The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1308  Wednesday, 18 June 2004

From:           Al Magary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 17 Jun 2004 16:12:42 -0700
Subject: 15.1297 Digital Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1297 Digital Shakespeare

John Briggs commented:

 >My current favourite Project Gutenberg work is "The Roman
 >of Latin" by Frances E. Lord, which ends in mid-sentence!

I didn't believe it, but it's true:

"The following direction is of the utmost importance (Curwen's "Standard
Course," p. 3): "The teacher never sings (speaks) _with_ his pupils, but
sings (utters, reads, dictates) to them a brief and soft _pattern_. The
first art of the pupil is to _listen well_ to the pattern, and then to"--

That's a PG text from

This is regrettable but it is by no means typical of PG.  The problem
with PG is basically the fault of Congress for continually extending
*all* copyrights merely to protect a few commercial
properties--specifically, Mickey Mouse as introduced in "Steamboat
Willie."  With a few exceptions, such as government publications and
donated works, PG is legally restricted to publishing text in the public
domain.  In the US that means works published before 1923.  (Even then
there are limitations:  the famous "1911 Encyclopedia" is in fact the
Encyclopedia Britannica.")

I'm with Gabriel Egan in general defense of putting lots of texts, even
if not scholarly editions, online.  But one or two on this list may
recall my rants (at http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2004/0491.html and
http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2004/0563.html)  about some etexts
from, eg, Michigan and Cornell, that are *far, far worse*--in fact,
shameful--than anything PG has produced.  I spoke of the need "to
replace the first available texts--the handy or free pre-1923 texts that
were often placed quickly online by programmers, bulletin board
operators, and the first webmasters in the 80s and early 90s--with texts
of a higher quality."

I was critical of the academic community for "our continuing acceptance
or tolerance of too much ancient, often wrong material on this virtual
public utility, the net."

The Shakespeare community should surely be interested in lessening the
reliance on play texts of uncertain quality found all around the
Internet:  not F1 texts, as it were, but Q793 and Q4921.  We might start
with a classroom teacher-based movement to *certify* sites with reliable
texts as "approved by <Shakespeare Text Committee> for student
research."  That could extend to certifying particular texts, especially
a set of line-numbered, properly searchable texts (both old spelling and

Such an effort to certify would help tame the Wild West, untamed
frontier aspects of the web as the best but riskiest new research tool
since the invention of 3x5 cards.

Al Magary

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