Creating E-Book Covers

April 1, 2022

Distributed Proofreaders volunteers work hard to make the e-books they contribute to Project Gutenberg as user-friendly as possible. Among the things we do to that end is creating e-book cover images to make it easy for readers to find e-books of interest to them.

The role and requirements

Book covers in the digital age have taken a different role. Where in the past covers and dust jackets served to protect and later also advertise the book, they now mainly serve to advertise the book and make it easy to quickly locate it on a computer or e-reader screen. With that changed role, the requirements for book covers have also changed.

In short, the role of a book cover in the digital age is to

  • Invite a potential reader to give it some attention.
  • Provide an easy-to-locate icon in e-book readers or computer screens, so it can be found quickly.
  • Provide a reasonably sized, readable short title and the author’s name, so people can ascertain they have selected the book they want.
  • Give some impression of the type of content to expect.

All the while considering that a digital cover is now often just the size of a postage stamp.

A short history

Historically, decorated book covers are a relatively new invention. Books started to be sold in neatly designed covers only by the end of the 19th Century, and in some countries even later. Book buyers were expected to provide their own cover and binding, as desired and fitting for their personal library. So the publisher just sold the book as a bound stack of pages with a nondescript paper cover. That is why old libraries often look very uniform, with all those similarly and often richly bound and decorated volumes. (Our 34,000th title contributed to Project Gutenberg was a manual of artistic bookbinding published in 1878.)

Since books are stored in bookcases or cabinets with only their spine visible, the publisher needed only to put identifying information, such as the title, on the spine. The cover could remain boringly neutral, or, as with some ancient bibles, heavily decorated, but there was no need to put a title on them.

Fortunately, many of the originals we work from at Project Gutenberg are late 19th- and early 20th-Century titles, which often do have nice book covers. However, even when the book we are digitizing does have a cover, it is the part of a book (after the spine) that is most likely to suffer from wear and tear, stained with ink and coffee, mutilated by repeated unprofessional repairs, and defaced by libraries who like to put stickers with shelf locations and bar-codes on them. They are also most exposed to sunlight and so end up discolored.

Even then, such covers were designed to be attractive when placed in the book shop’s window, on a table, or when pulled from a shelf by a prospective buyer, so the requirements for large-size titles and author names are quite different from those you’ll need on a postage-stamp-sized digital image.

Challenges

When dealing with book covers, we at Distributed Proofreaders face a number of challenges. It is our intention to reproduce the original book in its full glory, “the book, the whole book, and nothing but the book.” Of course, with the transition to a digital format, we will lose some of the artifacts of the paper medium, such as page headers and page numbers, although we often retain the latter as small notes in the margin. Similarly, book covers will have to be reinvented for our books reincarnated in their digital form.

When preparing a book for Project Gutenberg, we will address these challenges in different ways.

Locating a good quality cover

First of all, we prefer to use an image of the original cover, so if we have one, we can use that as a starting point. In that case, it often requires some digital restoration. But before we invest in the labor-intensive process of restoration, we’ll seek out alternatives. If we don’t have a good quality cover, but have some idea of what it looks like, our first step is an internet search. Surprisingly often, better-quality scans of the same cover can be found, and sometimes those can be used. We need to be sure to pick only scans of a truly matching cover (i.e., same edition and printing), both to avoid a copyright violation, and to maintain the integrity of the e-book edition we’re making. Covers tend to appear in far more variations than the book itself, even within a single print-run.

Digitally restoring a damaged cover

If our search fails to unearth a good-enough cover, we will fire up our photo-editing software to restore what we do have. My personal guidelines in digital restoration is not to try to reconstruct an as-new cover (it would be nice if such a cover is still available), but only to remove mutilations like bar-codes and disfiguring damage, such as scratches and stains. Smaller aspects of wear and tear I will leave as is: it is not a shame to be old and look it. What I will also try to do is brighten up the colors, and restore color balance. Of course this involves a lot of guesswork, but again, if we can find alternative images on-line, even if tiny photographs, they can give us an indication of the original colors if our copy is particularly discolored.

Removing disfiguring stains from the cover of Van de Noordpool naar den Aequator
Improving the cover colors for Belgian Fairy Tales
Removing the bar code from the cover of The Mason Wasps

Adding titles and authors to original covers

As explained above, the original cover will often not mention the title or author at all. In such cases, to make it easier to recognize a book, we can decide to digitally add the title to the front, — that is, if the original design leaves space for it, which it often does. When adding the title and author, it makes sense to use a typeface matching that of the spine (if known), or the title page. Sometimes we can also use the title from the title page directly, manipulating the color and appearance to blend in with the original cover design.

Adding the title and author to the cover of Myths of the Cherokee

Designing our own cover

Then we come to the point where we have no cover to start with at all. The book at hand is in a generic, unmarked cover, or we have none at all, for example when we work from a set of scans produced elsewhere. In that case, we will design a new cover. From here onward I will concentrate mostly on the way I do this, as other volunteers may have different procedures. It may be tempting to go all overboard and design something really fancy, but here I normally try to restrict myself and keep it functional.

One starting point I often use is the scanned cloth pattern of a book’s back to serve as a generic background. I derived a range of color variants from it. I will pick one color, depending on my mood and gut feeling of what would be appropriate for the book, and will add the original title, author, and year of original publication in a centered design. If the book itself includes a suitable illustration, often the frontispiece, I will use that. If not, I will slightly emboss a generic “PGDP” design on it, but won’t use artwork not present in the source, because of the copyright implications that might have. Balancing out the letters takes some puzzling with font-sizes, splitting lines, and letter-spacing, but normally, I am able to produce a reasonable new cover in some 15 to 30 minutes. Not perfect, probably not to everybody’s taste, but better than auto-generated.

DP-created covers for Narrative of a Five Years’ Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, Serbian Fairy Tales, and De Hogerveldt’s Oorspronkelijk Tooneelspel in 3 Bedrijven

I normally use serif typefaces, capital letters, and symmetrical design, because that was the standard in the era most of our books where produced. Asymmetric designs only started to come into vogue after the 1920’s, and thus are inconsistent with most books’ age. I still don’t feel the need to fully emulate an old style cover: I typically use somewhat brighter and larger letters, and prominently place the year of the original copy at the bottom of my design. This should immediately signal to the reader they are dealing with an old book in a new digital cover.

Some things that work less well

An alternative I regularly see is to use the title page as a replacement for a cover. I am not a big fan of that, because title pages are far more similar to each other and often black-and-white, so they lack distinctiveness. Besides that, they often include more detailed information, like the publisher’s name, author credentials, and such, given in a much smaller type. Imagine what it does with your ability to spot the book you’re looking for on a screen filled with postage stamp sized title pages in an e-reader.

Not all books in Project Gutenberg have book covers, so as a gap-stop measure, PG has a system to generate generic covers automatically. The results are not always satisfactory, because the software we use isn’t smart enough to understand what part of the title is most significant and to tweak letter sizes and spacing accordingly to obtain a pleasing result.

Finally, a little searching on some large commercial e-book platforms will reveal a range of newly designed covers for public domain books (the texts for which are often harvested from Project Gutenberg’s offerings in bulk), which range from boring to utterly hilarious: using inappropriate photographs on designs that make serious literary classics, even non-fiction, look worse than cliché Harlequin romances. Such things should not happen at Project Gutenberg, except when we keep the original pulp magazine cover that happens to be equally cringe-worthy, such as this:

Cover of the Dutch pulp magazine Lord Lister No. 8

This post was contributed by Jeroen Hellingman, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.


In Memoriam Stephen Hutcheson

March 1, 2022

With heavy but grateful hearts, the volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders bid farewell to our Beloved Emeritus Stephen Hutcheson (1956-2021), who uploaded his final book to Project Gutenberg on September 27, 2021, one day before he passed away.

Stephen joined DP in July 2004 under the user name “hutcheson” and ultimately became one of our most prolific contributors. Although he proofread and formatted over 75,000 pages, his primary roles were as a Content Provider, Project Manager, and Post-Processor for numerous projects that he shepherded from the beginning steps (copyright clearances, image scanning) to final upload to PG. He also graciously processed items from the collections of other volunteers, with a “kid in the candy store” glee over the latest find. (Anything pertaining to his beloved home state of Tennessee would get top priority!) He completed over 1,000 projects and was also active with Distributed Proofreaders Canada, completing around 200 titles in the Canadian public domain. One of his projects, French Painting of the 19th Century in the National Gallery of Art, was selected as Distributed Proofreaders’ 37,000th title posted to PG and was celebrated in this Hot off the Press blog post.

Stephen was the oldest and only boy of six children reared on a farm in Murfreesboro. His sister, Libby Smelser, recalls that his hay fever kept him indoors, reading voraciously, listening to classical music, playing solo chess. “He was very cerebral, very focused, with wide-ranging interests … his mind had so many tendrils. We sisters thought he was just terribly smart!” Stephen followed in his father’s footsteps, graduating from Middle Tennessee State University and becoming a computer programmer. He and wife Ruth were married for over twenty years, and had two children, Laura and David. Although separated, he and Ruth remained dear friends; she enjoyed accompanying him on his book scouting forays to secondhand shops.

Stephen spent years developing his own tools for post-processing DP projects, requiring a special set of proofreading and formatting methods. Volunteers who braved the learning curve of his “Hutcheson Wiki” guidelines were rewarded with a rich variety of topics that reflected his own eclectic interests: old buildings, “interesting places” (as he phrased it), anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, history of inventions and technology, arts and crafts, cookbooks, botany, U.S. history and geography/geology, mining/minerals, religious history and hymnology, classical music, ornithology and zoology, juvenile mystery/adventure series, and science fiction. He loved coming upon cross-references between books at Project Gutenberg, saying, “That’s the thing about a library: the bigger it gets, the more the books start talking to each other.”

Stephen processed many field guides for U.S. National and State Parks, monuments, nature parks, museums, and locations with historical importance, with a view to having an eBook guide available to any traveler with a smartphone. These were his favorite projects to work on, and he had a penchant for maps and atlases. He inherited a love of birding from his family, and contributed many books about flora and fauna.

Stephen participated in DP’s “Project Not Quite Nancy Drew,” featuring various juvenile series in which young people ran around “unsupervised and unchecked,” solving mysteries and having adventures. His contributions helped expand and even complete PG’s collection of series such as the Camp Fire Girls, Jean Craig, Judy Bolton, Motor Girls, Dorothy Dale, Go Ahead Boys, The Airship Boys, and many more. His sardonic sense of humor was evident in his project comments: “What to expect: Ghosts. Cemeteries. Midnight vigils. Ominous telegrams. Disguises. Trafficking in illegitimate rubber products. City kids lost in the woods on a snowy night. Most frightening of all, efficiency experts in the newsroom. Amnesiacs. And … I forget. But I’m sure our blundering but persistent detective figured it all out, and her father published everything in a special edition of the Star.”

Soon after being diagnosed with leukemia, he was hospitalized in December 2020 until his passing in September 2021, but he continued diligently working on DP projects from his hospital room. He often remarked that DP was what kept him sane, and he worked every day except when the chemotherapy affected his vision. Even when he was in the ICU on a breathing machine, he made the effort to connect to DP. He was determined to reach a personal milestone of 1,000 projects uploaded to PG, which he achieved with about 80 to spare in his final weeks. Ruth recalled,

“Stephen loved his work and his friendships at Distributed Proofreaders. This spilled over into his contacts with the hospital staff as they learned about DP. His ability to continue with DP kept him going throughout his long hospitalization…. I was so thankful he could continue his passion project until almost the last day. It brought him joy, fed his thirst for knowledge, and gave him goals to work toward even on the most difficult days. The hospital staff encouraged him, inquired daily about his projects, kept track of his book count on his patient whiteboard, and celebrated each book completed. After he reached 200 books [posted to PG] while in hospital, staff gave him a celebration party.”

The DP community can certainly relate to Ruth’s phrase “passion project.” Stephen’s passion and dedication is an inspiration. DP offered Stephen the perfect venue for his love of books, his insatiable curiosity, and desire to stay productive until his very last day of life. In turn, he has left an enduring legacy of preserving lovely books across many genres for all the world to have at their fingertips – a treasure indeed. Rest in peace, Stephen. You were one of a kind.

This post was contributed by Lisa Corcoran (Leebot), a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer. Many thanks to Ruth Hutcheson and Libby Hutcheson Smelser for their valuable insight. Photos of Stephen courtesy of Ruth Hutcheson.


Buffalo Bill

May 1, 2021

Thanks to movie director Quentin Tarantino, most folks are familiar with the term “pulp fiction,” but the more common “dime novel” was used to describe everything from the pulp magazines starting around 1860 to the “penny dreadfuls” popular in the United Kingdom, featuring such characters as Sweeney Todd and Varney the Vampire. In the United States, fictional characters like Nick Carter were popular, but the stories about real-life American Wild West heroes like Buffalo Bill Cody really drove the genre.

Buffalo Bill was born in Iowa Territory, fought in the Civil War for the Union, was a U.S. Army scout during the Indian Wars, received the Congressional Medal of Honor and later became an entertainer, featured in his own Buffalo Bill Wild West show that toured the U.S. and Europe, giving command performances for Queen Victoria and the Pope. Even today, as a lasting tribute to his legacy, there’s an American football team named after him.

Mark Twain wrote a novel, A Horse’s Tale, about Buffalo Bill’s horse Soldier Boy, and E.E. Cummings penned a poem called “Buffalo Bill ‘s” (yes, there’s a space before the ‘s), but it was the countless dime novels written about Buffalo Bill that made a lasting impression, especially those by Colonel Prentiss Ingraham, almost as colorful a character as Buffalo Bill himself. Published in the early 20th Century by Street and Smith, renowned for their strategic re-use of material, the Buffalo Bill Border Stories have been making their appearance on Project Gutenberg thanks to the volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders. (See the list below for links to the e-books.)

Each novel features an adventure, or a series of related adventures, where our intrepid hero Bill manages to outwit the bad guys and save the helpless. In the books, Bill lives by a strict code, a set of rules of what is good and what is bad, of what must be done and what must never be done. As was common in those times, certain groups of people are portrayed as stereotypes, especially people of color and Native Americans, as well as people from other countries. For us today, such stereotypes are offensive, but they do serve to show how far we have come in terms of accepting the rich diversity of America.

In the novels, Bill is the ultimate hero, and he is usually accompanied by one of more “pards,” or sidekicks, who help him on his adventures. There is the Baron, a Prussian whose speech is difficult to decipher because it tries to mimic an exaggerated German accent. There’s also Nomad, an older Scout who nevertheless defers to the younger Bill for direction. And there’s Little Cayuse, the Paiute youngster who has yet to learn proper English. Bill, as the hero of course, always speaks in perfect English, never in any vernacular. Whether some, all or none of Bill’s adventures really happened will only be known to the Colonel, but the stories are “durned” fine to read.

In addition to the Buffalo Bill series, Project Manager David Edwards (De2164), also has other dime novel series and pulp magazines on their way to Project Gutenberg, including the many Nick Carter adventures as well as Frank Merriwell, the Frank Reade Library and the American Indian Weekly magazine. David has been sharing his own collection in order to preserve them before time takes its toll. Each project has to be scanned by hand and run through OCR software before it even makes it to Distributed Proofreaders, and recently David acquired thirty more titles that we can look forward to.

As the post-processor – a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer who stitches a final e-book together after other volunteers have proofread and formatted it – I love working on these projects. I did my first Buffalo Bill last year while still an apprentice post-processor, and to date, I’ve sent ten so far to Project Gutenberg. Each project presents its own challenges, especially when there are advertising pages, which the publishers made frequent use of, since their business depended on quantity rather than quality. I hope that, along with David and the countless unsung heroes who are our volunteers at DP, including the wonderful Smooth Readers who faithfully read each project to catch stray errors, we will continue to provide the dime novels, a unique slice of literature, for many years to come.

This post was contributed by Susan L. Carr (Skeeter451), a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.


Buffalo Bill Border Stories

Buffalo Bill, the Border King (No. 1)

Buffalo Bill’s Spy Trailer (No. 41)

Buffalo Bill’s Still Hunt (No. 44)

Buffalo Bill’s Weird Warning (No. 66)

Buffalo Bill’s Girl Pard (No. 77)

Buffalo Bill’s Ruse (No. 82)

Buffalo Bill’s Pursuit (No. 83)

Buffalo Bill’s Bold Play (No. 101)

Buffalo Bill, Peacemaker (No. 102)

Buffalo Bill’s Big Surprise (No. 103)

Buffalo Bill’s Boy Bugler (No. 128)

Buffalo Bill Entrapped (No. 137)

Buffalo Bill’s Best Bet (No. 171)

Buffalo Bill among the Sioux (No. 176)


A Walter Crane Bouquet

January 1, 2021

beautybeastcraneresizedWhen I was a child, I had one of those big treasury-type books of nursery rhymes and fairy tales called Young Years, published in 1960. I say “I” had it, but really I had to share it with my younger brother, whose main interest in it was embellishing the text with abstract crayon art. It didn’t need his help, because it was already lavishly illustrated in a variety of styles. I loved the pictures as much as I loved the stories.

There was one particular story, “Beauty and the Beast,” whose illustrations were hauntingly gorgeous. The florid colors of Beauty’s rich gowns, of the Beast’s splendid 17th-Century coat and breeches, of his elegant chateau and his rose-filled garden, never failed to send me into a state of wonder. I kept the book into adulthood – I have it still, though it’s falling apart – just for those illustrations.

It wasn’t until I joined Distributed Proofreaders that I understood what a treasure that book really was. A Project Manager had come across three very pretty children’s books – The Baby’s Opera, The Baby’s Bouquêt, and The Baby’s Own Aesop – containing music notation. (You can read the lovely story of how he found them at an elderly friend’s home in this post.) Knowing that I was a music transcriber who could create audio files from the notation, he asked me if I’d like to work on them.

As soon as I saw the first one, I was immediately struck by the style of the illustrations – could it be the same artist who had made those marvelous “Beauty and the Beast” illustrations in my fairy-tale book? I pulled out my book – yes, it was none other than Walter Crane. In fact, that old children’s treasury of mine had pictures by pretty much every major children’s illustrator of the 19th and early 20th Centuries, including Kate Greenaway and Arthur Rackham. No wonder I loved it.

But Walter Crane’s illustrations were, and are, special to me. And I learned that his art is special to many DP volunteers who love working on the books he wrote and/or illustrated. In fact, one of his beautiful volumes, A Flower Wedding, was DP’s 33,000th title a few years ago. DP volunteers have contributed over 40 Walter Crane books to Project Gutenberg. Most are children’s books, but there are also works designed for grownups with vividly colored illustrations, like Flowers from Shakespeare’s Garden, posted to Project Gutenberg just last week. Crane also wrote and illustrated his own poetry as well as nonfiction works on art and design, and he decorated the work of other authors. You can even color your own Walter Crane creation with Walter Crane’s Painting Book.

See below for links to more of the wonderful world of Walter Crane, thanks to the volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders and Project Gutenberg.

This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer. Hot off the Press wishes all its readers a very Happy New Year!

Walter Crane Books at Project Gutenberg

For Children

The Absurd ABC
An Alphabet of Old Friends
The Baby’s Bouquêt
The Baby’s Opera
The Baby’s Own Aesop
The Buckle My Shoe Picture Book
Carrots (by Mrs. Molesworth)
A Christmas Posy (by Mrs. Molesworth)
The Cuckoo Clock (by Mrs. Molesworth)
Don Quixote of the Mancha (by Judge Parry)
A Flower Wedding
The Frog Prince and Other Stories
Goody Two Shoes
Grandmother Dear (by Mrs. Molesworth)
King Arthur’s Knights (by Henry Gilbert)
Little Miss Peggy (by Mrs. Molesworth)
Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes (with other illustrators)
Mother Hubbard, Her Picture Book
The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde (by Mary de Morgan)
Princess Belle-Etoile
The Rectory Children (by Mrs. Molesworth)
The Sleeping Beauty Picture Book
The Song of Sixpence Picture Book
The Tapestry Room (by Mrs. Molesworth)
“Us,” an Old-Fashioned Story (by Mrs. Molesworth)
The Vision of Dante (by Elizabeth Harrison)
Walter Crane’s Painting Book
A Winter Nosegay
A Wonder Book for Girls & Boys (by Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Poetry

A Floral Fantasy in an Old English Garden
Renascence: A Book of Verse
Queen Summer

Nonfiction

The Bases of Design
Ideals in Art
India Impressions
Line and Form
Of the Decorative Illustration of Books Old and New
William Morris to Whistler

Other

Eight Illustrations to Shakespeare’s Tempest
Flowers from Shakespeare’s Garden
A Masque of Days (from essays by Charles Lamb)
The New Forest, Its History and Its Scenery (by John R. Wise)
The Shepheard’s Calender (by Edmund Spenser)


Harrods for Everything

August 1, 2020

Harrods for Everything is the apt title of a huge 1,525-page catalogue from about 1912, produced by the famous London department store which is still in existence today.

harrods_outsidecover_cropped

Some idea of the vast quantity of items that Harrods stocked or had available to order can be taken from the general index, which runs for 68 pages, five columns to a page. The catalogue illustrates over 15,000 products. While many customers would visit the store, or have their provisions delivered by Harrods’s own fleet of vans that covered London and the outlying suburbs, they also had perfected shopping by telephone – something we think of now as a modern invention. As they put it in their advert (on p. 1524 of the catalogue):

– RING UP –
“WESTERN ONE”
FOR ANYTHING
AT ANY TIME
DAY OR NIGHT

80 MAIN LINES

While you could buy all the sorts of things you would expect in a modern large department store, because of the time period you will find some things that are uncommon in most households now, like churns for making butter.

The Victorians and Edwardians had a penchant for cures for this, that, and the other, with various powders or preparations sold for all manner of ailments, and you could buy things like chloroform or throat pastilles in dozens of varieties, even those containing cocaine!

While most domestic appliances still required manual application, the use of electricity was starting to become more widespread. From a company called Ferranti you could buy electric stoves, fires, and irons. But the high cost of electricity (4d a unit, equivalent to £2/US$2.50 in today’s money), meant the larger houses, hotels, offices, and public buildings often had their own generators. Harrods could supply and fit these, of course.

Looking through the provisions department lists, you will notice examples from brands such as Cadbury’s and Crosse & Blackwell’s (British) or Lindt (Swiss), and you could buy American chewing gum or Californian peaches. But some items stand out from a bygone age like turtle soup, and I was surprised to find okra and pineapples on offer.

To keep to their motto “Harrods for Everything,” you could also hire bands or musicians, plus tents or marquees for outdoor gatherings. You could rent steam, electric, or petrol launches to go down a river, or, if you set your sights further afield, there were “exploring, scientific and shooting expeditions … completely equipped and provisioned for any part of the world.”

Putting Harrods for Everything through Distributed Proofreaders was a mammoth and long-running task, which started sometime in early 2007 with me scanning the original to produce a text that other DP volunteers could work on. While the books we work on sometimes have a few pages of advertisements, this project was ALL advertisements. Pages were split into three to five parts to make proofreading and checking easier. Three rounds of proofreading started in September 2007, and the project did not finish the first formatting round (F1) until March 2010. Fortunately, those volunteers who normally do second-round formatting (F2) were spared Harrods for Everything, as it really needed one person working on it (myself) to achieve a consistent format.

As the assigned post-processor, I worked behind the scenes from 2010 to 2014 preparing the 15,000+ illustrations, but there were long gaps when other commitments prevented me from working on it. I began officially post-processing the text in 2014, but again with many gaps in working on it. It went out for smooth reading (SR) in October 2019 (a round in which DP volunteers read through the project as for pleasure in order to spot remaining errors). It was finally released to Project Gutenberg on the 1st May 2020. Sincere thanks to all who worked on it!

This post was contributed by Eric Hutton, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.


Working on Grote’s History of Greece

July 1, 2020

frontisGeorge Grote: You are not buried at Westminster Abbey for nothing! This thought summarizes my admiration for George Grote and his lifelong achievement, History of Greece, in twelve volumes, now complete at last at Project Gutenberg.

This History is a perfect example of the sound scholarship coming from 19th-Century English universities. But the author was not a scholar. He was not even a university graduate. He was a banker. His parents were rich enough to have him schooled in an upper-class secondary school where he became enamored with ancient Greek and ancient Greece. But his father did not allow him to enter a university to complete his education. George was needed at the family banking business in the City of London, and a good banker he became. His love for Greece was developed as a hobby, along with his taste for languages, philosophy and politics (radical politics, not usual in a banker).

Dissatisfied with the available accounts of Greek history in English, he began in 1822 to write his own in his spare time. Twenty-four years later, he decided at last to abandon his banking activities to focus on finishing this History which had developed into twelve volumes. It was published over a ten-year period, from 1846 to 1856.

Grote’s History at Distributed Proofreaders

Five years ago, I stumbled on this magnificent work at Distributed Proofreaders (DP). It was half-abandoned. A prolific Project Manager (PM) had prepared most of the volumes of this work starting from page scans of a somewhat simplified American edition without maps and side-notes. Some volumes were already proofread, others were in progress, others were not even begun, and one volume was missing. The PM had apparently left DP, so there was no one to keep an eye on the project’s progress.

I was not then a PM myself, only a post-processor (PPer, the person who assembles and finalizes a book after it has been proofread and formatted) who was looking for something exciting to post-process. Volume 9 of Grote’s History had just been given up by another PPer because of the huge number of quotations in ancient Greek. I had studied (and forgotten) some ancient Greek at Madrid University in a prior reincarnation, and I foolishly decided to have a try at this rejected volume.

Oh, my! The English text was interesting, but the amount of Greek was indeed daunting. Not willing to give up on this task, I began to invade an alien territory full of traps. There were 11,503 footnotes in the 12 volumes, an average of 875 footnotes per volume. About 40% of these footnotes included ancient Greek – not a word or two, but full paragraphs. And some 10% of the footnotes consisted solely of ancient Greek text. How was I going to handle all this?

The Greek challenge

But fortunately at DP you are never alone: unexpected resources appear when needed. DP resident gurus in Greek philology made me aware of the Perseus Digital Library, a website where most of the ancient classical texts in Latin and Greek are found in native and translated versions. For the most part it was a matter of finding the quoted Greek text and copy-pasting it into the project. But finding the quotation was not easy: a fair number of the references were not accurate or were simply missing. It was a matter of reading lots of Greek texts to locate the quotation or, if not found, to type in the Greek quotation myself. Later, I learned to perform searches in Greek, something rather difficult to do at Perseus.

When the reference was found at Perseus, it appeared as modern scholarly conventions require for ancient Greek. But in Grote’s volumes, quoted text was rendered according to the 19th-Century orthographical style, which had to be preserved, so some retyping was always needed. For instance, to incorporate middle dots instead of semicolons (ἀνθρώπων· versus ἀνθρώπων;), breathing marks over the rhos (as in παῤῥησία), or at least to change vertical modern Greek acute accents to slanted ancient Greek ones, as DP experts recommended. For example:

Socrates

Moreover, Grote had the habit of retouching the original quoted text without warning, and this retouching also had to be preserved. But typing or retyping Greek is hard: my trials with the Greek keyboard in Windows were disappointing. Fortunately, one of our experts directed me to a simple HTML page (with lots of JavaScript underneath) where it was easy to type Latin characters in order to get Greek output, and then cut-and-paste this Greek into your file.

One of my tricks when I feel insecure during post-processing is to have at hand a paper copy of the book I am working on. This is invaluable to check errors and typos or to re-scan illustrations. Through eBay, I was fortunate enough to find, at an affordable price, a complete set of the twelve volumes of Grote’s History, published in London in 1883 but printed in Leipzig, where printing houses were famous for producing classical texts devoid of typos (not so in this case, as it turned out, but still better printed than the American edition I was working on).

Every bit of Greek text was checked with this later edition, which brought a second opinion into the checking process. It was also invaluable to check some other modern language misprints. Grote was very fond of quoting in original languages, and he included Latin, French, German, Italian, and Spanish excerpts, sometimes lengthy and always in footnotes.

Finishing the full set

Well, I discovered I was able to accomplish the PP task of this first volume. After finding a kind PM for the half-baked remaining volumes, and scans for the missing one, I committed myself to finishing the other eleven volumes, which took five years.

Finding, checking, and typing all the Greek in a volume needed more than two months: it was a tiring task and had to be alternated with working on other things to be bearable. At least another month was needed to perform the rest of the PP work and then another month for smooth-reading the outcome. Smooth-reading proved to be essential (it always is!): a fair lot of mistakes which had not been detected in the DP proofreading rounds showed up now, on top of my own mistakes in handling the Greek and other languages in the text.

I was fortunate enough to have had very competent smooth-readers, not only for the Greek text (I believe that checking accurately lots of Greek text worked on by another person ought to bring you directly to heaven) but also for the English main part, finding out, for instance, that Acharnians and Phokæns are suspect words (the correct are Acharnanians and Phokæans) and other similar things of which I was not aware.

What Grote, or perhaps his publishers and printers, was somewhat lacking in was accuracy in citing authors, titles, and editions. Fortunately, in Internet times, it is possible, with some patience, to find a digital copy of almost every book cited, view its title page, and correct the names and references as originally printed.

DP’s added value

Now that all 12 volumes of Grote’s masterwork are available at Project Gutenberg, it is time to remember that a transcription like this would have been almost impossible to achieve outside of Distributed Proofreaders. A vast array of DP volunteers contributed their talents and efforts to this project. Lots of people have painstakingly checked, proofed, transliterated, formatted, and distilled their wisdom in the associated forum for each volume, with the constant help of DP administrators, project facilitators, and other DP roles.

It is wholly unfair that those tasks like post-processing that are not distributed absorb so great a part of the final credit for a DP project. The undistributed tasks are pointless without the distributed ones, which are the bulk and the force of DP contributing model. The truth is that these 12 volumes are an achievement of DP as a whole, of the DP model of distributed work, of the DP way of building and maintaining consensus among its members. I bow and take my hat off to all of them.

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


Transcribing Wagner’s Music

March 1, 2020

wagner

Richard and Cosima Wagner

I volunteer on the Distributed Proofreaders Music Team, which helps transcribe music in the books we work on for Project Gutenberg into audio for readers to listen to and enjoy. All kinds of books — not just books about music — can contain music: hymnbooks, children’s books, history books, biography books. All kinds of books contain music! These days, we are able to add sound files to what was once only a visual experience. What a wonderful technological advance!

The books we prepare for Project Gutenberg are in the public domain. Public domain means the music is old by today’s standards, and sometimes ancient by anyone’s standards. The internet in general, and YouTube specifically, offers an awesome amount of audio listening, even for musical relics! I’m always amazed when I go hunting for a specific tune and find it already online, sometimes in several versions. What a wonderful achievement! I no longer have just black noteheads on stave lines. Someone else has already thought this through and provided indications for tempo, dynamics, articulation, and instruments, things not always specified in the original score. Marvelous!

On the other hand, there are pieces that simply don’t have any guidance other than what’s provided in the book itself. Sometimes I just have to listen to lots of medieval music, or lots of African chants, or lots of Chinese opera to get a sense of the general direction, and then make my best guess.

Happily, Richard Wagner falls into the first category. Lots and lots of Wagner to listen to! Yet, when a book contains just snippets of his music, I have to find a handful of bars in any one of Wagner’s musical tomes to figure out how they should sound. His compositions not only go on for hours — sometimes they go on for days! Der Ring des Nibelungen comes to mind — four German-language epic music dramas spread over four consecutive evenings. The only solution for transcribing Wagner’s music is to take whatever hints I can find in the text, then start listening and researching full scores for all the information needed to recreate his glorious sounds. Armed with this knowledge, I then use music notation software and other tools to create the audio files.

I won’t bore you with all the details of getting from here to there. I will only say it was a committed effort of many, many hours over many weeks to pull this together. We’re volunteers, and as much as we love what we do, Real Life also has its demands.

Following are five excerpts from Wagner as Man and Artist by the eminent English musicologist Ernest Newman. Each excerpt contains Newman’s description of the music, an image of the music snippet, and an audio file (MP3) so you can hear it. To see and hear more, go to the HTML version of the e-book at Project Gutenberg, where you can also download PDF images of the music notation and MusicXML files that can be opened in just about any music notation program, as well as MP3 files. Enjoy!


From Die Walküre

Shakespeare’s magic is in the phrasing,—not, be it remembered, a merely extraneous, artificial grace added to the idea, a mere clothing that can be put on or off it at will, but a subtle interaction and mutual enkindlement of idea and expression. For the musician that enkindlement comes from the adding of music to the words: the music does for the idea what the style does for it in the case of the poet,—raises it to a higher emotional power, gives it colour, odour, incandescence, wings. Brynhilde comes to tell Siegfried that he must die. The mere announcement of the fact is next to nothing; the infinities and the solemn silences only gather about it when the orchestra gives out the wonderful theme.

 

wagnermusic1

From Das Liebesverbot

Nor in any other work but this would Wagner have accompanied with so irresponsible a theme the appeal of Claudio (sentenced to death) to his friend Luzio to seek the aid of Isabella—

 

wagnermusic2

In the third scene appears a theme that was afterwards expanded and put to splendid use in Tannhäuser. Here the nuns sing it behind the scenes to the words “Salve regina cœli.”

 

wagnermusic3

In the opening scene of the second Act,—the garden of the prison in which Claudio is awaiting death—we have another employment of the leit-motive, the oboe giving out softly the theme to which Claudio had previously urged Luzio to implore the help of Isabella, but now with appropriately altered harmonies—

 

wagnermusic4

The later Wagnerian method of accumulating excitement, which we have seen anticipated in Die Feen, is employed also in Das Liebesverbot, as in the following passage, which, like the one previously quoted, gives us a decided foretaste of the meeting of Tristan and Isolde—

 

wagnermusic5


This post was contributed by Jude Eylander, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.


Ten (Eleven) Years at DP

January 1, 2020

Dans la Bibliothèque by Auguste Toulmouche

I recently reached my ten-year anniversary at Distributed Proofreaders. I thought it would be interesting to acknowledge ten memories, observations, events, changes, or other items of nostalgia and hopefully of interest to others — Screeching halt! I wrote that a year ago and never finished. So now it’s eleven years and eleven items.

The Beginning — Welcome!

Someone had mentioned Distributed Proofreaders on another website, and I came to see what it was about. I started at the DP page, decided to create an ID, and started as a beginner. I immediately felt welcome. People’s answers to questions, appreciation for efforts, and encouragement are part of the palpable fabric of DP life. This year, someone posted in the forums, “Being helpful is the sort of thing that DP does so well.” I agree. There’s a blog article about Comments That Matter that expresses this in more depth.

Nitpickers

I found a group of fellow nitpickers, perfectionists, error spotters, spelling geeks, and grammar guards. It’s great to be in a place where you can question the use of a comma, semi-colon, duplicated word, mis-seplling misspelling, etc., and instead of getting a long-suffering sigh in response, to know that the comment is appreciated or in some cases leads to a thoughtful discussion or a thank-you. I found a group of fellow nitpickers! If you are one also, this may be for you!

Diffs: A Source of Enlightenment

An e-book project at DP goes through several rounds of proofreading and formatting. After each round, a proofer or formatter can check his or her “diffs” — the changes made to the text of a project’s individual pages as it progresses through each round. (A diff doesn’t necessarily mean there was something wrong, just that the page text coming out of the subsequent round is different.) I learned so much from my diffs. Yes, I got gentle feedback for the pages I did in Begin (projects set aside especially for beginners). However, by looking at the changes the next rounds of proofers made to my pages, I also learned an incredible amount. I learned what my eyes were glossing over and seeing what they expected to see instead of what was there. I learned to slow down. I learned to stop for the day or at least take a break every so often. I learned to go over a page another time if I found I was just reading instead of proofing. I learned that I still need to access the Proofreading Guidelines regularly.

Variety, Variety, Variety

Within the first few days I was at DP, I had the temerity to work on an English-Spanish dictionary as well as part of the Encyclopædia Britannica (in the G’s). I’m pretty sure I worked on an issue of The American Missionary (a challenging 19th-Century periodical) in early days as well. I know I also worked on some Begin projects, got helpful feedback, and forged on ahead. Over time I’ve been impressed with the wide variety of projects we work on. There are of course English-language books published across time periods, mostly up through 1923 (due to copyright) in standard library categories like fiction, reference, science fiction, cookbooks, adventure, history, military, music, anthropology, etc., etc. Add to that books in those same categories, but in other languages: French, German, Catalan, Spanish, Esperanto, Italian, Latin, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, and Cebuano. But there are more — think of the patience of the DP volunteers who provide content and manage the projects, and the dedication of proofers and formatters to work on single- and dual-language dictionaries, multi-volume encyclopedias, “Complete Works of…,” etc. I’ve also seen and worked on thesis papers and handwritten documents. There are also relatively modern government publications about parks, national monuments, nature guides, and more. The variety seems infinite.

Working Site – Not Just Social

While there is definitely a rich social aspect to DP through the volunteer forums, that’s not the primary focus. This is a working site. People contribute in many, many ways. I like the feeling of my efforts being a small part that feeds into a much larger contribution. People’s work gets recognized. There are places to announce accomplishments, and DP Anniversaries are acknowledged and celebrated. Without that, I wouldn’t be aware of my tenth eleventh anniversary.

Incredible Volunteers

It’s incredible that so many people volunteer so much time to make this happen. It ranges from a-page-a-day to what approaches or even exceeds enough time for a full-time job. Volunteers are not just incredible for the time and/or consistency they donate, but for their incredible knowledge and willingness to share it with others.

International Community

There is a considerable international community involved at DP. There are contributors from English-speaking countries, but also from many other parts of the world. I mentioned some of the different languages in the Variety paragraph above. There are perspectives brought to various discussions that I wouldn’t be exposed to on a U.S.-only site.

It’s a Learning Site

I learn a lot from other volunteers. They are always willing to share their knowledge and answer questions. I’ve learned some html coding in setting up project comments, using templates others have provided, and then finding resources on the Internet to figure out how to do other things. I’ve learned from discussions on various threads. And of course, I’ve learned a lot from the content of projects I’ve worked on.

The Custom Proofreading Font Looks Normal Now

DP is continually looking for ways to make the volunteers’ work easier. For example, a DP volunteer created a display font especially for proofreading, DPCustomMono2. When I first proofed with it, I was amazed at how much it helped. It clearly differentiates among I, 1, l. It distinguishes O and 0 without strain. It helps point out capital W that should be lower-case w and much more. Although at first it seemed odd looking and just plain weird, one day I realized that I had gotten used to it. It was the day I was sure DPCustomMono2 was missing and had been replaced by a “normal” font. Looking more closely, I saw the l with the curve and the 0 with the dot. DPCustomMono2 looked “normal” to me now.

Change and Accomplishments

Over my eleven years at DP, there has been a lot of change and many accomplishments. DP’s management has changed from a “benevolent dictatorship” (being run by a single overworked volunteer) to a non-profit corporation with a Board of Trustees and a General Manager. DP posted its 14,000th e-book to Project Gutenberg a few weeks before I joined. We just posted our 38,000th e-book last month. That’s 24,000 books since I joined. The site has been made available in French. Hardware, operating system, middleware, and forum upgrades have been rolled out. Now we’re gearing up to support additional character sets. The site changes, but the sense of purpose continues, as do the improvements and milestones.

Blogging

This Blog was introduced in 2010, and DP volunteers were invited to contribute blog posts. Surprising myself, I found I had thoughts to share. Thoughts grew to paragraphs and to contributions. It’s a good feeling to see something I’ve worked on show up as an official blog post. It’s something I don’t think I would have attempted otherwise. Once again, although a year late, here’s another article.

Thanks for joining me on my journey through the past.

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

Distributed Proofreaders wishes everyone a Happy New Year!


Proofreading a Technical Text

April 1, 2019

geodistribmap

Introduction

Distributed Proofreaders recently made Alfred Russel Wallace’s two-volume book The Geographical Distribution of Animals (1876) available for free download from Project Gutenberg (Volume I and Volume II).

Wallace and fellow naturalist Charles Darwin not only were colleagues in their researches, but also collaboratively originated seminal ideas about the development of animal species, resulting in what is now generally known as evolution.

Scientific or technical works like Geographical Distribution can present special challenges to the Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who work on them. This post explores some of those challenges.

The Distributed Proofreaders Process

Distributed Proofreaders volunteers acquire scanned images of public domain books either from online sources like The Internet Archive or by scanning the books manually. The scanned images for Geographical Distribution came from The Internet Archive.

The scanned page images are run through optical character recognition (OCR) software to turn them into editable text. Sometimes the resulting text contains what we call “scannos” — misinterpretations of the image by the OCR software, such as a speck on the image rendered as a period, or the word “I” rendered as a numeral 1. Under the guidance of a Project Manager, volunteers proofread the text for errors and to format it, a page at a time, in several rounds. The Distributed Proofreaders process enables many volunteers to work on the same book at the same time. Another volunteer (the post-processor) assembles the final product into a complete e-book which, after final checks for errors, is then posted to Project Gutenberg.

During the proofreading phase, many problems can be resolved easily. For example, a scanno, such as “carnage” for “carriage,” is simply corrected to match what appears in the original page image. Not all problems are small ones, though. The proofreader who encounters a more difficult problem, such as one of those discussed below, is required only to leave a note about it for future volunteers working on the text. Some proofreaders choose to go further and search reference materials, such as dictionaries, and ask for help in the project’s discussion forum or one of the specialised forums at Distributed Proofreaders.

While many projects at Distributed Proofreaders are straightforward, others present challenges like poor printing, resulting in poor scan quality and therefore errors in the raw text; antiquated language found in older texts; many or large tables of data, etc. The object is to determine the author’s true intention and reflect that in the final product.

Proofreading Geographical Distribution

From May to October, 2016, Distributed Proofreaders volunteers worked on the first volume, resolving (or attempting to resolve) several thorny issues, communicating with each other and the Project Manager in the Project Discussion.

This text had good quality scans, with very few typographical, spelling or grammar issues. The challenges lay in the fact that it was a deeply technical work with specialised biological terminology. Here are some of the interactions volunteers had in the Project Discussion.

Differentiating between æ and œ ligatures

With the clear scans, it was generally easy to distinguish between æ and œ ligatures. But the original printer apparently had some trouble doing so when working from the author’s manuscript. Misreading of the ligatures led to subsequent mistakes that were easily perpetuated in the rest of the work, even by such a scrupulous authority as Wallace.  Of course, in extenuation, the Internet age has made it much easier to check doubtful cases than it was in Wallace’s day.

One volunteer’s research could not determine whether Cænyra was a typo for the more likely Cœnyra. My researches led to the Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), Entomology Supplement 9 (1967), where Francis Hemming states that Cænyra is “an incorrect subsequent spelling of Cœnyra.”

Both Turacœna and Turacæna occur twice in Volume I, but Turacœna is not italicised on two pages, which makes it much easier to identify. Turacœna also appears twice, and Turacæna not at all, in Volume II. Volume II includes the index, and Wallace states in the errata for Volume II that misspellings have been corrected in the Index.  These facts make Turacœna the people’s choice.

Typographic or spelling errors

A very rare typographic error in Geographical Distribution is Wallace’s reference to “the living three-handed armadillos” for three-banded armadillos.

There is a reference, with a clear connection to kingfishers, to the genus Halycon. Exhaustive, in-depth research (even using dead-tree books on my shelf) suggested that it is a long-standing error which had been perpetuated. The genus, in my humble informed opinion, should be Halcyon (as Wallace has it in the second volume, as well as several times in the first volume). In other words, a rare typo.

When a typesetter uses the upside-down letter n, it will turn into the confusing letter u, as in Otiorhynchus vs. Otiorhyuchus. Which is correct? I go for the confusing u with n theory, as rhynchus in Greek refers to nose, beak or snout, and rhyuchus is not a sensible construction. This is where familiarity with Latin or Greek roots saves the day.

But if one sees the word drougo, knowing about drongo, or finds the word scink which is usually spelled skink nowadays; there is considerable doubt. Is it an older version, or a typo? Why does he have Ethiopian, except for the one occurrence of Ethiopean?

Sometimes the puzzle is intractable without a true subject specialist’s advice.  For instance, is it Ptilornis or Ptilorhis or even Ptiloris? Ptilorhis appears to be a late misspelling; but a Ptiloris exists; and Ptilornis ends with the root of ornithology.

Dealing with typos is, of course, the real elephant (Loxodonta africana or Elephas maximus) in the room. There are two kinds of taxonomists: lumpers and splitters. The splitters at one time had about a dozen elephant species; nowadays the lumpers are in the ascendance, and we have only two. Just in case you wondered.

One of the volunteers documented a few variations in spelling or typography: honey-sucker and honeysucker; king-fisher (in the index) and kingfisher (everywhere else); wood-pecker once, elsewhere woodpecker; aerial or aërial… The list goes on. It is for the post-processor ultimately to make the final decision about standardising such variations, but sharp-eyed proofreaders can help by leaving notes about their observations.

Scientific nomenclature

The system of naming organisms with a genus name followed by a species name is  universal, if complicated. This was never completely stable, and some tough  investigations had to be undertaken to decide which version (where the volumes had  more than one) was to be accepted.

A Distributed Proofreaders volunteer agonises: “How do you feel about Wallace’s occasional habit … to start species name with a capital letter? For me, it seems [to] violate everything I’ve learned about scientific names.… Have the rules regarding capitals been different, earlier?”

Wikipedia has an interesting article about binomial nomenclature, with links to more information.  It appears that for animals, the rule was changed to make species’ names start with a lower-case letter, a change that only happened many years later for plants.

Nowadays the rule is explicit and rigid — the genus starts with a capital and the species with a lower-case letter. In the old days there were many different rules at different times, so in the case of this project, we must follow Wallace’s usage.

Hyphenating biological names

I had to leave a general note about end-of-line hyphens splitting biological names. “Whenever I find one I check the name; but in any case, these are extremely rarely hyphenated, so please don’t put the hyphens back in unless you are absolutely certain!”

Rewards of Distributed Proofreading

Understanding historical context

Working with old and unusual material which might be otherwise unobtainable frequently supplies a context for current ideas. One example is Wallace’s puzzlement about the strange and sometimes anomalous animal habitats he found. I can’t help thinking how delighted he would have been to hear about continental drift, explained by plate tectonics, the theory which the South African geologist Alexander du Toit put on a solid footing after Alfred Wegener first floated the idea in 1912, decades after Geographical Distribution was published. This quote from Wallace illustrates my meaning perfectly:

Should we ever arrive at a fair knowledge of the physical changes that have resulted in the present condition, we shall almost certainly find that many of the differences and anomalies of their existing fauna and flora will be accounted for.

Understanding the author’s character

Wallace, like many naturalists, collected insects, including beetles. As he explained:

[These] families comprise the extensive series of ground beetles (Carabidæ) containing about 9,000 species, and the Longicorns, which are nearly as numerous and surpass them in variety of form and colour as well as in beauty. The Cetoniidæ and Buprestidæ are among the largest and most brilliant of beetles; the Lucanidæ are pre-eminent for remarkable form, and the Cicindelidæ for elegance; and all the families are especial favourites with entomologists, so that the whole earth has been ransacked to procure fresh species.

Results deduced from a study of these will, therefore, fairly represent the phenomena of distribution of Coleoptera, and, as they are very varied in their habits, perhaps of insects in general.

I am reminded of J.B.S Haldane, who was a British scientific polymath of the early 20th Century. It is variously reported that his reply to a question by a theologian whether anything could be concluded about the Creator from the study of natural history was “an inordinate fondness for beetles.”

Making texts accessible to all

Apart from the new things we Distributed Proofreaders volunteers learn every day from working on public domain projects, we have the great satisfaction of “preserving history one page at a time” and introducing new readers to the rewards of great old books like this one.

This post was contributed by Bess Richfield, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.


Preserving the Past … For the Future

January 1, 2019

Preserving the Past … For the Future … One Dig at a Time

archaeologyLooking forward to another day at the archaeology dig. Putting on the coffee and getting breakfast. Water containers to be filled with fresh water — it’s going to be HOT today, so need to take extra. Grabbing some food to throw into my pack along with the water. A trip to the barn to check on my animals — fresh water, everyone looks good. Throwing my pack into my vehicle and away I go!

Need to dig carefully — looks like someone broke a clay pot — all in pieces — and each piece needs to be carefully extracted from the soil. The pot will be reconstructed in the lab at a future time. Notes, notes, notes, never ending — this is the important stuff — keeping track of soil changes, artifacts found, any “stains” in the soil that may be the remains of poles holding up ancient structures. Here’s some rock debris — someone chipping away on a precious piece of rock to make a projectile point, scrapper, or other implement. Each piece of rock must be collected and labeled carefully. Some charcoal here — an ancient fire pit, rock-lined — need to photograph and draw a rough sketch. Wonder what they were cooking: deer? rabbit? fish? Maybe some of the potsherds from the broken clay pot can be sent out for protein analysis.

One never knows what is going to be found at a dig — but each little bit tells the story of the past and must be carefully preserved for future generations.

I’m very dirty and very tired and mosquito-eaten — but it’s been a good day and I feel great!

Preserving the Past … For the Future … One Page at a Time

That’s what I did as an archaeologist volunteer — but it’s not so very different from what I do as a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.

Getting up in the morning and turning on the computer before doing anything else. Putting on the coffee and grabbing some breakfast. Logging into Distributed Proofreaders.

What shall be read today? Sometimes science, sometimes travel, sometimes anthropology, sometimes just choosing something different that I never even considered reading. Every book is important — the 5-page books to the 1,000-page books. The religious books — books of poems — science books — fictional books — travel books — music books — medical books — all interesting and need to be carefully proofed.

Here’s a book on engineering — wonder what sorts of things engineers were working on way back then? Another on an African tribe — a culture different from mine — thinking and doing things according to their needs and wants — wonder what they would think of Western culture? And another book on ocean biology — maybe will read this one for a while. All those Latin names of shells and sea creatures — they require a reader’s full attention. Here’s another book on submarines — somewhat technical — think I’ll read this next. Some math formulae and engineering terms — wonder how submarines have changed from past times to today?

Never know what books will be in the queue to be proofed but every one is important, each book tells a story of the past and must be meticulously proofed, formatted and preserved for future generations.

My back hurts, I need more coffee, my eyes are glazing over — but it’s been a good day and I feel great!

This post was contributed by eyecrochet, a DP volunteer.

The DP Blog wishes all its readers a very happy and healthy New Year!


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