Tuesday, October 23, 2007

British Library Puts Victorian Newspapers Online

One million pages of text from nineteenth-century newspapers went online last night [22 October] as part of a British Library project to increase public access to important historical resources.

The Newspapers Digitisation Project: British Newspapers 1800-1900, launched in partnership with the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), will enable scholars and others to search the text of 46 regional newspapers from around the UK, dating back to 1800.

The online digital archive offers free access to lecturers and students in higher and further education institutions and to British Library visitors with reader passes, who can access it from the library's reading rooms in London's Kings Cross.

Users are able to search across the different newspaper titles to draw together materials relating to a wide range of research and learning topics. Researchers can discover, for example, how the Whitechapel murders were covered in the Birmingham Daily Post, how the Battle of Trafalgar was captured in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, and how the Belfast News Letter reported the scramble for west Africa.

The website, developed over the past three years by Gale/Cengage Learning, the world's largest publisher of reference databases and digital collections, will allow users to search through material previously available only in hard-copy form or through microform or CD-ROMs in the library's newspaper archive in Colindale, north London.

The journals available online have been chosen by a team of experts and academics, and include regional publications from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and specialist titles covering, for example, Victorian radicalism and Chartism.

Launching the archive last night, Sir Colin Lucas, chairman of the British Library, said: "Traditionally, access to these newspapers has meant you get a newspaper on to a desk and turn each page, which can be laborious and has the risk you may miss something. If you are an old historian like me, that's the great pleasure in it. But nowadays, people need the kind of search engine that will throw up 150,000 references to steam ships."

He added that a major reason for digitising the archive was to find a long-term way of preserving journals.

"Research by UK communities relies on access to the very best publications and information sources for its survival. The creation of this new website . . . has created a vital online research tool providing the very best resources for the UK's higher and further education communities."

The initial one million pages, funded by £1m from the JISC, is the first phase of the library's digital archive project. More pages from the nineteenth-century journals will be added over the coming months. The library also has plans to digitise seventeenth- and eighteenth-century publications, and has secured an additional £1m from JISC to help cover costs.

By the end of 2008, the British Library hopes to digitise 3,000,000 pages of British newspapers and to offer worldwide access to that collection via a sophisticated searching and browsing interface on the web.

(via EducationGuardian.co.uk, 23 October 2007)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Victorian Paper Photography on View

"Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840–1860," which runs through 30 December at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, is the first exhibition to explore the opening decades of paper photography in the country of its birth, focusing exclusively on photographs printed from negatives of fine writing paper.

This early process—replaced almost entirely by glass negatives by 1860—was favored especially by men of learning and leisure who not only accepted but appreciated the medium’s tendency to soften details and mass light and shadow in a self-consciously artistic way. At home, their most frequent subjects—ancient oaks, rocky landscapes, ruined castles and abbeys, gatherings of friends and family—provided an antidote to the ills of modern, industrialized society; abroad, they were drawn to the glories of past civilizations manifest in Roman ruins, medieval churches, or Indian temples. Nearly 120 works by 40 artists have been assembled from 27 private and public collections; most are being exhibited in the United States for the first time.

Above: Robert Henry Cheney (British, 1800–1866); Guyscliffe, 1850s; albumen silver print; 7 x 8 3/4 in. (17.7 x 22.3 cm); Collection Centre Canadien d'Architecture/Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal.

Here are a few of the images included in the exhibition; for more, visit the MMA website. Read the informative New York Times review here.

Above: John Murray (English, 1809–1898); The Taj Mahal from the Banks of the Yamuna River, 1858–62; albumen silver print; 15 3/4 x 17 3/8 in. (39.9 x 44 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joseph M. Cohen Gift, 2005.

Above: John McCosh (Scottish, 1805–1885), Englishman at the Entrance to a Pagoda, 1848–50; salted paper print; 6 1/4 x 5 in. (15.8 x 12.6 cm); Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Above: John Muir Wood (British, 1805–1892); Family Group, Leith, 1847–52; salted paper print; 4 1/2 x 5 1/2 in. (11.3 x 14 cm); Scottish National Photography Collection, National Galleries of Scotland.

Above: Thomas Keith (Scottish, 1827–1895); Cardinal Beaton's House, Edinburgh, 1854–57; salted paper print; 11 x 9 3/4 in. (27.9 x 24.8 cm); Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Glimpses of "Young Victoria"

Hot off the set, here are a few still photos from the upcoming film Young Victoria, produced by Martin Scorcese and starring Emily Blunt as the queen and Rupert Friend as Prince Albert. For more information, read my previous posts of February 11, February 16, February 23, and March 4; you can read a hilarious account of being an extra in the movie at Dan's Media Digest.
Above: Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria.

Julian Fellowes, the screenwriter, says: "Everyone thinks they know [Queen Victoria] but 99 per cent of the public don’t know anything about the story we are telling and will be surprised. People think of a fat widow in black. They’ve forgotten the exciting young woman trying to find her own way. Some girls like to have fun and she was certainly one of them.”

Above: Blunt.

Above: Blunt with Rupert Friend as Prince Albert.

Above: Friend with greyhounds.

Above: Two unidentified actors try to keep the rain off their wigs while waiting to shoot their scenes.

Above: Princess Beatrice has a non-speaking role as a lady-in-waiting; her mother, the Duchess of York, is one of the film's executive producers.

Above: Screenwriter Julian Fellowes chats with the actors.

Above: Fellowes.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

On the Other Hand

From The New York Times, 18 September 2007:

"Scientists look for data anywhere they can find it. Researchers from University College London studying handedness, for example, found data in a group of early 20th-century films of everyday English life.

"More than 800 short films made from 1900 to 1906 by Mitchell & Kenyon, a company in Blackburn, were found in 1994 and preserved by the British Film Institute. The researchers, Chris McManus and Alex Hartigan, wanted to see what the films showed about rates of left-handedness. More than 10 percent of people are left-handed, but studies have shown that the percentage was lower a century ago.

"The researchers found 391 arm-waving examples in the films, 61 involving the left arm. Other studies have shown a correlation between arm waving and handedness.

"In a control sample of 391 modern images of arm waving, 95 involved the left arm. The findings were published in Current Biology.

"The researchers estimated the ages of arm wavers and found that the frequency of left-arm use increased with age. It was higher, for example, among people estimated to have been born in the 1860s than those born in the 1870s.

"The researchers concluded left-handedness declined in Victorian England because of social and school pressures and the rise of industrial tools, among other factors, reaching bottom around the turn of the 20th century."

Shown here: Butterworth & Sons, Glebe Mills, Hollinwood, c. 1901

Related links:
Mitchell & Kenyon Collection at the British Film Institute

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Victorian Lives

I usually confine reviews to the sidebar, but one new book, Great Victorian Lives: An Era in Obituary (Times Books, 2007) -- available via amazon.co.uk -- deserves special mention. It brings together more than 70 obituaries of eminent Victorians from The Times and shows how some of the leading personalities of the nineteenth century were viewed by a newspaper that was itself one of the defining institutions of the age.

The Times recorded notable deaths from its beginning as The Daily Universal Register in 1785 and by the middle of the next century obituaries were established as one of the glories of the paper. There was no attempt at comprehensive coverage, and nothing like the daily obituary page of modern times, but under the 36-year editorship of John Thadeus Delane (1841-77) the paper began to respond to the deaths of significant national and international figures in a style – and on a scale – that none of its rivals could match.

The following excerpts provide a flavour of the full obituaries collected in the book.

William Wordsworth (1850)
"There is so much in the character, as well as in the works of William Wordsworth, to deserve hearty admiration, that we may indulge in the language most grateful to our feelings without overstepping the decent limits of propriety and plain sincerity. We point out, in the first place, one of the great excellencies of the departed worthy. His life was as pure and spotless as his song. It is rendering a great service to humanity when a man exalted by intellectual capacities above his fellow-men holds out to them his own person the example of a blameless life."

John Stuart Mill (1873)
"We need hardly add that many of his opinions on society and government have been generally and justly condemned; and that, in his more appropriate domain of mental and moral philosophy, he was engaged in unceasing feuds. He was, however, the most candid of controversialists, and too amiable to indulge in scorching sarcasm or inflict unnecessary pain. He was often a wrongheaded, but always a kind-hearted man."

Benjamin Disraeli (1881)
"We have remarked that, like a man of spirit and shrewdness, in his writings as in his speeches, Disraeli boldly prided himself on his Jewish descent and the glories of his race. Jews rich in gifts as in gold are the mythical heroes of the Utopias in his fictions. But this most eloquent defence of his people against the prejudices of Christendom is to be found in that chapter of the 'Political Biography' which precedes the explanation of Lord George Bentinck’s conduct with respect to the Jewish disabilities."

Charles Darwin (1882)
"In 1859 was published what may be regarded as the most momentous of all his works, 'The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection.' No one who had not reached manhood at the time can have any idea of the consternation caused by the publication of this work. We need not repeat the anathemas that were hurled at the head of the simple-minded observer, and the prophecies of ruin to religion and morality if Mr. Darwin’s doctrines were accepted. No one, we are sure, would be more surprised than the author himself at the result which followed. But all this has long passed."

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