Great Twitter thread on Aaron Burr, from the Internet Archive

Funny what you find in books. When digitizing an 1807 book about the trial of Aaron Burr, we discovered this promissory note for a large sum of money, signed by Burr, the former Vice President & man who famously shot Alexander Hamilton. Funny what you find in books. When digitizing an 1807 book about the trial of Aaron Burr, we discovered this promissory note for a large sum of money,…

Bottled Authors: the predigital dream of the audiobook

There was no way to preserve sounds before the nineteenth century. Speeches, songs, and soliloquies all vanished moments after leaving the lips. That situation changed in 1877, when Thomas Edison began working on a machine that could mechanically reproduce the human voice. Edison’s team successfully assembled a device on which Edison recorded “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” a nursery rhyme that would become the first words ever spoken by the phonograph.2 Depending on how you define the term, Edison’s inaugural recording of verse might be considered the world’s first audiobook.. –Matthew Rubery, Cabinet Magazine

Sperm whales in 19th century shared ship attack information

From whaling and sealing stations to missionary bases, western culture was imported to an ocean that had remained largely untouched. As Herman Melville, himself a whaler in the Pacific in 1841, would write in Moby-Dick (1851): “The moot point is, whether Leviathan can long endure so wide a chase, and so remorseless a havoc.” Sperm whales are highly socialised animals, able to communicate over great distances. They associate in clans defined by the…

Behold this stack of August Wilson library books

Yay, libraries. I’m delighted that my college library has a full set of August Wilson’s plays. I’ve had them all checked out for a couple months, but I’m finished with them for now. During the Christmas break I taught a special topics course on Wilson’s Century Cycle. I thought it was too much to expect students to read all 10 plays during an intensive course that lasts for just 3…

Dr. Seuss Racism Controversy: A Dr. Seuss Expert Unpacks the Author’s History With Racism, Sexism

Nobody is banning, cancelling or censoring Dr. Seuss. Here’s some great context on why the Seuss estate is voluntarily retiring six titles that contain offensive racial stereotypes. One of the themes across Seuss’ work is the use of exotic, national, racial, and ethnic others as sources of humor. I don’t think he meant that with malice, but to use someone’s nationality or race as a punchline doesn’t land well, especially…

No, Dr. Seuss is not being “banned” or “censored” — but Dr. Seuss Enterprises is voluntarily retiring six books that contain racist stereotypes

It’s nothing new that Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel used racist stereotypes, particularly in his wartime political cartoons. I’m seeing social media chatter from people who a few days ago were up in arms about the gender of a potato (which was overblown, manufactured hype) and who are now leaping to the defense of Dr. Seuss, who is (according to the memes) being “banned” or “cancelled.” In fact, it was the…