Electronic Resources that Help Illuminate Past Lives

Increasingly, a writer attempting to produce the definitive biography of a 19th or 20th-century American will find that essential tools include searchable databases of government documents and newspapers. T.J. Stiles, author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (2009, Alfred A. Knopf), which recently won the National Book Award, was able to utilize the digital edition of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set to uncover vindicating facts about the patriotism of his often maligned subject. In his article “Commodore Vanderbilt: Patriot or War Profiteer?,” Stiles writes:

I was ready to indict and convict Vanderbilt of war profiteering, if that’s where the evidence led me. Instead, it convinced me that the Commodore deserved his gold medal. Vanderbilt has often been treated with cynicism by historians, who are ready to believe the worst of a staggeringly rich, secretive, and combative man. Certainly I did not set out to rehabilitate his reputation. But I couldn’t ignore the evidence—evidence provided in breathtaking abundance by Congress in its Serial Set, now more accessible than ever thanks to digitization.

Electronic Resources that Help Illuminate Past Lives

The Curious Case of Sherlock Gregory: Social Justice Advocate or Proto-Know Nothing?

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It is almost conventional wisdom to assert that the many, many thousands of private citizens’ petitions and memorials submitted to Congress and printed in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set give us in almost each case a window into the mind of the common man. These men, and often also women, were exercising their right granted by the First Amendment “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” which often meant redress of damages, for claims of one kind or another—pensions in thousands of cases, and sometimes on behalf of a concern for more general issues beyond the needs of their particular cases, such as a plea for social justice. An example of that latter class is the brief memorial from a man named Sherlock Gregory, a citizen of Sand Lake in Rensselaer County, New York State, in 1838.

Mr. Gregory in House of Representatives Document 66 is asking that American Indians, whom he calls aborigines, be treated with justice and that their rights shall be respected. These are proper, noble, and perhaps even surprising sentiments in post-Jacksonian America. He further prays that if such justice is observed, the Lord will deliver the country from the curses of slavery, Catholicism, and intemperance. And here one takes pause: surely there is no doubt about the evilness of slavery, though there were many who disagreed, and also intemperance, but Catholicism?

The Curious Case of Sherlock Gregory: Social Justice Advocate or Proto-Know Nothing?

Register Today for Webinar-Based FBIS Training

On April 6, 2010 from 2 to 3:30 pm EST, Readex will be conducting a live training webinar on Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports, 1974-1996. This webinar is open to all librarians, faculty and students at institutions participating in the Readex Enhancement, Training and Content (ETC) program.

While the training will focus on interface functions and features, it will also provide background on the FBIS Daily Reports, the history and origins of FBIS as well as its coverage and operations. As a significant benefit to attendees, August A. Imholtz, Jr., Vice President of Publishing for Readex’s Government Documents Division, will provide key insights about the value and importance of the FBIS Daily Reports for research and scholarship on events of the late 20th century.

Although it is short, there is still time to sign up for this webinar. To register, please submit this ETC Training form or email Brett Kolcun, Readex Product Director, at bkolcun[at]readex[dot]com.

We hope you can join us.

Register Today for Webinar-Based FBIS Training

Indian Opinion: A Key Title in World Newspaper Archive: Africa

Students and scholars of Peace Studies and related fields will be interested to learn that Mahatma Gandhi’s Indian Opinion is one of the titles in the World Newspaper Archive: Africa, 1800-1922. Founded by Gandhi in 1903 when as a young attorney he worked in South Africa, this newspaper chronicles the genesis of the concept of “non-violent resistance,” which would become the foundation of the Indian independence movement.

In the mid-19th century, the British government in South Africa began importing workers from India to work as indentured servants. However, under the authority of General Jan Smuts, severe restrictions were imposed on all Indian immigrants, including a mandatory identity card, warrantless search, seizure and arrests. Gandhi, at that time working as a lawyer in the Natal province of South Africa, launched the newspaper with the aim of educating the European community in South Africa about the plight of Indian immigrants.

Indian Opinion: A Key Title in World Newspaper Archive: Africa

The Marginal Status of Marginalia: Some Thoughts

Most librarians must shudder at the thought of marginalia, since writing in books must be near the top of their taboo list. But many instances of marginalia have been hugely important (the scribblings of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Pierre de Fermat come to mind), and the other day I thought I might have tripped across some very interesting ones penned by Samuel Johnson. Granted, this was not the good Doctor himself, but the respected American philosopher who became the first president of King’s College (now Columbia University).

Perusing Johnson’s Elementa Philosophica (1752) in Early American Imprints, Series 1: Evans, I noted the marginalia immediately, and also saw that it appeared to be signed by the author in the same hand. How very exciting! (The copy of this work that Readex digitized for this database came from the American Antiquarian Society, whose holdings contain many works donated by their authors, so this made sense.) Here is what I was looking at:

And there was more! In several places in the text asterisks had been penned in and at bottom there were notes! An example:

The Marginal Status of Marginalia: Some Thoughts

ETC (Enhancements, Training and Content): Overview and 2010 Update Number 1

ETC (Enhancements, Training and Content) is an ongoing, multifaceted program that provides Readex customers with one-of-a-kind historical content unavailable online elsewhere. In addition, the ETC program ensures the latest and most useful features and functionality, and provides guidance and suggestions for making the most of your Readex collections. ETC also covers online access and storage support.

Just as Readex is committed to providing its customers with the highest level of ongoing support and maintenance, it is also committed to ensuring that its definitive and comprehensive digital collections continue to grow through the addition of highly relevant new content and features. The ETC program enables you to be certain that you are providing your users and patrons with the most complete and robust digital edition of every Readex collection available at your institution. Through ETC, new content that brings significant enrichment and up-to-date interface functionalities and features will be added periodically. In this manner, ETC will continuously enrich your Readex collections by providing added value and content for your users and patrons for years to come.

Our first 2010 release included:

ETC (Enhancements, Training and Content): Overview and 2010 Update Number 1

The Case of the Missing American Dedication of the Algonquian Bible

  Citing James Constantine Pilling’s bibliography of Algonquian language publications, the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) catalog entry in the digital edition of Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800 notes the separately printed dedication sheet to Robert Boyle, the famous British scientist, who supported the production of John Eliot’s translation of the Bible into the Algonquian language.

The Case of the Missing American Dedication of the Algonquian Bible

Introducing the Readex Blog!

Caption Goes HereWelcome to our new weblog, where you will find the latest views and news from Readex. Our writers will focus on topics of common interest, including collection development, digital humanities, research and library trends in database use, primary source materials in the classroom, interface usability, cataloging and indexing, and diverse aspects of American and world history, literature, print culture and journalism.

We’ll also provide timely information about all our Readex databases, including new product development plans, interface enhancements, and content updates as newly digitized material is released every month. Most importantly, we hope this open forum will allow those of you who use our collections to share your ideas with us. Your thoughts about everything we do are critical to our mutual success, so please comment on any post as you see fit. Subscribe via RSS so you won’t miss new posts! To do so, click on the RSS icon to the right or paste http://readex.com/blog into your RSS reader. We look forward to meeting you here often!

Introducing the Readex Blog!

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