Saturday, September 24, 2016

Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates

Howard Pyle - Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates (1921) direct link 
Open Library main page

A collection of Pyle's various pirate stories with his famous illustrations (he's often credited with creating our current image of how pirates looked).  There are fights, captured ships, buried treasure, adventure on the high seas and even a little romance and a Christmas tale (though probably far less drink than in reality given the general younger age of the intended readership).

Sunday, September 18, 2016


McKenzie Wark - Dispositions (2002)

Direct link

Though not public domain the book has been shared by the author. Wark is a media theorist and writer possibly best known for The Hacker Manifesto (with two books on the Situationists for Verso). In Dispositions Wark travels to places using his GPS then records observations and thoughts. It's an unusual mix of psychogeography, prose poem and criticism.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Women and Film

Women and Film

Direct link

Running from 1972 to 1975, Women and Film was a groundbreaking scholarly journal with a publication method that grew out of the underground press and looked forward to the zine movement.  It's an interesting look at the time with its focus on European filmmakers (lots of Godard), acknowledged auteurs, re-evaluation of Hollywood and collecting information about women filmmakers. Still, it's not dated and much of the material is still worth reading.  All the issues are hosted at the Jump Cut site and can be downloaded as pdfs.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Epistolae obscurorum virorum / Letters of Obscure Men

Francis Griffin Stokes (ed) - Epistolae obscurorum virorum (1519, edition of 1909) direct link
Open Library main page

"A text that contains intentional blunders, and in which grammar is a law unto itself, seems to call for exceptional treatment."  That's the conclusion of editor and translator Stokes when introducing this now-little-known curiosity.  Epistolae obscurorum virorum is a series of satirical letters that appeared in Germany from 1515-1519.  The letters were a humanist attack on scholasticism and employed overstatement, clumsily pretentious writing, illogical leaps, wayward references - basically the same things that would be used to parody academic writing today.  (I will now start my emails with "Cordial greeting and homage beyond belief".)

This satire, though, is credited with helping push the Reformation, particularly in its support of Johannes Reuchlin who was fending off charges of heresy as he attempted to prevent destruction of Hebrew religious materials (which were considered anti-Christian).  (See David H. Price's 2011 Johannes Reuchlin and the Campaign to Destroy Jewish Books.)  One recent reprint of Epistolae obscurorum virorum was done under the title On the Eve of the Reformation.

Let's just go with one sample (that's actually one of the more simple): "As I have ofttimes told you, I chafe bitterly because that vile raff, to wit the Faculty of Poets, groweth and extendeth throughout every province and region. In my time there was only one poet--and his name was Samuel--but now in a single burg a good score may be found, to harass us who cling to the ancients. Just now I sharply snibbed one who said that 'scholaris' did not mean a person who went to school to learn, for, quote I, 'Thou ass! Wouldst though correct the Holy Doctor who useth that word?'  But forthwith he wrote a lampoon against me, with many scurrilities therein, and vowed that I was no sound grammarian, in that I had not rightly expounded certain words when I treated of Alexander, his First Part, and of the book De modis significandi."

This appears to have been the first English translation.

Friday, September 2, 2016

An Introduction to the Knowledge of Rare and Valuable Editions of the Greek and Latin Classics

Thomas Frognall Dibdin - An Introduction to the Knowledge of Rare and Valuable Editions of the Greek and Latin Classics (1802, 4th edition of 1827) direct link (volume 1) direct link (volume 2)
Open Library main page

An extensive bibliography of editions of classical works, mainly of interest because the fairly detailed entries make for interesting browsing.  Dibdin was a key figure in the development of bibliography.  This fourth edition of his work was rewritten from previous and skips grammarians and collections.

Dibdin ranges from praise ("An uncommon and magnificent edition: it has a number of curious wood-cuts, and the typography is exceedingly splendid.") to remarks on collecting interest ("By no means a scarce work; many copies having been sold at the principal sales, and the London booksellers being frequently in possession of it.") to the occasional swipe ("In an investigation of this sort it is necessary to take so much notice of errors, that you will perhaps have concluded Arnoldus de Bruxella's edition to be one of the most faulty of the fifteenth century.").

I'm always surprised at just how much was published during this period.  Not to mention changes in taste.  There are six and a half pages about Silicus Italicus who is so forgotten now I had to look him up (he wrote the longest surviving Latin poem).

Thomas Frognall Dibdin (1776-1847) was born in Calcutta and educated at Oxford.  He became a clergyman but seems to have spent more time on his bibliographies (including a period at Antwerp).  His Bibliomania seems to have been popular at the time.  A very short biography by Edward John O'Dwyer was published in 1967.  There's also a bibliography of Dibdin's works.