Gutenberg-e’s Digital Gumption
Second only to movable type, as far as libraries are concerned, is the emancipation of journals from their printed-texts. Gone, or nearly so, are those titles irregularly delivered, with their maddeningly unanticipated supplements, infernal name changes and gargantuan space requirements, in lieu of their let-freedom-ring electronic environments.
Most famously, Aristotle declared that men are by nature political. It’s chancy, of course, to take on the genius of Stagirus, but he did manage to get it wrong once in a very long while (oh, to be so wrong so infrequently!). Chaucer, however, may have had it more accurately (and certainly did so as he anticipated our digital age) when he argued that men by nature ‘love newfangledness’.
The bard, of course, was on to something when he posed this now proverbial line. A rose is a rose no matter what you call it – unless of course it’s a turnip – well, you get my drift. The principle is a sound one, but try to get that across to the men on fifth in Marketing.
If quincentenaries are anything to go by, then 1492 is now commemorated principally for Christopher Columbus’s transatlantic voyage of exploration rather than either the conclusion of Ferdinand’s and Isabella’s eleven year conquest of Islamic Granada – which completed the Reconquista – or the expulsion of Jews from Castile and Aragon.
In the introduction to her long-awaited and extremely interesting study of the popular literature of Victorian interior decoration, Judith Neiswander prepares her readers – and perhaps to a certain extent herself – for their predicted negative reactions to the décor of the late 19th-century middle class home.
The line of modern British Prime Ministers is remarkable for the numerous authors included in its number. Lord Grey wrote a volume on the causes of the French Revolution. Disraeli produced a shelf of novels. Balfour contributed volumes of philosophy. Churchill put his indelible mark on the writing of 20th-century international and British history.
Maxwell-Stuart's The Chemical Choir is a potentially useful book about the history of alchemy from its roots in ancient China and Egypt in the 4th century AD until the 20th century. It has several merits. Firstly, it breaks down a complex subject – the study of nature through experiments with chemicals – into ten easy-to-read chapters.
It has begun to seem clear that the modern British Empire was driven by a remarkable amount of uncertainty. Far from the shameless and confident enterprise some once imagined, the value and proper shape of overseas expansion was – from Hakluyt to Hobson – a matter of constant and consistent debate.
This is an ambitious and weighty study of prisons, prison labour and penology from the early Republican period through the Depression years which McLennan argues has been characterised by ‘a long continuum of episodic instability, conflict, and political crisis’ (p. 2).