The latest title to become available for online proofreading is one of Jack Butler Yeats books for children, A Little Fleet. The book describes the history and adventures of several fanciful ships, and it is filled with memorable illustrations by its author, who also happens to be the subject of one of our online exhibits.
This is a very slim volume, so it won’t be available for long — dive in now at the project page if you want to help (and see our earlier blog post for details on the proofreading effort).
Thus begins a letter from John Alban Kite to his sister, Elizabeth Sarah Kite. Elizabeth Kite’s early letters in this new collection from the Digital Library, came mainly from her Quaker family. The letters’ heavy use of “thee” and “thou,” a common practice of Quakers of that time, gives them a formal tone to our modern ears. The family took care with their writing, sometimes chiding Elizabeth if her letter fell short of their writing expectations. Her grandfather lectured in an 1875 letter to Elizabeth, “I wish to encourage my grandchildren to accustom themselves to the use of the pen in epistolary correspondence for to become a good letter writer is quite an attainment.” (From , Letter to: Elizabeth Sarah Kite, From: John L. (John Letchworth) Kite, November 8, 1875.)
How then could one of John L. Kite’s grandchildren, five years later, use the word that appears at the very top of the first page of that same 1880 letter? It is that ultimate of colloquialisms that will sound the “uneducated” alarm, even in children’s ears, today:
Ain’t this beautiful weather? What would grandfather think? The day after I read this surprising use of slang by a member of the Kite family and seeming anachronism I saw a new book entitled The Story of Ain’t by David Skinner. While the book did not answer my particular questions as to when the word began and if it was considered slang by John Alban Kite and the rest of his family, it chided me to search further.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage the word “ain’t” was commonly used during the time that John Alban Kite wrote this letter and was not quite as vilified for use in casual conversation as it is today. It’s difficult to say if his grandfather would have approved of its use in writing an “epistolary correspondence,” but it’s fun to see in this context today … ain’t it?
Back in July, we began online proofreading of The Decadent by Ralph Adams Cram, as reported here. This title has become the first of our proofreading projects to be completed and posted to Project Gutenberg. The finished product can be found here.
The brief novella follows a socialist who travels to visit one of his former students and finds his philosophy significantly changed. Short on plot but containing some vivid imagery, the story seems written primarily to allow the author to reflect on social and political issues of the time. The significance of much of this is lost on the 21st century reader, yet the book still provides a surprisingly atmospheric experience.
The entire text can be read online or downloaded in a variety of formats used by portable devices like Kindles, Nooks or iPads.
Posted for: Diane Biunno, Ph.D., Digital Library Intern:
Dante’s Illustrated Adventure highlights several illustrated editions of the Divine Comedy owned by the Special Collections Department of Falvey Library. The online exhibit includes hundreds of illustrations, a video recording of Father Peter Donohue, O.S.A reading the opening canto of the Inferno, audio recordings in Italian of famous verses from the Commedia and the Vita Nuova, as well as recordings of Latin hymns from the Purgatorio and the Paradiso.
Dante’s (1265 – 1321) epic journey to the other side has captured the imagination of readers for the past seven hundred years, and has inspired countless artists and painters from the Middle Ages to the present. In 1481 Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici (1463 – 1503) commissioned Sandro Botticelli (1444-45 – 1510), whose famous works include the Primavera and the Birth of Venus, to sketch each of the one hundred cantos. Botticelli’s large illustrations were drawn on parchment made of sheepskin, and today only 92 of the original sketches have been found. Centuries later an English sculptor created over one hundred illustrations of the epic poem. John Flaxman’s (1775 – 1826) line drawings are known for their classic style and remained hidden from the public for decades in an English aristocrat’s private library. In 1861 the French artist Gustave Doré (1832 – 1883) sketched perhaps the most well known illustrations of Dante’s work. Unlike Botticelli and Flaxman, no one commissioned Gustave Doré to illustrate the Inferno. Instead, the project was entirely his own idea, and he spent his own money to fund most of it.
Dante’s Illustrated Adventure explores the Poet’s pilgrimage through the Otherworld as it is told through the drawings and illustrations of Sandro Botticelli, John Flaxman, and Gustave Doré. The exhibit provides visitors with a brief biographical account of the Poet and then guides them through the major themes of the Divine Comedy. On this site visitors can travel alongside Dante through hell, as he meets sinners, gruesome monsters, and Satan himself.
The latest title in our ongoing proofreading project has gone online: Witty Pieces by Witty People. This collection of jokes, anecdotes and cartoons was gathered from national newspapers (among other sources) and published in Philadelphia in 1894. As with our earlier humor offering, Atchoo!, much of this may not seem very funny to the modern reader, and some of it is likely to offend. In spite of that, it remains an interesting piece of history, showing the type of humor that could be found in mainstream American publications in the late 19th century.
If you are interested in helping our efforts to adapt this vintage title to modern electronic formats, you can learn more about the Distributed Proofreaders Project here, and you can visit the project page here.
Posted for Lisa Abra McColl, Digital Library Intern, Fall 2012
The first thing that struck me about the papers that were being pulled out of a pile from the special collections department was the artwork. Shapes with gold and silver metallic color, green leaves, and an orange face all decorated the first pages of each of the three thin booklets.
The second thing that struck me was the Japanese writing on the front cover. The third came when I opened it. This was sheet music. My task was to find out what this music is: who is the composer, what instrument is it written for, what is the name of it? Confident that my music background would guide me through this task I set out to find the answers.
Weeks later, having played the melodies on my clarinet, searched for the melody in Musipedia, and in ultimate desperation, tried the Japan Goggles app to read some of the writing, and gotten nowhere, I knew I needed human intervention.
A former clarinet student of mine, now living in Japan answered my call for help on Facebook. These three pieces are traditional Japanese music that were arranged by a man named Tozan Nakao (1876-1955), a famous Japanese shakuhachi player. The shakuhachi is a wooden instrument similar to the western flute. The first piece, Zangetsu (the moon seen in the morning), has a publication date of 1906 and the second, Azuma-Jishi, has a 1907 date on it.
I could still use more information. Were these pieces intended to be played by the shakuhachi, or by a stringed instrument as some of the bowing markings seem to indicate? What is the meaning of “Azuma-Jishi”? What is the title of the third piece? Is there any reason that Guillame de Machaut, a 14th century French composer, should be penciled on the back of the last piece? How did this music come to be part of the special collections at Villanova? After viewing this music in the Villanova Digital Libraries World Collection, please contact me or leave a comment if you have answers to any of these questions, or something to add about the music. Feel free to email me at lisa[dot]abra[dot]mccoll[at]gmail[dot]com.
Posted for Summer 2012 Digital Library Intern Gail Betz:
Over the summer, I transcribed a portion of Elizabeth Hayes’s personal letters. Elizabeth was Patrick Barry Hayes’ wife, and she devoted a great deal of her time to corresponding with her seafaring husband and traveling sons. While only a few of the letters that Elizabeth herself wrote are included in the collection, she kept letters from her sons and her husband, which now provide a glimpse into their everyday lives. As a history lover, I greatly enjoyed reading these primary source documents, trying to figure out what the different words could be, and deciphering the context of the letter. I discovered that it was much easier to read the younger sons’ letters, because they had much neater cursive than their father did. It’s possible that Patrick Barry Hayes spent much of his time writing to Elizabeth while at sea, which could account for some of the jarring script that made much of his letters illegible. In contrast, his sons’ handwriting was easy to read, and they used more modern vocabulary than their father did.
Thank you to Michael Foight and Laura Bang for sharing their knowledge and advice, and providing me with the opportunity to learn about and work with digital libraries. I enjoyed seeing the “other side” of the digital library process, and look forward to using this experience in future digital projects!
Editorial Note: These transcriptions are in the process of being attached to the digital images and will be available for the public in the near future.
Earlier this month, Lisa McColl joined the Digital Library team as the Fall 2012 Digital Library Intern. Lisa is currently employed as a cataloger at Norristown Public Library, as well as holding an appointment as an adjunct instructor in cataloging at Clarion University. She earned her MLS from Clarion and also holds a Masters in Music from Florida State University. Lisa plays the clarinet and she says that music is a big part of her life.
With regard to the internship, Lisa says she is most excited about working with metadata, which allows her to delve into the collections and learn about them. She will be working more in depth with a set of metadata as her internship project.
Next up on Lisa’s “to read” list is Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. Her middle name is Abra, after a character in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Lisa’s favorite color is deep purple, like tulips.
The Bride of the Tomb was an early hit from Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller, a successful author in her day, and it remains prominent enough to merit scholarly analysis. Queenie’s Terrible Secret is a less well-known novel by the same writer, but it offers the same brand of melodrama, telling (as its subtitle explains) of “A Young Girl’s Strange Fate.”