunes is “Elizabeth’s” only children’s book, but it’s a lovely example of the genre. It could not fail to be, with Kate Greenaway’s entrancing illustrations.

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


Celebrating 37,000 Titles

April 16, 2019

Distributed Proofreaders celebrates the 37,000th title it has posted to Project Gutenberg, French Painting of the 19th Century in the National Gallery of Art. Congratulations and thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who worked on it.

french_painting_cover_blogAmong the joys for those who love both art and books are museum publications featuring their collections or exhibitions. Distributed Proofreaders’ 37,000th title, French Painting of the 19th Century in the National Gallery of Art is an excellent example of the delights available in this form. It’s a short booklet, just 43 pages, but it’s filled with lovely color plates of 16 selections from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art was the brainchild of Pittsburgh banker and industrialist Andrew Mellon.  He had begun collecting art in the 1890s on the advice of his friend Henry Clay Frick, whose own vast collection later became a very fine New York City museum. In 1936, Mellon — who was then embroiled in tax difficulties — approached the Roosevelt Administration with an offer to build a national art gallery, to be formed from his personal art collection and maintained by the U.S. Government with the help of a substantial financial endowment. Mellon never saw the gallery completed, however; he died in 1937, and the gallery opened in 1941.

The French Paintings booklet approaches the art chronologically, from the neoclassical work of Jacques-Louis David — famous for his portraits of Napoleon, one of which is included in the booklet — to modernists like Auguste Renoir, whose Girl with a Watering Can graces the cover. Each color plate is accompanied by a short description of the painting and its place in art history, as well as the donor’s identity (the majority were donated by New York banker Chester Dale).

Museum publications like this one were designed to make art — or history or science — more accessible to museum visitors. Distributed Proofreaders and Project Gutenberg make publications like this accessible worldwide to anyone with access to a computer, tablet, or smartphone, including people who may never see a museum in person.

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


Our 18th Anniversary

October 1, 2018

18th anniversaryEighteen years ago, on October 1, 2000, Distributed Proofreaders volunteers began “preserving history one page at a time” by preparing public-domain e-books for Project Gutenberg. Since then, DP has contributed over 36,000 unique titles. Here’s a look back at some of DP’s accomplishments since our last retrospective.

Milestones

33,000 titles. In November 2016, Distributed Proofreaders posted its 33,000th unique title to Project Gutenberg, A Flower Wedding, by the great children’s book illustrator Walter Crane. You can read all about it in this celebratory post.

34,000 titles. Our 34,000th title was, appropriately, A Manual of the Art of Bookbinding, and was posted in July 2017. The DP blog post on this milestone is here.

35,000 titles. DP contributed its 35,000th title, Shores of the Polar Sea, in January 2018. This beautifully illustrated account of a 19th-Century expedition to the North Pole is celebrated in this blog post.

36,000 titles. Just last month, DP celebrated 36,000 titles with the May 1882 issue of The American Missionary. You can find out more about this historic periodical — of which DP has posted over 125 issues, with more to come — here.

Significant Projects

Over the past two years, Distributed Proofreaders has also contributed to Project Gutenberg a number of projects of particular historic and literary significance. These include:

Motor Matt. DP posted the last of 32 issues of this popular dime novel series in November 2016. Read all about it in this blog post.

The History and Romance of Crime. In February 2017, we posted the 12th and final volume, Oriental Prisons, in this series of sensational accounts of crime and punishment around the world by a 19th-Century British prison administrator.

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. This is an important series of reports, in French, Latin, and Italian, with English translations, from Jesuit missionaries in the territory that became Canada. We celebrated the posting of eight volumes of these reports in a blog post in both English and French commemorating the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation on July 1, 2017.

The Gallery of Portraits: with Memoirs. In November 2017, DP posted the seventh and final volume of this important set of books, which was produced under the superintendence of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, a 19th-Century organization devoted to providing resources for self-education.

Songs of the West. We posted this important 19th-Century collection of folk songs from Cornwall and Devon — with audio files so you can hear the music — in February 2018. Read all about it here.

Development

Site development has flourished at Distributed Proofreaders over the past two years, thanks to the unflagging efforts of our “squirrels” (DP’s nickname for its administrators), our developers, and the many volunteers who helped us design and test these changes. Some major undertakings:

  • We updated our operating system to Ubuntu 16.04 and migrated to a new server and hosting facility.
  • The OS update made possible some important upgrades to our forum and wiki software.
  • We also made important updates to our site coding and some of our page designs to enhance consistency, usability, accessibility, security, and future support.
  • We updated our official documentation and placed it in our wiki to improve our members’ access to it.
  • The entire DP site is now available in French.
  • We updated our code of conduct and privacy policy.

In Memoriam

Distributed Proofreaders is a close-knit community, and we all mourned when we lost three well-loved members during the past two years.

Pucon, a retired geologist, was a prolific proofreader who completed over 27,000 pages in his three and a half years at DP.

Long Green, whose friends knew her as Mama Beth, was an active proofreader and formatter who also post-processed a number of projects, some of them quite challenging. Her final project is celebrated in this memorial.

Miller, known to her friends as Emmy, performed numerous roles at DP. As a project manager, she contributed 321 books, which she also post-processed, and she post-processed over 700 books contributed by others. Her legacy is celebrated here.

Collaborative Projects

Distributed Proofreaders is collaborating with Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institute in Project PHaEDRA. This project involves transcribing original notebooks created during the 19th and early 20th Centuries by researchers at the Harvard College Observatory, including early female astronomers and the famous Harvard Computers. Our General Manager, Linda Hamilton, recently participated in a video interview about our participation in Project PHaEDRA.


Many thanks to all the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers, past and present, who made this 18th anniversary possible!

This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a DP volunteer.


Celebrating 36,000 Titles

September 7, 2018

36k_Banner.jpg

Distributed Proofreaders celebrates the 36,000th title it has posted to Project Gutenberg, The American Missionary, May 1882. Congratulations and thanks to all the DP volunteers who worked on it.

americanmissionary_cover

The American Missionary was published by the American Missionary Association (A.M.A.) from 1846 to 1908, and continued publication under the guidance of other Congregational missionary societies until 1934. The American Missionary Association itself continued under that name until 1999, when it was incorporated into another department in the Congregational Church. The periodical was published monthly for much of its lifetime, but occasionally less frequently. Throughout the era of Reconstruction, it served as the marketing arm of the A.M.A., educating the readers of its 20,000 monthly copies about the work of the A.M.A., and openly soliciting support for the continuance of that work. The aim and work of the A.M.A., stated in each issue of the magazine, was

To preach the Gospel to the poor. It originated in a sympathy with the almost friendless slaves. Since Emancipation it has devoted its main efforts to preparing the FREEDMEN for their duties as citizens and Christians in America, and as missionaries in Africa. As closely related to this, it seeks to benefit the caste-persecuted CHINESE in America, and to co-operate with the Government in its humane and Christian policy toward the INDIANS. It has also a mission in AFRICA.

Although written primarily from a single point of view — that of white, northern Congregational Christians — The American Missionary provides an interesting real-time view of how social opinion and public policy developed through the era of Reconstruction and beyond. During the 1870’s and 1880’s, it chronicled history seldom taught in schools — the impact of yellow fever on commerce and education in the South, the fear of Northern states that Southern illiteracy was a danger to U.S. democratic institutions, and national concern that California’s response to Chinese immigration would cause another secession from the Union, to name just a few. The periodical chronicled society’s gradually increasing awareness of the essential humanity of all races, decrying the missteps along the way, and sometimes inadvertently revealing the prejudices of the A.M.A. itself. These developments were reported and commented upon as they occurred, without hindsight to distort their contemporaneous meaning and impact.

The May 1882 American Missionary issue is Distributed Proofreaders’ 36,000th unique title prepared for Project Gutenberg. It is a typical issue for the 1880’s. It contains an announcement of President Chester A. Arthur’s veto of Congress’s first attempt to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act and a daily journal of a trip up the Nile by steamer and across the desert by camel, through Thebes and Cairo. It also contains a description of the Chinese New Year as celebrated by the Chinese-American community, and a biology lesson by a teacher in Atlanta. As do all American Missionary issues, it contains a list of donations, by city, church, and name, for a single month, useful for historical and genealogical research.

DP provided the first American Missionary project to Project Gutenberg in April 2004. It was the issue for January 1888. Since that time, we have finished over 125 issues. Over 120 others have finished the rounds, and are awaiting completion—most due to missing pages and covers still to be collected by volunteers. The projects still in process cover the period of June 1882 to the fourth quarter of 1901.

Although most of the American Missionary issues are partially available from online sites other than Project Gutenberg, such as the Hathi Trust, the scans at those sites are generally missing the front and back covers, which were either not included in the bound collections of issues, or which were bound separately from the issues at the backs of the volumes. These cover pages often list the officers and meeting notices of the A.M.A., as well as some of the advertisements.

Many online copies, other than those at Project Gutenberg, are also missing all of the advertisement pages. The advertisements cover church organs and corsets, guns and fencing, architectural services and theological books, stove polish and life insurance—a cross-section of the goods and services available for purchase in the latter part of the 19th Century. Many advertisements include pricing and street addresses useful for historical research. These missing pages are included in most of the American Missionary issues prepared for Project Gutenberg by Distributed Proofreaders. Dedicated volunteers search out original copies from university libraries and other sources, obtaining high-resolution copies of the missing pages and matching them to the appropriate magazine issues. Some of the engravings in the advertisements are particularly fine, although time has taken a toll on their clarity. The rotary printing press, Singer factory and Remington guns in the May 1878 issue are excellent examples.

This post was contributed by ArleneJoyce, a DP volunteer who is the Project Manager and Post-Processor for many of the American Missionary projects.


April Fools

April 1, 2018

april0001_cropped

Looking for a way to celebrate April Fool’s Day? Project Gutenberg has a few amusing works on pranks and hoaxes, thanks to the volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders.

Bram Stoker, best known for Dracula, penned an entertaining volume on Famous Impostors. Here we find pretenders to various thrones, dabblers in magic and alchemy, witches and wizards, false claimants to great fortunes, and a number of celebrated hoaxes of bygone times.

One such hoax was the brainchild of professional practical joker Theodore Hook, who bragged of his exploits in The Choice Humorous Works, Ludicrous Adventures, Bons Mots, Puns, and Hoaxes of Theodore Hook. His most famous prank was the Berners Street Hoax. On a bet that he could make any house the most talked about in London, he ordered numerous goods and services to be delivered to an address in Berners Street, all in one day. Hook’s shenanigans are also cited in an essay by Irish writer Robert Lynd on “The Humour of Hoaxes” in The Book of This and That.

The American West in the 19th Century presented opportunities for get-rich-quick schemes that were often founded on swindles. Pioneer and adventurer Asbury Harpending tries to clear his “family name and reputation” in his account of The Great Diamond Hoax, a purported diamond field in California that had in fact been “salted” with cheap gems.

For those who like their pranks dramatized, there’s the one-act farce April Fools, part of an 1889 collection of plays “for Church, School and Parlor Exhibitions.” The plot is a bit reminiscent of Hook’s Berners Street Hoax:

Mr. Peter Dunnbrowne, a gentleman with several unmarried daughters on his hands, receives a note from Mr. John Smith proposing for his daughter Fanny. Presently Mr. James Smith calls, he having received a letter announcing that Mr. D’s mare Fanny is for sale, and an amusing dialogue at cross purposes ensues. This disposed of, Mr. Joseph Smith, an undertaker, calls, he having been notified that Miss Fanny had suddenly died, and another puzzle follows.

We won’t give away the “surprise” ending…

Of course, children love April Fool’s Day pranks, and there are several children’s books at PG with stories about them, including Fun and Frolic, The Last Penny, and A Flock of Girls and Boys.

It just goes to show that Project Gutenberg has something for every occasion — with over 56,000,000* e-books in its library, that’s no surprise.

*56,000. April Fool!


Celebrating 35,000 Titles

January 26, 2018

Distributed Proofreaders celebrates the 35,000th title it has posted to Project Gutenberg, Shores of the Polar Sea. Congratulations and thanks to all the DP volunteers who worked on it.

Prolonged periods of well-below-normal temperatures and wind chill have made life uncomfortable and even dangerous for people in areas of the northern hemisphere recently. This blast of frigid Arctic air gives scope to imagine what life was like for the British explorers venturing northwards toward the Pole in Shores of the Polar Sea, a Narrative of the Arctic Expedition of 1875-1876.

This detailed account of the expedition led by Sir George Strong Nares was written by British Royal Navy Surgeon Edward Lawton Moss (1843-1880), who served both as surgeon and artist on HMS Alert, one of the ships taking part. The many engravings and lovely chromolithographs in the book come from drawings and watercolor sketches made by Moss himself during the journey.

The expedition sailed from England with three ships, two of which would venture on northwards, HMS Alert and HMS Discovery. The third, HMS Valorous, was a support vessel carrying additional supplies to be transferred to the other two ships at a rendezvous point along the coast of Greenland. The goal of the expedition was to “attain the highest northern latitude, and, if possible, reach the Pole.” A sketch map in the book details the paths taken by the expedition ships on their way northwards and later back home, as well as the tracks made by sledges across land covered by snow and ice.

As the book starts, the narrator sets the scene for the coming adventure:

… the Arctic Circle has obvious boundaries. A conspicuous change in the ordinary habits of nature warns the traveller that he is leaving the hospitable realms of earth behind him, and entering a region full of new experiences. Here familiar light and darkness cease to alternate, morning and evening no longer make the day, and in proportion as the latitude increases, day and night become mere figures of speech.

The Alert, towing the Discovery in an effort to save fuel, leaves contact with home behind after a stop in Upernivik, then the northernmost settlement in the world.

The explorers remark upon the beauty of the sunlight on ice, comparing it to “fields of mother-of-pearl.” It is not long though before the ice pack halts the progress of the ships for days, with the men waiting for an opening that will allow them to push on. The ice floes continue to be a hazard to progress, tearing against the sides of the ships and crushing the ships in between them. The explorers eventually have to blast the ice with gunpowder to free themselves after their ice-saws are no longer sufficient to get through the thicker ice.

While the Discovery, according to plan, settles down to spend the winter in a harbour near Lady Franklin Sound, the Alert continues onwards, the men still optimistic about their goal. They struggle their way through the ice up the Robeson Channel and find shelter on a beach, but a sense of confusion falls over them. The continuing coastline northwards that they expect to see based on their maps is not there; instead, they find themselves looking at the open polar sea.

sledges_cropped

Various sledges pulled by dogs and their crews trek outwards from the ship to the north and west, hoping to find some evidence that the coastline eventually continues towards the Pole. The men on the sledges encounter waist-deep soft snow and harsh temperatures as low as 47 degrees below freezing. With water-bottles freezing shut, the men have only “icy cold raw rum” to drink! The sledge parties return to the ship weeks later without conclusive results and the Alert hunkers down for the impending winter, where the explorers will go 142 days without seeing the sun and experience temperatures of 73.7 degrees below freezing and lower.

The narrator notes that it is not the extreme cold that is the worst part of enduring the long winter, that “An icy tub on an English winter morning feels colder to the skin than the calm Arctic air.” The constant darkness is more unsettling, and worst of all is the confinement in a relatively small space with others, requiring discipline and dedication to a routine. The men keep up with astronomical, meteorological and other scientific measurements and notes during the winter. Outside the ship there is only silence, occasionally interrupted “by sudden unearthly yells and shrieks from the still moving pack, harsh and loud as a steam siren, but unlike anything else in art or nature.”

As travel becomes possible again in the spring, men from the Alert crew the sledges once more and set off, one track going along the shore to the northwest, the other heading out northwards over ice floes. The bright sun burns the men’s faces and damages their eyesight, but also creates this stunning visual:

Every crystal of snow reflected a miniature sun, and the path of the rays seemed literally sown with gems, topaz and sapphire generally, but here and there a ruby. Similar colours, but with a curious metallic lustre like oil on water, tinted the fleecy clouds overhead….

The sledges taking the northern route come within four hundred miles of the Pole, reaching a record northern latitude of 83° 20´ 26´´, but they and the sledges on the other track eventually have to turn back as the men become afflicted with scurvy, suffering from “exhaustion, swollen and sprained ankles, stiff knees, and bruised and painful legs,” and cannot continue. Not all will survive to get back on the ships as they turn back towards home, fighting through the ice and racing against time to avoid another Arctic winter.

Today, a small community still exists not far from where HMS Alert wintered during this expedition. Named after the ship, Alert is the northernmost permanently inhabited place in what is now Nunavut, Canada, and is home to various Canadian weather and military facilities as well as an airport.

This post was contributed by ellinora, a DP volunteer.


King Winter

December 31, 2017

The winter solstice has long been a time of celebration, going back as far as Neolithic times. Many cultures around the world have indulged, and still indulge, in some kind of winter festival to mark the turn of the year. The waning daylight hours begin to wax again, and, although the next couple of months will still be mighty cold, the increasing sunshine brings the hope of spring and rebirth.

King Winter coverMeanwhile, humans being human, and therefore always looking to make the best of things, a host of celebratory traditions arose to take the sting out of a bleak midwinter. Many revolve around prayer and worship, eating and drinking, making music and dancing, and, most importantly, keeping warm. But many also revolve around the sharing of legends and fables and stories. With the rise of Western children’s literature, which came into full flower in the 19th Century, many of those winter legends and fables and stories were adapted or created especially for children.

Project Gutenberg has an extensive Christmas bookshelf, but there are also storybooks devoted to winter and the New Year. One of the loveliest in the collection is King Winter, a man-shaped little book in English verse but published in Hamburg, Germany, around 1859.

On a cold, gray day, by the fireside, Mamma tells her children of King Winter, and “Jack Frost, his man,” and Queen Winter, who all live in a snow palace in the “Frozen Zone.” King Winter makes an annual world tour, and to make things comfortable for him, the Queen puts down “a carpet of downy snow.” Meanwhile, Jack Frost decorates the landscape with mirror-like frozen lakes and icicle-laden trees. Delighted children frolic in the snow, which prompts King Winter to ask Jack Frost for a report on who has been good and who hasn’t — the familiar “naughty or nice” list. The good children get toys and Christmas trees (the only mention of Christmas in the book); the bad get birch rods — tied with a pretty red ribbon, though one doubts that would be any comfort to them. King Winter stays until the snowdrops pop up out of the ground, heralding spring.

The pretty color illustrations in King Winter were created with an early color-printing process called chromolithography, which replaced the labor-intensive and expensive hand-coloring process. Chromolithography allowed for fast, cheap mass production of color illustrations with rich, vibrant tones. And, through the magic of HTML, the volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders were able to produce the e-book version with a searchable text surrounded by the illustrations, exactly where the text appears in the original book.

King Winter back coverAnother PG e-book celebrating winter is The Pearl Story Book: Stories and Legends of Winter, Christmas, and New Year’s, an eclectic collection compiled by Ada M. and Eleanor L. Skinner in 1910.  A wide range of noted authors are represented — Longfellow, Hawthorne, Dickens, Tennyson, Tolstoy, to name just a few — and there are even American Indian, Russian, Japanese, and Norwegian legends.

King Winter makes several appearances in prose and poetry, along with King Frost, the Ice King, and of course good King Wenceslas. The book is divided into sections focused on winter legends, winter woods, Christmas, the New Year, and the passage of winter into spring. Some selections are abridged, but they are all delightful, like this excerpt from Tennyson’s “In Memoriam”:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Hot off the Press wishes all its readers a happy and healthy New Year.


%d bloggers like this: