Posts tagged Books

Harvard’s Looking for a Wikipedian
Via The Atlantic:

The Houghton Library on the Harvard campus holds the university’s collection of rare books. Inside its walls—in addition to objects culled from the old “Treasure Room” of Widener, the school’s principal library—you’ll find Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts; information about the creation of books; and collections of papers from, among many others, Louisa May Alcott, e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry James, William James, Samuel Johnson, James Joyce, John Keats, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Theodore Roosevelt, John Updike, and Gore Vidal.
The Houghton Library on the Harvard campus is awesome, is what I’m saying. And now it’s looking for a little love. From, and for … Wikipedia.
Yesterday, John Overholt, Houghton’s Curator of Early Modern Books & Manuscripts, posted a job listing. He’s hiring a Wikipedian in Residence—someone who can serve as a kind of liaison between Wikipedia and the academic, cultural, and intellectual institutions whose source material its entries rely on. In this case, Harvard.

The job’s only three months, pays $16/hour, but still: Wikipedia, rare books, internets. Tingling. Further details here.
Image: Via Cyanide and Happiness.

Harvard’s Looking for a Wikipedian

Via The Atlantic:

The Houghton Library on the Harvard campus holds the university’s collection of rare books. Inside its walls—in addition to objects culled from the old “Treasure Room” of Widener, the school’s principal library—you’ll find Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts; information about the creation of books; and collections of papers from, among many others, Louisa May Alcott, e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry James, William James, Samuel Johnson, James Joyce, John Keats, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Theodore Roosevelt, John Updike, and Gore Vidal.

The Houghton Library on the Harvard campus is awesome, is what I’m saying. And now it’s looking for a little love. From, and for … Wikipedia.

Yesterday, John Overholt, Houghton’s Curator of Early Modern Books & Manuscripts, posted a job listing. He’s hiring a Wikipedian in Residence—someone who can serve as a kind of liaison between Wikipedia and the academic, cultural, and intellectual institutions whose source material its entries rely on. In this case, Harvard.

The job’s only three months, pays $16/hour, but still: Wikipedia, rare books, internets. Tingling. Further details here.

Image: Via Cyanide and Happiness.

Lessons from Alice

[T]ied round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words “DRINK ME” beautifully printed on it in large letters.
It was all very well to say “Drink me,” but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. “No, I’ll look first,” she said, “and see whether it’s marked ‘poison or not;” for she had read several nice little stories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts, and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked “poison,” it is most certain to disagree with you sooner or later.
However, This bottle was not marked “poison,” so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off.

Alice ventured to taste it and found it very nice.
Image: Alice in Wonderland from Read.gov, which is putting classic books online.

Lessons from Alice

[T]ied round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words “DRINK ME” beautifully printed on it in large letters.

It was all very well to say “Drink me,” but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. “No, I’ll look first,” she said, “and see whether it’s marked ‘poison or not;” for she had read several nice little stories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts, and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked “poison,” it is most certain to disagree with you sooner or later.

However, This bottle was not marked “poison,” so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off.

Alice ventured to taste it and found it very nice.

Image: Alice in Wonderland from Read.gov, which is putting classic books online.

If Buzzfeed Titled Books

Waterstones asked Twitter how Buzzfeed would title books. The result: 16 #BuzzfeedBooks You Have To Read Before You Die.

Images: Screenshots of Harry Potter, The Inferno and the Bible, via Waterstones.

This past year, the very old word because exploded with new grammatical possibilities in informal online use. No longer does because have to be followed by of or a full clause. Now one often sees tersely worded rationales like ‘because science’ or ‘because reasons.’ You might not go to a party ‘because tired.’ As one supporter put it, because should be Word of the Year ‘because useful!’

Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society, “Because” is the 2013 Word of the Year.

Read through for Most Useful (eg, “slash”), Most Unnecessary (eg, “sharknado”), Most Outrageous (eg, “underbutt”) and more.

See also The Atlantic, English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet.

Why We Should Read, Scientifically Speaking
Via The Independent:

The new research, carried out at Emory University in the US, found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory.
The changes were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the the primary sensory motor region of the brain.
Neurons of this region have been associated with tricking the mind into thinking it is doing something it is not, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition - for example, just thinking about running, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running.
“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” said neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of the study.
“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

Image: One of the dozens of standalone libraries promoting literacy in Bogota, Columbia. Via Bilingual Librarian: the Paradero Para Libros Para Parques are “often open during the weekend and while in service they offer regular library services. Patrons can check books out, and the person staffing the PPP organizes activities (mainly for children), is available to answer questions, and often help children with their homework.”

Why We Should Read, Scientifically Speaking

Via The Independent:

The new research, carried out at Emory University in the US, found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory.

The changes were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the the primary sensory motor region of the brain.

Neurons of this region have been associated with tricking the mind into thinking it is doing something it is not, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition - for example, just thinking about running, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running.

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” said neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of the study.

“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

Image: One of the dozens of standalone libraries promoting literacy in Bogota, Columbia. Via Bilingual Librarian: the Paradero Para Libros Para Parques are “often open during the weekend and while in service they offer regular library services. Patrons can check books out, and the person staffing the PPP organizes activities (mainly for children), is available to answer questions, and often help children with their homework.”

The National Library of Norway is digitizing its entire collection. The Norwegian Legal Deposit Act requires that all published content, in all media, be deposited with the National Library of Norway. The collection is also being expanded through purchases and gifts. The digital collection contains material dating from the Middle Ages up to the current day.

Via The National Library of Norway.

What, what does that mean?

The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal takes it away:

…[W]hen the library is finished scanning, the entire record of a people’s language and literature will be machine-readable and sitting in whatever we call the cloud in 15 years.

If you happen to be in Norway, as measured by your IP address, you will be able to access all 20th-century works, even those still under copyright. Non-copyrighted works from all time periods will be available for download.

According to the Scandinavian Library Quarterly, the National Library is six years into its digitization process. The results so far: a collection of approximately “350,000 newspaper copies, 235,000 books, 240,000 pages of handwritten manuscripts, 4,000 posters, 740,000 hours of radio broadcasts, 310,000 hours of television programmes, 7,000 videocassettes/films, 7,000 78-rpm records and 8,000 audiotapes.”

Pretty amazing that a country values the cultural capital of its media to recognize it as a common resource for all its citizens. Meantime, in the States, well, copyright, although a federal judge did back Google’s book digitization efforts in November.

British Library: Go Forth and Remix
Via the British Library:

We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images to us, allowing us to release them back into the Public Domain. The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.

So, awesome.
Now check out the British Library’s next steps:

We plan to launch a crowdsourcing application at the beginning of next year, to help describe what the images portray. Our intention is to use this data to train automated classifiers that will run against the whole of the content. The data from this will be as openly licensed as is sensible (given the nature of crowdsourcing) and the code, as always, will be under an open licence.
The manifests of images, with descriptions of the works that they were taken from, are available on github and are also released under a public-domain ‘licence’. This set of metadata being on github should indicate that we fully intend people to work with it, to adapt it, and to push back improvements that should help others work with this release. 
There are very few datasets of this nature free for any use and by putting it online we hope to stimulate and support research concerning printed illustrations, maps and other material not currently studied. Given that the images are derived from just 65,000 volumes and that the library holds many millions of items.

Image: Detail, page 331, “L’Alsace et des Alsaciens à travers les siècles,” via the British Library on Flickr. Select to embiggen.

British Library: Go Forth and Remix

Via the British Library:

We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images to us, allowing us to release them back into the Public Domain. The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.

So, awesome.

Now check out the British Library’s next steps:

We plan to launch a crowdsourcing application at the beginning of next year, to help describe what the images portray. Our intention is to use this data to train automated classifiers that will run against the whole of the content. The data from this will be as openly licensed as is sensible (given the nature of crowdsourcing) and the code, as always, will be under an open licence.

The manifests of images, with descriptions of the works that they were taken from, are available on github and are also released under a public-domain ‘licence’. This set of metadata being on github should indicate that we fully intend people to work with it, to adapt it, and to push back improvements that should help others work with this release. 

There are very few datasets of this nature free for any use and by putting it online we hope to stimulate and support research concerning printed illustrations, maps and other material not currently studied. Given that the images are derived from just 65,000 volumes and that the library holds many millions of items.

Image: Detail, page 331, “L’Alsace et des Alsaciens à travers les siècles,” via the British Library on Flickr. Select to embiggen.

Hello, Gutenberg

Via the Associated Press.

Access to the Gutenberg Bible and other ancient manuscripts has just gotten easier.

The Vatican Library and Oxford University’s Bodleian Library put the first of 1.5 million pages of their precious manuscripts online Tuesday, bringing their collections to a global audience for the first time.

The two libraries in 2012 announced a four-year project to digitize some of the most important works in their collections of Hebrew manuscripts, Greek manuscripts and early printed books…

…The Vatican Library was founded in 1451 and is one of the most important research libraries in the world. It has 180,000 manuscripts, 1.6 million books and 150,000 prints, drawings and engravings. The Bodleian is the largest university library in Britain, with more than 11 million printed works.

Images: Screenshots of the Gutenberg Bible, via Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. Select to embiggen.

Every time somebody says to me, “It’s so impressive how you manage to get writing done despite being on Facebook/Twitter/etc. all the time,” I cringe. I’ve been hit by a backhanded compliment. I’m surfing, tweeting and emailing — leaving my digital prints everywhere and probably picking up some nasty computer viruses — while serious writers are working pristinely, heroically beyond the clutches of the Internet.

Jonathan Franzen found the Internet such a threat that he disabled it by plugging an Ethernet cable into his computer with super glue. The philosophy behind this act of almost rageful vandalism seems self-evident. Compared to the hard work of writing, the Internet gives an easy way out. Before, the writer took breaks for things like coffee, cigarettes, drugs — items that each have natural limits in the human body. But now, you’re basically working in an intellectual red-light district where, at any time — every three seconds if you want — you can dip into the constantly replenished streams of email/Facebook/Gawker/eBay/YouTube/Instagram.
Marie Myung-Ok Lee, New York Times. The Internet: A Welcome Distraction.

Because Language

Via The Atlantic:

The word “because,” in standard English usage, is a subordinating conjunction, which means that it connects two parts of a sentence in which one (the subordinate) explains the other. In that capacity, “because” has two distinct forms. It can be followed either by a finite clause (I’m reading this because [I saw it on the web]) or by a prepositional phrase (I’m reading this because [of the web]). These two forms are, traditionally, the only ones to which “because” lends itself.

I mention all that … because language. Because evolution. Because there is another way to use “because.” Linguists are calling it the “prepositional-because.” Or the “because-noun.

You probably know it better, however, as explanation by way of Internet—explanation that maximizes efficiency and irony in equal measure. I’m late because YouTube. You’re reading this because procrastination. As the language writer Stan Carey delightfully sums it up: “‘Because’ has become a preposition, because grammar.” 

FJP: And now we know.

Beautiful Libraries

Via Huffington Post UK

These stunning images show some of the great libraries of the world, compiled for a book by Dr James Campbell, who visited more than 80 buildings in 20 countries for his own tome entitled: The Library: A World History.

The book, which took three years to research and includes these pictures by photographer Will Pryce, takes in some of the great rooms of learning from around the globe, from Trinity Hall in Cambridge to the Library Of Congress in Washington. There are even images of the Malatestiana Biblioteca in Cesena, Italy, regarded as the oldest library in the world, dating to 1452.

Images: The Tripitaka Koreana at the Haeinsa Temple in South Korea (top); The library at Admont Abbey in Austria (left); The Biblioteca Joanina in Coimbra, Portugal (right); The Chapter Library, Noyon Cathedral, France (bottom), by Will Pryce via HuffPo UK. Select to embiggen.

Design Firm Creates a ‘Reading Net’ For Library-Loving Minors 

Spain’s Playoffice, a child-centric design firm, created the “reading net" in an attempt to making reading more fun for kids. The "reading net" stretches across the length of a library room, and kids can play on it in between chapters. 

Images: PlayOffice

The Reading Net

Via PlayOffice, h/t Boing Boing.

Select to embiggen.

What’s it Like to Be Dyslexic?

UK-based designer Sam Barclay is concluding a successful Kickstarter campaign to create a design and typography book that shows what it’s like to be dyslexic.

Via the Daily Mail.

According to Barclay, people with dyslexia and other reading difficulties are often capable of thinking in ways others aren’t and as a result are ‘capable of true greatness’, yet these people are often misunderstood and treated unfairly as a result.

‘Being dyslexic, I noticed that available help was always about making me read better,’ said Barclay.

Very little effort was made to help the people around me understand what it feels like.

The book continues a project Barklay created while at the University of Portsmouth that explores the “struggles a dyslexic person might have while reading.”

As Medical Daily explains, the typography book builds empathy with those who don’t — or can’t — understand how the dyslexic see the written world. “It’s near impossible, for instance, to look at a word in your native tongue and not read it, to just look at the symbols, estranged from their meaning. Once we learn to read, our brains forget what it’s like not to associate symbols with letters. It’s for this reason, Barclay says, that his book is so vital to uplifting and enlarging dyslexia to people worldwide.”

Images: Pages from I Wonder What It’s Like to Be Dyslexic, by Sam Barclay via Kickstarter. Select to embiggen.