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Great Books - A reading project that gives back
#1  Kirok 05-15-2020, 08:48 AM
Like many people during the lockdown I was challenged to list ten books that I loved. Pft! That's like asking Giacomo Casanova to list the loves of his life! I listed the books that changed my life and one of the first of them was the Vol.8 of "The Book of Knowledge", the set of encyclopedias that we had at home when I was in primary school. (Wierd, I know)

However it got me thinking about the Great Books of the Western World which I lusted after for years. A night's Googling (that was fun) found this website that showed that most of the books were available from the University of Adelaide (that was good) but following their link I found that their online library has been closed down (that's TERRIBLE!).

Such a travesty cannot be allowed to go unchallenged! That gave me my next reading project. No I'm not going to read them all - I'm retired so I'm not sure I have ten years for a reading plan like that! - but I can at least find them, precis them, and record for others what I have found. I've started a Google Sites website for it but I'll hang fire on making it public for a while if you don't mind.

The good news is that...
Who knows, perhaps I might move on from this to other "Great Books" collections like The Harvard Classics, or widen my eduction by looking for the great books of Eastern civilisation?

I might tap the collected expertise of this forum on some issues that have vexed me.

Cheers

K
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#2  Kirok 05-15-2020, 09:35 AM
I'm having great luck with Archive.org finding downloads of the first edition of the GBOTWW.

I can't say the same for Google Books. I can find a lot of entries for them but unless I'm missing something, none of them are downloadable or even viewable.

I will check Google Books for the ones that Archive.org doesn't seem to have but I suspect there is a copyright issue that they can't surmount.

K
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#3  issybird 05-15-2020, 09:51 AM
Quote Kirok
Like many people during the lockdown I was challenged to list ten books that I loved. Pft! That's like asking Giacomo Casanova to list the loves of his life! I listed the books that changed my life and one of the first of them was the Vol.8 of "The Book of Knowledge", the set of encyclopedias that we had at home when I was in primary school. (Wierd, I know)

However it got me thinking about the Great Books of the Western World which I lusted after for years. A night's Googling (that was fun) found this website that showed that most of the books were available from the University of Adelaide (that was good) but following their link I found that their online library has been closed down (that's TERRIBLE!).

Such a travesty cannot be allowed to go unchallenged! That gave me my next reading project. No I'm not going to read them all - I'm retired so I'm not sure I have ten years for a reading plan like that! - but I can at least find them, precis them, and record for others what I have found. I've started a Google Sites website for it but I'll hang fire on making it public for a while if you don't mind.
Fantastic shoutout to The Book of Knowledge! They were already far out of date when I was a kid but I was entranced by them. I’d do some of the projects, cook some of the recipes, and learned a lot from them. It was one of those things I didn’t question at the time, but I have to assume that our set had been the childhood books of one of my parents. As I type, I can reach out and touch my own edition of the books, purchased decades later when I ran across them in an antiquarian book store. I shall have to see what is particularly beguiling about Volume Eight later today.

Just this morning, I read a piece in the New York Times called “Let Books Create Your Summer.”

Quote
It may be tempting to binge-watch our way thorough these next months. But TV washes over you. Reading draws you in. Books that absorb us, books that calm us down, books that comfort us, books that remind us we are not alone but part of the grand sweep of history, books that surprise and enchant us — this is what we’re looking for. Maybe this literary summer will mean reading a succession of fiendish thrillers; or maybe it will mean finally tackling Trollope. Whatever works. We are making this up as we go along.
Well, I went back to reading Trollope a few years ago now, but otherwise I’m on board and your project seems to be similarly motivated. The “grand sweep of history” seems a double-edged sword, but it may be all we’ve got.

I’ll look forward to your website; I’m just going to make a tiny reminder that when it’s time to link to it, that you post it in the self-promotion forum. Although you can certainly discuss issues with the collection and the individual books here.
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#4  Kirok 05-15-2020, 11:11 AM
Point taken about the 'self promotion forum'. There will be more than a small amount of me in it. I thought about titling it, The Galah's Guide To The Great Books to imortalise myself. (-v-)

K
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#5  Kirok 05-15-2020, 11:19 AM
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Vol. 8 was the Fact Index, this set and the matching dictionary sat in our parlour during my primary school years and I would disappear into there most afternoons and evenings. It was a very 'English' knowledge base but very broad. The subject index style that it used struck a chord with me and made me always look for a way of placing knowledge into context.

K

I wonder what difference there is between this and the modern universal encyclopedia: the internet? Does any family actually own an encyclopedia set now?
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#6  Dr. Drib 05-15-2020, 10:05 PM
I just found - and downloaded - 'Gateway to the Great Books', a 10-volume ebook set in PDF format.

I won't list the link, since I'm not certain if it's copyrighted or not. I did search for some information, but was unable to ascertain the copyright status.

Are you familiar with this?
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#7  Kirok 05-16-2020, 12:36 AM
Quote Dr. Drib
I just found - and downloaded - 'Gateway to the Great Books', a 10-volume ebook set in PDF format.

I won't list the link, since I'm not certain if it's copyrighted or not. I did search for some information, but was unable to ascertain the copyright status.

Are you familiar with this?
Good catch! I saw a reference to it as I was searching but I don't know anything specific about it. I recall that it had an introduction from Adler who pointed out that it was significant exerpts and essays from works rather than whole books as with the GBOTWW. Probably more targeted and accessable than the 54 volume set?

Something I shall be asking myself is, am I downloading all these books so as a collectable, like coin or stamp collecting, or do I actually want to experience something from them? Whilst archiving things for posterity is a viable reason - sources can dry up as we've found with the U. of Adelaide library - it is even more important from a personal perspective that I gain something intellectually from them.

If the 10 volume Gateway to the Great Books (GTTGB) can do the same job with less of an investment of time and resources, perhaps that would be better?

K
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#8  Dr. Drib 05-16-2020, 09:19 AM
Let me quote the first paragraph from the introduction:

"The works in this set are outstanding creations of the human mind, but they are not of the same order as the works included in Great Books of the Western World. They consist of short stories, plays, essays, scientific papers, speeches, or letters; and in some cases they are relatively short selections from much larger works. In contrast, Great Books of the Western World generally contains whole books or extensive collections of books."

This PDF set appears to be professionally made. As I more closely examine it, it may have been produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. [as a legitimate PDF].

Robert M. Hutchins and Mortimer J. Adler are the Editors in Chief. Clifton Fadiman is the Associate Editor.

----------------

Not to derail this thread, but I'm also a big fan of the Harvard Classics and own 3 different ebook sets.
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#9  ekbell 05-18-2020, 11:24 AM
Having looked around I would say that Gateway to the Great Books set is definitely under copyright (first edition 1963), particularly the first volume which appears to be all original material. The original publisher Encyclopaedia Britannica is selling some sort of ebook format for encyclopedic prices. https://edustore.eb.com/products/gateway-to-the-great-books

For those who want to save money here is a site that lists the contents of GTTGB https://www.thegreatideas.org/gbgateway.html which includes the birth and death dates for authors and I'd expect that most of the works should be possible to find at public domain sites.
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#10  Kirok 05-18-2020, 12:09 PM
Quote ekbell
Having looked around I would say that Gateway to the Great Books set is definitely under copyright (first edition 1963)...https://edustore.eb.com/products/gateway-to-the-great-books
Thanks for that, I wasn't at the stage of getting to this series but...

Quote ekbell
For those who want to save money here is a site that lists the contents of GTTGB https://www.thegreatideas.org/gbgateway.html which includes the birth and death dates for authors and I'd expect that most of the works should be possible to find at public domain sites.
...I'll probably link to this site (above) when I do.

My aim is to link to existing reputable sites - <1> The Wayback Machine's 06/08/2019 archive of the University of Adelaide's eBooks@Adelaide <2> Project Gutenberg <3> Librivox <4> Wikisource.

If Encyclopedia Brittanica have an issue with them I'll un-link them but the ones I'm seeing are the 1st edition from 1952 and not their later 1990 edition so not sure why they would.

After creating placeholder pages for all the 1st edition volumes, I'm going to do a quick search for the GBOTWW online which are downloadable (at the moment they only seem to be on the Internet Archive). My aim is to then focus on one book every week and...
- Link to the GBOTWW volumes that can be borrowed online (again on the Internet Archive)
- Link to other downloadable copies of the work (I'm doing Homer right now and I have found 8 different editions/translations of the Iliad so far)
- I am going to merge in free downloadable audiobooks (Librivox have 6 editions of the Iliad)
- Add some links to analysis
- ...and maybe give my own thoughts on the work for what they're worth.

Most of that is just searching, browsing, linking. I'm going to make the effort to get a sense of what the book is and it's significance whilst I'm doing that. It will be a snapshot as of the week I made each page <shrugs> a wiki would be better I suppose so that others could help to create or update it. That could easily be done at a future point in time though.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Cheers

K
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