Yet more treasures at Archive.org

The pace of additions at Google books shows no sign of slowing, and the indexing at Archive.org is becoming an increasingly valuable way to find out what exists. 

This is particularly so for non-US searchers.  The Google book search does not work very well if you are outside the US; it does not return the same list of results, even.  Even if it does work, the results do not distinguish between “no PDF available” and “no PDF available to you, foreigner”.  The Archive.org search works for everyone, even if in some cases the PDF is at Google.

This evening I was looking for editions of Stobaeus, the 5th century Eastern Roman compiler of extracts from ancient authors.  Quite a few of his extracts are witty, and turn up in collections of Greek wit.  I found a four-volume edition by Thomas Gaisford in 1822-4, and parts of one by Meineke in 1855.  I was rather impressed by the list of results.  This set me to doing some searches, just to see what was there.

First I searched for “Moralia in Job”.  This is a massive work by Pope Gregory I, which was translated into English once — only — by the Oxford Movement translators.  It filled six of their capacious Library of the Fathers volumes.  Such vastness was quite beyond my powers.  I was delighted to find that four of the volumes came up.

Then I searched for “Cyril of Alexandria”.  This gave many more results than it ever did before.  In particular the multi-volume edition of his works by Philip Pusey, made in Oxford in the 1870’s, appeared.  So did the English translation of both  volumes of the Commentary on John, also in the Library of the Fathers series. 

The second volume of the latter is a phenomenally rare work, issued in 1884, 30 years after most of the volumes had appeared, a decade after the first volume had been met with catcalls, and four years after E.B.Pusey, the last of the original editors and founder of the series, had died.  Hardly any of the subscribing libraries ever knew about it or bought it.  I myself obtained a photocopy from the generous people at Glasgow University Library many years ago, scanned it and placed it online.  I never thought to see another copy.  Now anyone can see it.

There is much to grumble about in our days — much, indeed, to give any liberal-minded man great alarm.  But it’s worth reminding ourselves of how blessed we are, of how much Google has done for us all.  All this vast wealth, freely given — it’s hard to imagine such a thing.  I had to pay for the copies from GUL — and pay handsomely.  Material that is offline is still regarded as a source of profit by libraries.  But we … we can just download a PDF of so much! 

Let us give thanks to God that educated book-loving people like ourselves live in such fortunate times for people like us!

11 thoughts on “Yet more treasures at Archive.org

  1. I agree that archives.org has revolutionised public access to litrature, and in this sense it has been more helpful than richer competitors such as google books. I am not sure who runs archives.org, but whoever posseses it may the Almighty bless him. I have obtained access to rare books at archives.org I would not have dreamed of having access to in the past (having access to them would have meant the impossibly expensive task of visiting large libraries in majotr capitals and universities across the globe). Now I can get all that free and from my study. Truely, we are blessed.

  2. > The Google book search does not work very well if you are outside the US

    *cough* hidemyass.com *cough*

    I’ve scanned and donated a book to archive.org already, and hope to do more. The main problem with archive.org (and for that matter with Google Books) is the metadata; and archive.org ‘s OCR is worse, so it’s harder to find things by text search. At any rate, as much kudos goes to libraries like U Toronto’s (and U Michigan for Google Books), which have handed their hoard over.

  3. > The Google book search does not work very well if you are outside the US

    *cough* http://tinyurl.com/dgfun *cough*

    I’ve scanned and donated a book to archive.org already, and hope to do more. The main problem with archive.org (and for that matter with Google Books) is the metadata; and archive.org ‘s OCR is worse, so it’s harder to find things by text search. At any rate, as much kudos goes to libraries like U Toronto’s (and U Michigan for Google Books), which have handed their hoard over.

  4. Thanks Nick for the tip. I can access the US version, thanks to working for a multi-national, so I can see the difference.

    The OCR at Archive.org was Finereader 8 the last time I looked. Since Finereader 9 is quite a bit better, I hope they upgrade.

    The (mainly US) libraries that contributed deserve our gratitude. UK libraries mostly refused to.

  5. Can the public use the Freedom of Information Act (2000) to force British libraries to publish their books electronically?

  6. Re: metadata —

    Yes, like the two-volume work in English and Irish/Gaelic which was given totally different titles and authors, and which converted accent marks in the metadata into different random meaningless strings of characters.

    It can actually be worthwhile to browse the raw catalog data for a whole library’s texts on archive.org in order, and just see what comes up. It’s sick and wrong, but it does produce results. (That’s the only way I found Volume 2 of the above, and that was the one in English.) Plus, if you’ve got time on your hands, it’s entertaining.

  7. I don’t know why the Scottish National Library’s Gaelic section has so many books in English on non-Scottish subjects, either.

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