So where were we?

As far as this blog goes, I seem to have been suffering from chronic disorganisation ever since the end of last year. This was partly my own fault, for letting my reading outstrip my writing by too great a distance; but mostly I blame it on that pushy Aphra Behn. Boy, she just moved in and took over for a while there, didn’t she? – and not even in the correct chronological order. Tsk!

But we’re pretty much back on an even keel now, and I’ll be trying to keep things there via a proper rotation of reading categories, and updating the blog on (I hope) a more regular schedule. I need to settle back down into my journey through the literature of the Restoration, but at the same time there will be reading challenges and occasional group reads, along with the ongoing games of Reading Roulette, to help vary the diet. At the moment my planned categorical reads are:

  • Chronobibliography:  Eromena; or, The Noble Stranger by William Chamberlayne (?) (1683)
  • Reading Roulette:  Vivia; or, The Secret Of Power by E.D.E.N. Southworth (1957)
  • Authors In Depth:  The Abbey Of Clugny by Mary Meeke (1796)
  • Reading Challenge:  The Interesting Story Of Edwin And Julia by “A Doctor of Physic” (1788)
  • Group Read:  The Law And The Lady by Wilkie Collins (1875)

In other news…GoogleBooks has officially made my Enemies List. I was annoyed enough with the discovery that only three out of the four volumes of Nella Stephens’ The Robber Chieftain were available. I honestly don’t understand why you would make an incomplete novel available for download—it’s not, after all, a textbook, where readers might still get some value out of an incomplete work. The only reason I can think of to do that would be if the novel only survived in an incomplete state, and even it that case the posting should be accompanied by an explanation of the circumstances.

But even posting incomplete novels pales beside posting a complete novel in such bad condition that you may as well not have bothered. Such is the case with the GoogleBooks version of Vivia, as I belatedly discovered to my cost. From about halfway through the novel, only a portion of every second page of the novel is present, and so it goes on for the next 150 pages, as shown:

Surely there must be somebody who can check the quality of a piece of scanning before a digitalised book is made available? It could even be a volunteer service: there must be more readers than I who would gladly give a few minutes a day to prevent this frustrating and disappointing experience from being repeated. At the moment, these “available” books are just so much wasted effort; while the assertion that opens every one of Google’s scanned books – “This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google…” – feels like a taunt. 

Anyway—I did eventually find another copy of Vivia online, but only online: it is available through the Wright American Fiction Collection 1851 – 1875, a digitising project based at Indiana University (although with many other participants) that draws upon the bibliographical work of Lyle H. Wright from the Huntington Library in California. While I can only applaud this wonderful undertaking, my heart did drop when I realised I’d have to finish reading Vivia on my computer. The inconvenience I can put up with, but—oh, my eyes. My poor, poor eyes…

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4 Responses to “So where were we?”

  1. RE: Half- and quarter-assed scanning of documents, I have to deal with that crap all the frigging time at the Maryland State Law Library, where I work. The Department of Legislative Reference (an appendage of the state legislature charged with making sure that everything the lawmakers do leaves as complete a paper trail as possible) is far and away the worst and most consistent offender. Among other things, they’re supposed to send us microfilm copies of the bill files for each legislative session– that is, all the documentation associated with the various potential laws and resolutions under consideration– on the theory that a permanent record of what the legislators were actually thinking when they wrote, rewrote, and voted on a bill will help both the courts and the various executive agencies do their jobs. However, not only are they TWELVE YEARS behind on filming the stuff (we finally received MOST of the bill files for the 1998 session last week), but it’s not at all unusual for 50-60% of the pages on any given reel of film to be totally illegible.

  2. Yes, there are of course many circumstances where poor reproductions are a much more serious matter than my inability to read an obscure novel. I never quite understand, though, why and how it happens so often: surely making a good reproduction doesn’t take all that much more effort than making a bad one?

    • El Santo, hey, fellow-ish law librarian! (My day job is bailii.org, which people keep telling me makes me a librarian, though I don’t think so.)

      lyzardqueen, my experience has been that one keeps kicking the scanner/camera/whatever until the first document goes through all right, but then one feeds everything else into the hopper (or equivalent) and goes to lunch. There’s just too much stuff to be processed for all of it to get checked personally; eyeball time is expensive.

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