Wednesday, 29 July 2009

To the Deep Web ... in search of Maxwell Gray

Maxwell Gray, image reproduced by kind permission of the Hathi Trust.

"Deep Web" isn't a term you see much these days, but it's quite a nice description of the vast amount of material online that isn't found by the obvious search engines (primarily Google). One common gripe is the failure of Google Books to provide full view of many texts that are clearly out of copyright, and the snippet view shows the scan exists. This is often a regional issue: in the UK, a naughty person might find accessing Google Books through a proxy server ups the access privilege. But keeping within legal/ethical options, last year Benjamin Zimmer at Language Log enthused: "All hail the Hathi Trust".

This is an initiative by a group of US university libraries, including that of the University of Michigan, where much of the Google Books scanned content was created, to coordinate search and hosting of historical texts. You can do title and author searches through portals such as Mirlyn or Miryln2, or go direct through the Hathi Trust catalog page or its experimental full-text search. There are nice facilities such as the ability of users to create customised collections of works (such as Gothic literature or Beer & Wings). A limitation is that many texts are still search-level only, but the level of full access is considerably higher than Google Books or the Internet Archive.

An example. A while back I wrote about the Isle of Wight novelist Maxwell Gray (Mary Gleed Tuttiett, author of The Silence of Dean Maitland). It's been remarkable difficult to find what she looked like: an artist's impression (left) in Book News, No. 134, vol 12, October 1893, was findable through the Internet Archive, but I wanted a photo. However, Google Books showed the existence of a number of biographical sketches of Gray in The Bookman; a review of books and life. The Bookman is online in the Hathi Trust connection, and I rapidly tracked down this nice photo of Maxwell Gray from The Bookman; a review of books and life. v.3, March 1896 (which heads this post). I cleaned up raster patterns with a FFT plugin, but it's still rather grainy. Enlightening, though: she looks nothing like the pinched, ill individual as drawn in Book News. I've expanded on this in the addenda to The Silence of Dean Maitland post.

- Ray


  1. The Hathi full-text search is excellent. I spent way too much time playing with it last night. (There is a 'Girvan' in a Jack London story and Dr. C has a patent claim and so on through various acquaintances). My only complaint is that it returns too many results. Pages and pages ... (four pages of results on 'boogers').

  2. The Sun-Dog Trail?

    "At Dawson comes the man. Which way he come I do not know. Only do I know he is CHECHA-QUO - what you call tenderfoot. His hands are soft, just like hers. He never do hard work. He is soft all over. At first I think maybe he is her husband. But he is too young. Also, they make two beds at night. He is maybe twenty years old. His eyes blue, his hair yellow, he has a little mustache which is yellow. His name is John Jones. Maybe he is her brother. I do not know. I ask questions no more. Only I think
    his name not John Jones. Other people call him Mr. Girvan. I do not think that is his name. I do not think her name is Miss Girvan, which other people call her. I think nobody know their names.

    It being Scottish / Northern Irish (I'm not: stepfather was), it wouldn't be unlikely in Jack London territory.

  3. four pages of results on 'boogers'

    Yes, well... It seems to have drifted, parallel to the UK "bogey", from monstrous to nasal connotations. Did you see The Bishop and the Boogerman?. Then again, it's ever more complicated than that: see Dictionary of American Regional English.

  4. It is annoying that boogers has "drifted." I've heard bogie- or bogey-man but never booger-man (the Bishop is lovely!).

    Somewhere in there was a transcript of a hearing by the Labor Relations board -- very dry, legal stuff -- involving a fired worker, boogers and a mustache. There was also one "Michael P.J. Boogers" who had quite a few patents with the patent office. Imagine marketing a product invented by boogers.

    [Also, the London/Girvan reference you found is the same that I saw.]