Project Gutenberg’s 70,000th Title

March 1, 2023

On February 9, 2023, Project Gutenberg posted its 70,000th title, Wakeman’s Handbook of Irish Antiquities (3rd ed.). Congratulations to all the Project Gutenberg and Distributed Proofreaders volunteers who made this milestone possible!

Knockmany Chamber, an ancient burial chamber in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland

In 1848, W.F. Wakeman, a young Irish draughtsman who had helped to map Ireland for the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, published a ground-breaking study of Irish archaeology, Archaeologia Hibernica. It featured numerous drawings he had made of the ancient buildings, monuments, and objects that he had come across in the course of his mapping work. The selling point of his book was that these archaeological wonders were “within easy access of Dublin.” He noted that a whole host of monuments, such as burial mounds, stone circles, cromlechs, and other artifacts, “lie within a journey of less than two hours from our metropolis.”

Sepulchral Chamber, Phoenix Park (Dublin)

In 1891, Wakeman published an updated edition of his handbook. He died in 1900, but his work remained in the forefront of Irish archaeology. John Cooke, a fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquarians of Ireland, took up the challenge of further updating Wakeman’s handbook, publishing a much expanded third edition in 1903 under the title Wakeman’s Handbook of Irish Antiquities, which is the edition now available at Project Gutenberg. Following Wakeman’s lead, Cooke’s edition uses decorative capitals at the start of each chapter that were taken from the famous Book of Kells. And it adds 60 illustrations to the already extensive list of Wakeman’s original drawings, for a total of 185. It even brings Wakeman’s work into the 20th Century by adding several photographs. (Cooke himself may have taken some of these photographs; he is best known today for his 1913 photographs of the slums of Dublin for a report on housing conditions among the poor.)

Many monuments omitted from the previous editions of Wakeman’s handbook are featured in Cooke’s edition, such as Knockmany Chamber, a photograph of which (above) is the frontispiece of that edition. Of course, archaeology continues to march on — that monument is now known as Knockmany Passage Tomb, and rather than dating from 500 B.C., as Cooke has it, it is now believed to date from about 3000 B.C. But Wakeman’s and Cooke’s patient groundwork in documenting these antiquities made further study possible, and, even more importantly, prevented them from being overlooked or even inadvertently destroyed by the unknowing.

The e-book version of Wakeman’s Handbook of Irish Antiquities is an outstanding example of the important books that the volunteers of Project Gutenberg and Distributed Proofreaders work hard to preserve and make freely available to the world. It is a fitting way to celebrate the milestone of Project Gutenberg’s 70,000th title.

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

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!

Archaeological Essays, Vol. II

May 7, 2015

Greek medicine vase

Ancient Greek medicine vase

Since archaeology is a subject that’s near and dear to my heart, I’ve smooth-read several books about it at DP. When I saw  Archaeological Essays, Vol. II, by Sir James Y. Simpson, show up in the smooth-reading pool, I thought, “Oh, boy! Another fun read!” Well, what I learned was, you can’t trust the title of a book. The first “essay,” which went on and on and on (you get the picture) had nothing to do with archaeology! It was entirely about the incidence of leprosy in Great Britain, Scotland, and parts of France! Now, mind you, the author quotes sources as far back as the 800s, but still! This is not archaeology.

I learned a lot about leprosy. I learned that there are three different kinds of it, that the ancient Greeks knew of it and called it “elephantiasis,” and that the Arabs had a different version of it. It is not the same thing as the swollen legs some people still get when infected by certain parasites. This particular author didn’t seem to think leprosy is very contagious. There was much discussion as to how leprosy arrived in Europe and England and spread to Scotland. There were rather graphic descriptions of what a person with leprosy looks like. I could almost be an expert in the field!

This is part of what makes smooth-reading so much fun. You never know what you’re going to end up with—or what you might learn!

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