Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Wonders of Salvage

David Masters - The Wonders of Salvage (1924)

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Real-life salvage may not be as exciting as a Clive Cussler novel but Masters gives it a go.  He has a short historical overview but mainly focuses on the first World War and its aftermath.  Masters made a small side-line out of this, following with The Boys' Book of Salvage (1929), When Ships Go Down: More Wonders of Salvage (1932), Divers in Deep Sea: More Romances of Salvage (1938) and Epics of Salvage (1954) along with other sea-oriented books.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Complete Works of Friedrich Schiller

Friedrich Schiller - Complete Works of Friedrich Schiller (1902)

HathiTrust direct link (volume 1) Poetry - (alternate collection of poetry) direct link (volume 2) Early Dramas I direct link (volume 3) Early Dramas II direct link (volume 4) Historical Dramas I direct link (volume 5) Historical Dramas II direct link (volume 6) Thirty Years War direct link (volume 7) Revolt in Netherlands direct link (volume 8) Essays

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Bonus:  Heinrich Duntzer - Life of Schiller

I'm half tempted to do a whole series of these complete works from various authors - Balzac, Froissart, Goethe, Goldsmith, Carlyle, Thackeray, the Frazer edition of Pausanius, among ones that are scanned.  The authors aren't quite marketable enough to keep full editions in print but are still worth the treatment.  (Though frequently there are ebook complete works - Delphi Classics is the most reliable and best formatted I've encountered.)  Translations from these older collections might sometimes elide sensitive material but have the benefit of being closer to the original author's time and, let's face it, from translators more likely to be competent in verse than many modern ones.

I've only read a few bits of Schiller but stumbled across this and it seemed a good post.  I was mostly finished with the links before discovering that what I thought was volume 1 was in fact not - that only appears to be available on HathiTrust.  Since that's the poetry volume I included an alternative.  I'm not entirely sure how complete this edition really is since the German ones are all nearly double this size.  Likely they have notes and apparatus missing from the English one and probably also include Schiller's translations (he did Macbeth among others) that would be a bit pointless done additionally into English.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Great Modern American Stories

William Dean Howells - The Great Modern American Stories (1920)

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As I've posted before and probably will again, I'm fascinated by these looks at how who are considered canonical writers or at least respected ones have changed.  There are some here that would raise no eyebrows today - Twain, James, Wharton, Dreiser, Jewett.  But Frank Stockton?  George Ade?  They're mostly left to specialists now though most likely because they're entertaining writers and perhaps not so easy to market to modern gatekeepers.

And then there are the ones I don't recognize - Landon R. Dashiell, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, T.B. Aldrich.  The latter two have decent-sized Wikipedia pages but not the first though since she seems to have written only this one story maybe that's not a surprise.  (There is a discussion of Landonia Dashiell, she was a woman using a masculine pen name, by Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt in the collection Writing in the Kitchen: Essays on Southern Literature and Foodways.)  It's perhaps worth noting that 10 of the 24 stories are by women writers which is unusually high for this period.  In a way the book perhaps more indicates what Howells was pushing as great American writing than a more neutral reflection of any consensus (Freeman was awarded the first William Dean Howells Medal in 1925).

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Lure of Music, Picturing the Human Side of Great Composers

Olin Downes - The Lure of Music, Picturing the Human Side of Great Composers (1922)

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Collection of short, entertaining biographies of composers.  The one on Handel opens that he was "a full-blooded, adventurous, practical man, who swung through life magnificently and compelled everybody to acknowledge his genius. As student, traveler, duelist, opera manager, favorite of courts and friend of kings, he was tremendous!"

That does give the impression this is almost a kids book or breathless worship of the great artists but Downes is merely enthusiastic and covers the key biographical information and some of the major works.  It seems faint praise to say the book is "readable" but too often this kind of thing falls into the dry world of the encyclopedia.  He does enjoy writing synopses of opera and can't help but try to claim Beethoven as American in spirit (hey, some people try to portray Shakespeare as German so maybe it somewhat balances).

Downes (1886-1955) was a long-time critic for the Boston Post and the New York Times.  He was a powerful advocate for Sibelius and other contemporary composers (but somewhat dismissing the Second Viennese School despite a long correspondence with Schoenberg).  There are some other collections of his writing including 1957's Olin Downes on Music.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Robinson Crusoe in Words of One Syllable

Mary Godolphin - Robinson Crusoe in Words of One Syllable (1867)

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Though intended as a children's book I prefer to think of this as a proto-Oulipo text though admittedly the distortion is fairly trivial all things considered.  I also can't help but wonder if in fact it's any easier for a child to read one-syllable words.

Mary Godolphin hit on this idea and ran with it.  She produced similar syllabically restricted versions of Pilgrim's Progress, Swiss Family Robinson, Aesop's Fables and a now-forgotten book called The History of Sanford and Merton.  Godolphin was the pseudonym of Lucy Aikin (1781-1864), a popular historian (Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth is best-known), biographer of Addison, translator and children's writer.  She was a respected letter writer and at least two collections were later published.  Robinson Crusoe was the first of her one-syllable books and the rest from then until 1870.

Sharp-eyed readers are probably exclaiming, "Now hold on, Mr Blogger Person!  How can she have written seven books years after her death?  You are surely a shoddy researcher, sir!"  Well, that stings a bit and nevertheless I have no good answer.  The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature: 1800-1900 has the same dates so it's not as if I'm pulling dubious dates off the Internet.  Well I did but I double-checked them.  The Encyclopedia of Romantic Literature (edited by Frederick Burwick) also notes this discrepancy, only saying that the book were published posthumously but giving no explanation otherwise.  Why she would have written but not published these is a mystery, as is why her heirs would wait three years and then not use a marketable name but keep the identity secret.

I actually wonder if this attribution of the pseudonym is mistaken.  I can't find a contemporary reference to it which is odd for such a well-known writer and none of the "One Syllable" books indicate anything as far as I can see.  In fact the Swiss Family Robinson book says the author was "encouraged" by the reception of the earlier book "to add to her works" though the indication she was alive doesn't mean she in fact was.  The 1874 Bibliotheca cornubiensis says Godolphin is a pseudonym but provides no other identity.  Trade listings and ads from the late 19th century (and a review from The Spectator in December 8, 1883) don't indicate anything other than the Godolphin name.  Though it has no direct bearing it's worth noting that editions published by Henry Altemus Company in Philadelphia omit the Godolphin name - perhaps they were pirated?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pepys's Ghost

Edwin Emerson, Jr. - Pepys's Ghost (1899)

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Well, this is an oddity - a recounting of some 1898 events done in the style of Pepys.  Why?  Don't know, but footnotes are included.  There's New York gossip and an account of the Spanish-American War (Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders make appearances).  Pepys' more intimate adventures had not been printed at this time but it's unlikely this author would have followed that lead anyway.

Emerson (1869-1959) had an unusual life.  A Cornell (sometimes reported as Harvard) graduate, he met and may have collaborated with Dvorak, tried to accompany the Japanese army during the Russo-Japanese War then headed into Russia (prompting a false report that he was shot as a spy), kicked around journalism with writings like this book and dispatches for numerous magazines such as The Nation (which later exposed his activities below), took up espionage, acquired "Colonel" while serving for the Venzuelans during a 1901 border dispute with Colombia (which seems to still not be settled), while finding time to serve with Roosevelt (a family friend) and the Rough Riders (or maybe this service was cover for more spying - Roosevelt personally signed the press pass).  Emerson apparently was even reporting or fighting with Villa at the time of Ambrose Bierce's disappearance and denied that the commander had Bierce shot (according to Jerome Hart's In Our Second Century.)

In 1933 he unfortunately became a propagandist in the U.S. for the Nazis.  According to Arnie Bernstein's Swastika Nation he set up an office in The Battery but later his group was absorbed by another one.  After this, in 1934, he sailed from New York and according to one report met Hitler in person.  In 1936 he wrote German Swordplay.  The most full account of these activities is the 1943 House investigation into Un-American activities.  He corresponded with Mencken for years until Mencken refused membership in Emerson's group due to the "imbecility" of the Nazis.  His papers are at Georgetown and the New York Public Library.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Telecasting and Color

Kingdon S. Tyler - Telecasting and Color (1946)

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A book explaining color TV in what appears to be fairly nontechnical terms.  ("Appears" because I've just skimmed this.)  The image below is the only one in the book that's actually in color though there are plenty of others, including a water-cooled vacuum tube!  Since much of the early part is devoted to TV in general there's frequent comparisons to how radio works - all of it mostly a vanished world now.  At one point the author (who seems to have been an engineer for CBS) even states live variety shows will be more popular on TV than recorded shows.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Illustrated Catalog of Bellhangers' and Locksmiths' Supplies

Illustrated Catalog of Bellhangers' and Locksmiths' Supplies (1889)

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For all your Victorian locksmithing needs.  Nearly half the catalog is taken up with key blanks, page after page of them.  Don't know why I find that amusing.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

An Iconography of Don Quixote

Henry Spencer Ashbee - An Iconography of Don Quixote (1895)

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An exhaustive bibliography of illustrations of Don Quixote from the start up to this book's publication.  Ashbee of course is better known for another bibliography - Index Librorum Prohibitorum, three volumes (in English, the title is a joke) documenting centuries of erotic publications.  He amassed a major collection of Cervantes which went to the British Museum who also had to accept, reluctantly, his erotica collection as well (though they found loopholes to destroy chunks of it).  The 1901 DNB notes that after An Iconography's publication  "his dilettanteism grew more and more refined, he was contemplating a most elaborate bibliography of every fragment of printed matter written in the French language by Englishmen."  Ah, somewhere in Borges' infinite library....  (The DNB also wouldn't use "erotica" but instead relied on the rare Greek-derived "kruptadia".)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Whitman, The Poet-Liberator of Woman

Mabel MacCoy Irwin - Whitman, The Poet-Liberator of Woman (1905)

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A self-published tribute to Whitman from an early feminist and minister.  The tone is almost overly effusive - Whitman attracts such writers - but she's mostly on target and this poet was probably the best choice at the time to use in promotion of women's self-determination.

Irwin (1856-1928) was a sometime music teacher who graduated from Tufts Divinity School and became a pastor in a Universalist church.  She traveled and lectured widely and there are records of her delivering sex education talks to public school parents in 1912.  She also promoted birth control and, unfortunately, eugenics though this may have been a late-life development according to one source.

Arnold Bennett reports (in Books and Persons) that she tried to distribute a paper on "strict chastity for both sexes" that the Post Office wouldn't allow to be sent because it referred to sex.  Bennett dryly remarks, "I reckon this anecdote to be the most exquisitely perfect of all anecdotes that I have ever come across in the diverting history of moral censorships."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Carmina of Caius Valerius Catullus

Sir Richard F. Burton & Leonard C. Smithers (ed, trans) - The Carmina of Caius Valerius Catullus (1894)

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Seems like I should have known Burton translated Catullus but turns out that whatever his talents poetry wasn't the most prominent.  (Just take a sample "Yonder pinnacle ye (my guests!) behold / Saith she was erstwhile fleetest-fleet of crafts, / Nor could by swiftness of aught plank that swims, / Be she outstripped, whether paddle-plied, / Or fared she scudding under canvas-sail.")  Or as his early biographer Thomas Wright put it, "for the translating of so delicate, so musical and so gracious a poet as Catullus he was absolutely and entirely unqualified."

This book collects Burton's translation in verse (which he apparently never completed, being "surprised by Death" as his wife put it), a prose translation by Smithers (who published many of the Decadents) that's typically more readable, and the Latin original.  Despite a claim of being literal and unexpurgated it's not quite that - the notorious #16 has words dotted out which Smithers claims was in the manuscript he was given but implies (probably correctly) that may have been the work of Burton's widow.  And too bad that despite Burton's "great stress" on including his famously obsessive annotations those were never written.  ("There is no excursus on the origin of Tree-worship" the introduction apologizes and we readers sigh for what might have been.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Elements of Trench Warfare & Bayonet Training

William H. Waldron - Elements of Trench Warfare & Bayonet Training (1917)

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This actually collects two different booklets, one on trench war and the other bayonets.  One oddity is that judging by the author's appeal for distribution it's not an official training manual but something he published and then hoped to get into the army's hands.  Still it seems to have sold fairly well and the library stamps on this scanned copy show it checked out several times even in the 1980s and 90s.  Its real use today (other than preparing for the zombie apocalypse) is the detail on mechanics of tactics and construction generally overlooked in historical accounts.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Harry H. Skinner - Jiu-jitsu (1904)

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An early English-language book on martial arts but since I can find little about the transmission of jiu-jitsu (or about this author either) it's unclear how "early".  The introduction claims the discipline was already being taught at Annapolis and West Point which might be true but is probably exaggerated.  In any case since the text is basically just descriptive the real appeal of the book today is the photos showing attacks involving a man in a hat, almost like John Steed's fighting manual.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Beard-Shaving and the Common Use of the Razor

Beard-Shaving and the Common Use of the Razor (1847)

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Apparently shaving a beard is an "unnatural, irrational, unmanly, ungodly and fatal fashion among Christians" according to this mid-19th century tract.  Best I can follow he (and it's a pretty safe bet that the anonymous author is male), he thinks beard-shaving means men no longer reflect God's image though actually he seems far more concerned by the potential physical damage of razors than more theological speculation.  The notes are much longer than the actual text and contain cranky swipes at Turks, Catholics, Russians and the current state of England (though oddly he seems ok with the French). Oh, he ends with "a word in favor of the mustachio" which distributes heat around the lips and helps when, uh, biting cartridges.  Well, I guess we still need that heat thing.