Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Singing Praises

Sometimes you run into something so neat, you just have to stop and sing praises -- even if you sound sort of funny. I'll try to keep the volume down because I have to sing the praises of two neat things tonight. Bear with me.

The first neat thing, some of you already know about. Thanks to all your helpful suggestions and thanks to Glo, who provided the final push, I signed up with Gmail earlier this evening. One of the reasons I'm late posting tonight is because I've been having so much fun getting acquainted with all the cool stuff Google has put into its email program.

Okay, I haven't had time to figure it ALL out yet. But I'm working on it.

The other neat thing took up the better part of my day and is destined to keep me entertained and informed for a lot more days in the future. I'm sure you've heard of Project Gutenberg. Some of you may use its services already. I've only just begun to use them myself because, until today, I didn't realize they had an index. Don't know how I missed it before but I must have. In any case, the index is there -- and it's very impressive!

The thing is, Project Gutenberg has been steadily amassing an enormous library consisting of literature and music that is no longer under copyright. What that means to us is, we can freely read (or listen) online or we can freely download to our own computers. I think most all the written material can be downloaded in plain text. Some can be downloaded as html. Some are in the form of audio files. And more.

What have they got? It would be easier to tell you what they don't have. There seems to be a little bit of everything there. Fiction. Nonfiction. Books. Poetry. How-To. Text books. Diaries. Speeches and songs. There are a whole series of Punch magazines from the 1800s. But there are plenty of selections from more recent years, too. At least well into the '50s.

The index is set up so you scroll through authors in alphabetical order. I skimmed through the A-section. Started moving slower in the B-section and downloaded two choices. Then I started making a list of authors I wanted to revisit after further exploration through the alphabet. I'm not going to run out any time soon!

The first book I downloaded was a hefty tome titled "The Book of Household Management" by Mrs. Isabella Beeton. I can hear you gasp in disbelief, "Why?" Well, because it was first published in a bound edition in 1861, having been published in 24 monthly installments the two years previous. That means it's a rather large window on another time, with its own unique customs and styles and attitudes. Mrs. Beeton covers the subject with encyclopedic thoroughness and impeccable English. She even tells us what was the proper pay scale for the servants (!!), both with or without livery and with or without allowance made for tea, sugar and beer. She must have a kajillion recipes listed, each carefully detailed with preparation time, what constitutes the season, how many it will serve and how much it costs to make.

Oh yeah. I'm gonna have fun with that one.

The other download is far less cumbersome but no less informative. "The Complete Book of Cheese" by Robert Carlton Brown was published in 1955 and can be downloaded in html, which lets you enjoy the artwork. Mr. Brown not only shares a tremendous amount of lore about cheese, he does it with such wit and charm, you keep finding yourself sitting there with a big silly grin on your face. The chapter about Rarebit, "Sixty-five Sizzling Rabbits," would be worth the price of admission even if you were paying for the book.

But don't take my word for it. You can read any of these selections online if you wish. I skim just enough to see if it's something I want to download, then I haul it in for serious reading later. My problem is going to be pacing myself. Good grief, there is a list that looks as though it includes everything written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, for cryin' out loud. And several by Sir Richard Francis Burton.

There seems to be a most remarkable range from "The Sonnets, Triumphs, and Other Poems of Petrarch" to John Campbell's "Islands of Space." There is classic poetry, presidential speeches and even juicy little items like "The Water Supply of the El Paso and Southwestern Railway from Carrizozo to Santa Rosa, N. Mex. American Society of Civil Engineers: Transactions, No. 1170." Be still my heart.

I haven't begun to explore in earnest but already it seems to me the people who put the wheels on this fantastic project are going a long way toward making up for the bad karma generated when the Library of Alexandria was burned. We're talking serious Good Karma, folks. Oh. So many books. So little time.


Bex said...

I have that book of household management by Mrs. Beeton, AND I got it in England from whence it came. My friend, Sandy, has a really old version we found while over there together and she displays it at her living history farm near Des Moines where she volunteers.

bonnie said...

I remember the first book I ever read was Lad a Dog, but the author I don't know and mum doesn't know what happened to the book.

Wendy, NC said...

Dee, thank you for that link. I love to read without the hauling and the clutter (and text size options are a real bonus) so I will be a happy reader indeed.

Dee said...

Bex, what a treasure! And what a great idea Sandy has in displaying it.

Bonnie, the author of "Lad: A Dog" is Albert Payson Terhune and you can find it at, where you can get it used for as low as 20 cents. But you have to pay $4.00 shipping, of course. (sigh)

Wendy, glad you will enjoy that site. There are some true treasures there. Here's to happy reading!

Mage And George said...

We have one friend who is entering several books in the project. You too can be a part of it.

And also.....because of the email program I use, I cannot access your email address from here. Could you drop me a line and I will change it in my address book...she says humbly.

Dee said...

Really? I saw something about proof-reading but haven't explored that aspect of the site yet. Thanks for tipping me off. (email addy coming up)

John Bailey said...

Gutenberg is an important resource, way ahead of anything else on the web with similar aims and intentions. Goes to show the benefit of deciding what to do and just getting on with it.

I've used the poetry section for years now, and am currently reading r.m.ballantyne's 'coral island' with great joy. Didn't know about the audio side though, Dee, and I shall explore that carefully.

Dee said...

I'm glad to hear you know about it, John, because it seems to me to be a wonderful resource.