Download 10,000+ Books in Arabic, All Completely Free, Digitized and Put Online

If you’ve con­sid­ered learn­ing a new lan­guage to open up a new realm of read­ing, you could do much worse than Ara­bic. Though its mas­tery may demand a con­sid­er­able amount of time, it repays the invest­ment as the lan­guage of not just a coun­try but an entire region of the world, and a region with a deep tex­tu­al his­to­ry at that. Any­one inter­est­ed in becom­ing a stu­dent of Ara­bic, casu­al­ly or seri­ous­ly, can get their start at our col­lec­tion of Ara­bic lessons avail­able free online, and when up to speed on read­ing might con­sid­er a vis­it to Ara­bic Col­lec­tions Online (ACO), a dig­i­tal library of Ara­bic-lan­guage texts now boast­ing 10,042 vol­umes across 6,265 sub­jects, all of them also avail­able free online.

With a list of con­tribut­ing part­ners includ­ing insti­tu­tions in both Amer­i­ca (New York Uni­ver­si­ty, Prince­ton, Cor­nell, Colum­bia) and the Mid­dle East (the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty in Cairo, the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty of Beirut and Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates Nation­al Archives) — and, as ArabLit notesa $1.34 mil­lion grant received last August — ACO “aims to dig­i­tize, pre­serve, and pro­vide free open access to a wide vari­ety of Ara­bic lan­guage books in sub­jects such as lit­er­a­ture, phi­los­o­phy, law, reli­gion, and more.”

This mis­sion address­es not just a lack of wide­ly avail­able Ara­bic texts on the web, but the con­di­tion of much of the mate­r­i­al dig­i­tized, as “many old­er Ara­bic books are out-of-print, in frag­ile con­di­tion, and are oth­er­wise rare mate­ri­als that are in dan­ger of being lost.”

Though clear­ly an ever more valu­able resource for stu­dents of Ara­bic, ACO has much more to offer those already acquaint­ed with the joys of the lan­guage. ArabLit specif­i­cal­ly points out two of its fea­tured Egypt­ian titles this month, Taw­fiq al-Hakim’s Return of the Spir­it (عودة الروح), which Eng­lish trans­la­tor William May­nard Hutchins describes as “a glo­ri­ous­ly Roman­tic trib­ute to the sol­i­dar­i­ty of the Egypt­ian peo­ple of all class­es and reli­gions and to their good taste and excel­lent sense of humor,” andCol­ors (ألوان) by Taha Hus­sein, one of the coun­try’s most influ­en­tial intel­lec­tu­als of the 20th cen­tu­ry. But the full scope of Ara­bic-lan­guage lit­er­a­ture, as the already vast hold­ings of Ara­bic Col­lec­tions Online reveals, extends beyond Egypt, and far indeed beyond the past cou­ple of cen­turies. To those about to explore it,bil-taw­fiq.

via Goodread­er

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Ara­bic Lessons

How Ara­bic Trans­la­tors Helped Pre­serve Greek Phi­los­o­phy … and the Clas­si­cal Tra­di­tion

The Only Sur­viv­ing Text Writ­ten in Ara­bic by an Amer­i­can Slave Has Been Dig­i­tized & Put Online: Read the Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Enslaved Islam­ic Schol­ar, Omar Ibn Said (1831)

70,000+ Reli­gious Texts Dig­i­tized by Prince­ton The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary, Let­ting You Immerse Your­self in the Curi­ous Works of Great World Reli­gions

A Map Show­ing How Much Time It Takes to Learn For­eign Lan­guages: From Eas­i­est to Hard­est

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The British Library Digitizes Its Collection of Obscene Books (1658–1940)

Many peo­ple are cheat­ed out of an authen­tic edu­ca­tion in Eng­lish lit­er­a­ture because of a long­stand­ing puri­tan­i­cal approach to its cura­tion. One might spend a life­time read­ing the tra­di­tion­al canon with­out ever, for exam­ple, learn­ing much about the long his­to­ry of pop­u­lar porno­graph­ic British writ­ing, a genre that flour­ished in the 18th and 19th cen­turies as the pop­u­lar­i­ty of the nov­el explod­ed. Every­one knows the Mar­quis de Sade, even if they haven’t read him, not least because he lent his name to psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic the­o­ry. Many of us have read Voltaire’s randy satire, Can­dide. But few know the name John Cle­land, author of Fan­ny Hill, a bawdy British nov­el pub­lished in 1748, over forty years before de Sade’s Jus­tine.

A book that serves up its own wealth of psy­cho­sex­u­al insights, Fan­ny Hill does not dis­ap­point either as porno­graph­ic writ­ing or as enter­tain­ing fic­tion. Cle­land wrote the book while in debtors’ prison, after he “boast­ed to James Boswell, him­self no mean pornog­ra­ph­er… that he could write a sex­u­al­ly excit­ing sto­ry of ‘a woman of plea­sure’ with­out using a sin­gle ‘foul’ word,” writes John Suther­land at The Guardian. Cle­land suc­ceed­ed, in a nar­ra­tive loaded with crude­ly Shake­speare­an puns and euphemisms. The word­play in the title character’s name, an Angli­ciza­tion of mons vener­is (mound of Venus), will be imme­di­ate­ly appar­ent to speak­ers of British Eng­lish.

Upon its pub­li­ca­tion, how­ev­er, Cle­land was pros­e­cut­ed for “cor­rupt­ing the king’s sub­jects,” and the book was “duly buried and went on to become a cen­turies-long under­ground best­seller.” Such was the fate of many an obscene British nov­el. Thou­sands of these became prop­er­ty of the British Library, which “kept its dirt­i­est books locked away from the rest of its col­lec­tions,” notes Brig­it Katz at Smith­son­ian. “All vol­umes deemed to be in need of extra safe­guard­ing so that mem­bers of the pub­lic couldn’t get their hands on the saucy stories—or try to destroy them—were placed in the library’s ‘Pri­vate Case.’” Now, they are being dig­i­tized and made avail­able to Gale sub­scribers.

2,500 vol­umes from the Pri­vate Case col­lec­tion have become part of Gale’s Archives of Sex­u­al­i­ty and Gen­der research library, the first time much of this mate­r­i­al has been avail­able. “Pret­ty much any­thing to do with sex,” says British Library cura­tor Mad­dy Smith, was locked away “until around 1960, when atti­tudes to sex­u­al­i­ty were chang­ing.” Librar­i­ans only began cat­a­logu­ing this mate­r­i­al in the 1970s, but most of it remained obscure and fair­ly inac­ces­si­ble. The col­lec­tion dates to 1658. It includes a series called the Mer­ry­land Books, writ­ten in the 1740s by authors who took pseu­do­nyms like “Roger Pheuquewell” and described “the female anato­my metaphor­i­cal­ly as land ripe for explo­ration.”

It is not over­all a body of work giv­en to sub­tleties. Aside from some excep­tions, like Tele­ny or The Reverse of the Medal, a trag­ic gay romance attrib­uted to Oscar Wilde, these are also large­ly books “writ­ten by men, for men,” about women, Smith points out. “It’s to be expect­ed, but look­ing back, that’s what is shock­ing, how male-dom­i­nat­ed it is, the lack of female agency.” She might have also point­ed out that many women in the mid-18th cen­tu­ry were writ­ing and pub­lish­ing pop­u­lar nov­els, large­ly read by women, with frank com­ing-of-age descrip­tions of sex­u­al edu­ca­tion, seduc­tion, and even rape. And both men and women wrote about homo­sex­u­al­i­ty and gen­der flu­id­i­ty in ways that might sur­prise us.

The response to such books tend­ed to be moral­is­tic correction—as in the best-sell­ing Pamela, or Virtue Reward­ed by Samuel Richard­son—or las­civ­i­ous satire, as in the Mer­ry­land Books, Fan­ny Hill, and Hen­ry Fielding’s Shamela, a par­o­dy that turns Richardson’s chaste hero­ine into a schem­ing pros­ti­tute. These two nov­els were mas­sive­ly pop­u­lar and show the form as we know it devel­op­ing as a lit­er­ary con­ver­sa­tion between men about women’s sup­posed vices or virtues. We should read mid-18th cen­tu­ry porno­graph­ic lit­er­a­ture as an essen­tial part of the for­ma­tion of the British nov­el tra­di­tion.

At the Gale online col­lec­tion of these British Library trea­sures, one can do just that, then reach back a cen­tu­ry ear­li­er and for­ward 200 years to 1940, the last date in the Gale col­lec­tion, which “makes avail­able approx­i­mate­ly one mil­lion pages of con­tent that’s been locked away for many years, avail­able only via restrict­ed access.” (We must note that access is still restrict­ed to Gale sub­scribers). These pages come not only from the British Library but also from The Kin­sey Insti­tute and the New York Acad­e­my of Med­i­cine, who have both sup­plied a share of text­books and schol­ar­ly mono­graphs on sex. The “obscen­i­ty” of this mate­r­i­al lies in the eyes of its keepers—much will seem unre­mark­able today, and some can still seem plen­ty scan­dalous.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Read 14 Great Banned & Cen­sored Nov­els Free Online: For Banned Books Week 2014

A Com­plete Dig­i­ti­za­tion of Eros Mag­a­zine: The Con­tro­ver­sial 1960s Mag­a­zine on the Sex­u­al Rev­o­lu­tion

John Waters Reads Steamy Scene from Lady Chatterley’s Lover for Banned Books Week (NSFW)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Hear Underground 12, the Earliest Known Case of Musicians Recording While Under the Influence of LSD (1966)

Music and LSD: after “Tomor­row Nev­er Knows” and Sgt. Pep­per, we knew what an acid trip should sound like. Oth­er folks need­ed to know more. Some­where in Los Ange­les in 1966 a group of musi­cians were dos­ing and record­ing while trip­ping.

The result­ing recording–credited to “Under­ground 12” and con­sid­ered the ear­li­est known case of musi­cians record­ing while under the influ­ence of LSD–was only avail­able, as the leg­end goes, by mail order–you can see a copy of it here on discogs, a plain red label with only an address: 12457 Ven­tu­ra Blvd. in Stu­dio City, CA. A lit­tle bit of Google snoop­ing revealed this to be an office for Hunt­ing­ton Park First Sav­ings and Loan in 1966, but assum­ing there was anoth­er office there, an issue of Bill­board from that year also men­tions an artist man­ag­er called Bob Reed at the same address. (Bob, we’re on to you!).

There’s noth­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly groovy about this music. There’s no sitars, no fuzz ped­als, no incense, no pep­per­mints. There is, how­ev­er, a lot of echo and delay, a lot of sped up tape (which in parts sounds a bit like Zappa’s “King Kong”), plen­ty of aton­al laugh­ing, and welp, that’s about it for side one.

Side two is a bit bet­ter, with an actu­al piano played at nor­mal speed, and an elec­tric gui­tar solo­ing against it. This sounds a bit prog­gy, about five years ahead of its time. But then the pro­duc­er (Bob Reed, is that you again?) starts speed­ing up the tape again.

Con job or bad trip? Did these musi­cians know what they were in for? Did they real­ly dose, or was stu­dio trick­ery seen as a good enough place­bo? Did the LSD pro­duce some pret­ty ordi­nary stu­dio jam­ming and the LP is a sal­vage job? So many mys­ter­ies, so lit­tle time.

Lyser­gia, a Swedish label that re-releas­es rare grooves such as this has also put out The Psy­che­del­ic Expe­ri­ence: The Ulti­mate Jour­ney Through Late 60s Psy­che­delia, Acid Burns and Drug­gy Grooves by Patrick Lund­borg, a Swedish writer whose sub­ject was LSD, and rere­leased the only album by Madri­gal, a Mor­ris­town, New Jer­sey two­some which has a 13-minute track called “Stoned Freak­out.”

How­ev­er if the above sam­pler thrills you and you would like to own an orig­i­nal copy of this dubi­ous clas­sic by the Under­ground 12, it will set you back $666. The sell­er, obvi­ous­ly, knows what’s up.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

When Aldous Hux­ley, Dying of Can­cer, Left This World Trip­ping on LSD, Expe­ri­enc­ing “the Most Serene, the Most Beau­ti­ful Death” (1963)

Artist Draws 9 Por­traits While on LSD: Inside the 1950s Exper­i­ments to Turn LSD into a “Cre­ativ­i­ty Pill”

Watch The Bicy­cle Trip: An Ani­ma­tion of The World’s First LSD Trip Which Took Place on April 19, 1943

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

The 100 Top Punk Songs of All Time, Curated by Readers of the UK’s Sounds Magazine in 1981

When did punk rock die? Every­one knows it hap­pened some­time in recent his­to­ry, but few peo­ple agree on when. The music still exists, in know­ing quo­ta­tion marks, but its win­ning com­bi­na­tion of unforced abra­sive­ness and cal­cu­lat­ed offen­sive­ness seems to have dis­ap­peared. Maybe pick a year at ran­dom; say, 2010, the year the last great punk song­writer, Jay Reatard, died. It also hap­pens to be the year the last great punk band, OFF!, formed, but they’re a super­group of clas­sic punk musi­cians.

One could push that date back into any decade and make rea­soned argu­ments. One snarling purist even once wrote that punk died in 1977 when the Clash signed to CBS. Maybe he was on to some­thing. The fol­low­ing year, it was post-punk, with John­ny Rot­ten, aka Lydon, releas­ing his post-Sex Pistol’s project Pub­lic Image Limited’s first album, First Issue. Also in 1978, Siouxsie and the Ban­shees released their debut album, a state­ment for the spik­i­ness and melo­dra­ma of post punk if there ever was one.

By 1981, a year some­one might also choose to etch on punk’s tomb­stone, sur­viv­ing mem­bers of post-punk dar­lings Joy Divi­sion had reformed into New Order and released their first album, Move­ment. Declar­ing the death of punk sounds like a bum­mer, but many peo­ple found solace in the arms of new wave syn­th­pop and acid house. Still, 1981 didn’t care about anyone’s punk opin­ions. A slew of now-clas­sic punk and hard­core albums coex­ist­ed with the likes of Gary Numan—Black Flag’s Dam­aged and D.O.A.’s Hard­core ’81, clas­sic albums from Crass, The Adicts, Ado­les­cents, T.S.O.L., and, of course, The Exploited’s Punk’s Not Dead.

The list above (view it in a larg­er for­mat here), the “All-Time Punk Top 100”—voted on in 1981 by read­ers of the “music paper” Sounds—con­tains a hand­ful of songs from Siouxsie and the Ban­shees and Pub­lic Image Lim­it­ed. Some peo­ple might choose to split hairs. The Exploit­ed make many appear­ances, as do the Sex Pis­tols, The Clash, UK Subs, Dis­charge and oth­er British stal­warts. The heavy UK lean is to be expect­ed from read­ers of the short-lived UK music mag, but the fact that there are no Ramones, no Dead Boys, no Stooges, no Blondie, no Black Flag even… can begin to feel down­right insult­ing.

Maybe punk just looked dif­fer­ent on the oth­er side of the pond in 1981. If it looked like the all-time top 100 list, then it sound­ed like the playlist above (stream it on Spo­ti­fy here), which col­lects these 100 best-ofs, or greats, or not so greats, or clear­ly mis­guid­ed choic­es, or what­ev­er. Enjoy it as you furi­ous­ly cor­rect it with your own picks.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Punk Rock in 200 Tracks: An 11-Hour Playlist Takes You From 1965 to 2016

33 Songs That Doc­u­ment the His­to­ry of Fem­i­nist Punk (1975–2015): A Playlist Curat­ed by Pitch­fork

Hear the 50 Best Post-Punk Albums of All Time: A Nos­tal­gia-Induc­ing Playlist Curat­ed by Paste Mag­a­zine

Stream a Playlist of 68 Punk Rock Christ­mas Songs: The Ramones, The Damned, Bad Reli­gion & More

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

All the Rembrandts: The Rijksmuseum Puts All 400 Rembrandts It Owns on Display for the First Time

If you’ve want­ed to see some Rem­brandts, as most every art lover has, you’ve want­ed to go to the Rijksmu­se­um. The jew­el in the crown of the Nether­lands’ most pop­u­lar muse­um must sure­ly be Rem­brandt’s mas­ter­piece The Night Watch, whose lat­est restora­tion will stream live this sum­mer. But Rem­brandt enthu­si­asts plan­ning their first trip to the Rijksmu­se­um only after the com­ple­tion of that restora­tion may want to recon­sid­er, giv­en that between now and June, they can see not just some Rem­brandts, but all the Rem­brandts.

“Rijksmu­se­um marks the 350th anniver­sary of Rembrandt’s death in 2019 with ‘Year of Rem­brandt,’” says the muse­um’s site. “The year-long cel­e­bra­tion opens with All the Rem­brandts, in which the Rijksmu­se­um will present for the first time an exhi­bi­tion of all 22 paint­ings, 60 draw­ings and more than 300 best exam­ples of Rembrandt’s prints in its col­lec­tion.”

And “giv­en the extreme rar­i­ty that many of these del­i­cate draw­ings and prints go on dis­play, All the Rem­brandts offers a once-in-a-life­time oppor­tu­ni­ty to glean an unpar­al­leled per­spec­tive on Rem­brandt the artist, the human, the sto­ry­teller, the inno­va­tor.”

As a project, assem­bling all 400 of its Rem­brandts into a sin­gle coher­ent exhi­bi­tion aligns with the impres­sive ambi­tion the Rijksmu­se­um has shown in oth­er areas, from restora­tion to dig­i­ti­za­tion. Vis­i­tors will expe­ri­ence not just the scope of the work of that Dutch mas­ter among Dutch mas­ters, but the span of his life. The first sec­tion, fea­tur­ing Rem­brandt’s self-por­traits, “presents the mile­stones of his career as a young artist”; the sec­ond “focus­es on Rembrandt’s sur­round­ings and the peo­ple in his life,” fam­i­ly, friends, his wife, and even the vari­ety of char­ac­ters that pop­u­lat­ed the 17th-cen­tu­ry Ams­ter­dam around him; the third and final sec­tion reveals Rem­brandt the sto­ry­teller, as seen in his paint­ings inspired by the Old Tes­ta­ment. But he may nev­er have told a more endur­ing­ly fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ry than he did in The Night Watch, which will nat­u­ral­ly retain its pride of place amid All the Rem­brandts.

“The 11- by 15-foot large paint­ing shows a flur­ry of activ­i­ty,”’s Maris­sa Fes­senden writes of that paint­ing. “In the cen­ter of the scene, a cap­tain gives orders to a lieu­tenant as the two stride for­ward. A mus­ket goes off just behind the lieu­tenan­t’s hat, addi­tion­al fig­ures behind the main ones are vis­i­ble only as limbs or par­tial faces. A boy runs off to the side with a gun­pow­der horn and a dog cow­ers near a drum­mer beat­ing out a rhythm.” That same degree of excite­ment will no doubt be on dis­play among the crowds drawn by All the Rem­brandts itself. If you plan on join­ing them, con­sid­er down­load­ing the Rijksmu­se­um’s audio tour app first. If you can’t make it — or if you must insist on wait­ing to see the ful­ly restored Night Watch — you can still view all the Rijksmu­se­um’s Rem­brandts online.

via Smithsonian/Artnet

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Rijksmu­se­um Dig­i­tizes & Makes Free Online 361,000 Works of Art, Mas­ter­pieces by Rem­brandt Includ­ed!

The Rijksmu­se­um Puts 125,000 Dutch Mas­ter­pieces Online, and Lets You Remix Its Art

What Makes The Night Watch Rembrandt’s Mas­ter­piece

Rembrandt’s Mas­ter­piece, The Night Watch, Will Get Restored and You Can Watch It Hap­pen Live, Online

A Final Wish: Ter­mi­nal­ly Ill Patients Vis­it Rembrandt’s Paint­ings in the Rijksmu­se­um One Last Time

300+ Etch­ings by Rem­brandt Now Free Online, Thanks to the Mor­gan Library & Muse­um

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Alice in Wonderland, Hamlet, and A Christmas Carol Written in Shorthand (Circa 1919)

For hun­dreds of years before the reg­u­lar use of dic­ta­tion machines, word proces­sors, and com­put­ers, many thou­sands of court records, cor­re­spon­dence, jour­nal­ism, and so on cir­cu­lat­ed in trans­la­tion. All of these texts were orig­i­nal­ly in their native lan­guage, but they were tran­scribed in a dif­fer­ent writ­ing sys­tem, then trans­lat­ed back into the stan­dard orthog­ra­phy, by stenog­ra­phers using var­i­ous kinds of short­hand. In Eng­lish, this meant that a mess of irreg­u­lar, pho­net­i­cal­ly non­sen­si­cal spellings turned into a stream­lined, order­ly sym­bol­ic sys­tem, impen­e­tra­ble to any­one who had­n’t stud­ied it thor­ough­ly.

I do not know the rates of accu­ra­cy in short­hand writ­ing or trans­la­tion. Nor do I know how many orig­i­nal short­hand man­u­scripts still exist for comparison’s sake. But for cen­turies, short­hand sys­tems were used to record lec­tures, let­ters, and inter­views, and to write edicts, essays, arti­cles, etc., in Impe­r­i­al Chi­na, ancient Greece and Rome, and mod­ern Europe, North Amer­i­ca, and Japan.

The prac­tice reached a peak in the late nine­teenth and ear­ly 20th cen­turies, when stenog­ra­phy became a growth indus­try. Jack El-Hai at Won­ders and Mar­vels explains.

A cen­tu­ry ago, hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple around the world reg­u­lar­ly used short­hand. Sec­re­taries, stenog­ra­phers, court reporters, jour­nal­ists and oth­ers depend­ed on the elab­o­rate short­hand sys­tems that Isaac Pit­man and John Robert Gregg devel­oped in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, and count­less schools and pub­lish­ers seized the busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ty to train them. Tal­ent­ed prac­ti­tion­ers could write at speeds up to 280 words per minute.

The texts of sys­tems like Pit­man and Gregg’s “grew increas­ing­ly com­plex,” then increas­ing­ly sim­pli­fied dur­ing lat­ter half of the 20th cen­tu­ry. “In 1903, the pub­lish­ers of the Gregg method released the first nov­el entire­ly ren­dered in shorthand—an 87-page edi­tion of Let­ters from a Self-Made Mer­chant to His Son by George Horace Latimer.”

More lit­er­a­ture in short­hand fol­lowed, mark­ing the Gregg sys­tem’s most baroque peri­od. Ten years lat­er saw the pub­li­ca­tion of Wash­ing­ton Irving’s The Leg­end of Sleepy Hol­low, then, in 1918, with Alice in Won­der­land, Ham­let, and A Christ­mas Car­ol, and sto­ries like Guy de Maupassant’s “The Dia­mond Neck­lace,” Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Descent into the Mael­ström.” All of this lit­er­ary short­hand is writ­ten in what is known as “Pre-Anniver­sary” Gregg, which con­tained the largest num­ber of sym­bols and devices. In 1929, a year-late “Anniver­sary Edi­tion” began a peri­od of sim­pli­fi­ca­tion that cul­mi­nat­ed in 1988, a cen­tu­ry after the system’s first pub­li­ca­tion.

The lit­er­a­ture pub­lished in Gregg short­hand joined in a his­to­ry of short­hand “used by (or to pre­serve the work of) every­one from Cicero to Luther to Shake­speare to Pepys,” writes the Pub­lic Domain Review. And yet, the “util­i­tar­i­an func­tion of short­hand sits a lit­tle odd­ly per­haps with lit­er­a­ture, giv­en the nov­el or the poem is a form asso­ci­at­ed with a dif­fer­ent realm: that of leisure.” One should not have to train in a spe­cial­ized phone­mic orthog­ra­phy to read and enjoy Alice in Won­der­land, but, on the off chance that you did so train, there is at least much enjoy­able and edi­fy­ing mate­r­i­al with which to prac­tice, or show off, your skills.

It would, I main­tain, be a fas­ci­nat­ing exer­cise to com­pare trans­la­tions of these well-known works from the short­hand with their orig­i­nals man­u­scripts writ­ten in the pho­net­ic chaos of the Eng­lish we rec­og­nize. Whether or not you have the skill to under­take this exper­i­ment, you can see many of these Gregg’s short­hand edi­tions here and at the Inter­net Archive. Just click on the embeds above to see larg­er images and view and down­load a vari­ety of for­mats.

via The Pub­lic Domain Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Behold Lewis Carroll’s Orig­i­nal Hand­writ­ten & Illus­trat­ed Man­u­script for Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land (1864)

Has the Voyn­ich Man­u­script Final­ly Been Decod­ed?: Researchers Claim That the Mys­te­ri­ous Text Was Writ­ten in Pho­net­ic Old Turk­ish

Learn 48 Lan­guages Online for Free: Span­ish, Chi­nese, Eng­lish & More 

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

A Brief Animated Introduction to Noam Chomsky’s Linguistic Theory, Narrated by The X‑Files’ Gillian Anderson

How is it that chil­dren just enter­ing tod­dler­hood pick up the struc­ture of their respec­tive lan­guages with ease? They are not for­mal­ly taught to use speech; they have lim­it­ed cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties and a “pover­ty of stim­u­lus,” giv­en their high­ly cir­cum­scribed envi­ron­ments. And yet, they learn the func­tion and order of sub­jects, verbs, and objects, and learn to rec­og­nize improp­er usage. Chil­dren might make rou­tine mis­takes, but they under­stand and can be under­stood from a very ear­ly age, and for the most part with­out very much dif­fi­cul­ty. How?

These are the ques­tions that con­front­ed Noam Chom­sky in the ear­ly years of his career in lin­guis­tics. His answers pro­duced a the­o­ry of Uni­ver­sal Gram­mar in the 1960s, and for decades, it has been the reign­ing the­o­ry in the field to beat, ini­ti­at­ing what is often referred to as the “Chom­skyan Era,” a phrase the man him­self dis­likes but which nonethe­less sums up the kinds of issues that have been at stake in lin­guis­tics for over fifty years.

Ques­tions about lan­guage acqui­si­tion have always been the sub­ject of intense philo­soph­i­cal spec­u­la­tion. They were fold­ed into gen­er­al the­o­ries of epis­te­mol­o­gy, like Plato’s the­o­ry of forms or John Locke’s so-called “blank slate” hypoth­e­sis. Vari­a­tions on these posi­tions sur­face in dif­fer­ent forms through­out West­ern intel­lec­tu­al his­to­ry. Descartes picks up Plato’s dual­ism, argu­ing that humans speak and ani­mals don’t because of the exis­tence of an immor­tal “ratio­nal soul.” Behav­ior­ist B.F. Skin­ner sug­gests that oper­ant con­di­tion­ing writes lan­guage onto a total­ly impres­sion­able mind. (“Give me a child,” said Skin­ner, “and I will shape him into any­thing.”)

Chom­sky “gave a twist” to this age-old debate over the exis­tence of innate ideas, as Gillian Ander­son tells us in the ani­mat­ed video above from BBC 4’s His­to­ry of Ideas series. Chomsky’s the­o­ry is biolin­guis­tic: it sit­u­ates lan­guage acqui­si­tion in the struc­tures of the brain. Not being him­self a neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gist, he talks of those the­o­ret­i­cal struc­tures, respon­si­ble for repro­duc­ing accu­rate syn­tax, as a metaphor­i­cal “lan­guage acqui­si­tion device” (LAD), a hard­wired fac­ul­ty that sep­a­rates the human brain from that of a dog or cat.

Chomsky’s the­o­ry has lit­tle to do with the con­tent of lan­guage, but rather with its struc­ture, which he says is uni­ver­sal­ly encod­ed in our neur­al archi­tec­ture. Chil­dren, he writes, “devel­op lan­guage because they’re pre-pro­grammed to do this.” Syn­tax is pri­or to and inde­pen­dent of spe­cif­ic mean­ing, a point he demon­strat­ed with the poet­ic sen­tence “Col­or­less green ideas sleep furi­ous­ly.” Every Eng­lish speak­er can rec­og­nize the sen­tence as gram­mat­i­cal, even very small chil­dren, though it refers to no real objects and would nev­er occur in con­ver­sa­tion.

Con­verse­ly, we rec­og­nize “Furi­ous­ly sleep ideas green col­or­less” as ungram­mat­i­cal, though it means no more nor less than the first sen­tence. The region­al vari­a­tions on word order only under­line his point since, in every case, chil­dren quick­ly under­stand how to use the ver­sion they’re pre­sent­ed with at rough­ly the same devel­op­men­tal age and in the same way. The exis­tence of a the­o­ret­i­cal Lan­guage Acqui­si­tion Device solves the chick­en-egg prob­lem of how chil­dren with no under­stand­ing of and only a very lim­it­ed expo­sure to lan­guage, can learn to speak just by lis­ten­ing to lan­guage.

Chomsky’s the­o­ry was rev­o­lu­tion­ary in large part because it was testable, and researchers at the professor’s long­time employ­er, MIT, recent­ly pub­lished evi­dence of a “lan­guage uni­ver­sal” they dis­cov­ered in a com­par­a­tive study of 37 lan­guages. It’s com­pelling research that just might antic­i­pate the dis­cov­ery of a phys­i­cal Lan­guage Acqui­si­tion Device, or its neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal equiv­a­lent, in every human brain.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Michel Gondry Ani­mate Philoso­pher, Lin­guist & Activist Noam Chom­sky

The Ideas of Noam Chom­sky: An Intro­duc­tion to His The­o­ries on Lan­guage & Knowl­edge (1977)

Noam Chom­sky Defines What It Means to Be a Tru­ly Edu­cat­ed Per­son

5 Ani­ma­tions Intro­duce the Media The­o­ry of Noam Chom­sky, Roland Barthes, Mar­shall McLuhan, Edward Said & Stu­art Hall

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Watch Marc Martel, Who Supplied Vocals for the Award-Winning Queen Film, Sing Just Like Freddie Mercury: “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Are The Champions” & More

Under­stand­ably, giv­en a moviego­ing pub­lic seem­ing­ly starved for real­i­ty, all of the biggest win­ners at this year’s Acad­e­my Awards were based on true events. And near­ly all of them have gen­er­at­ed huge con­tro­ver­sies for the lib­er­ties they took with those true sto­ries. While some of the crit­i­cism can sound cen­so­ri­ous, none of it is about cen­sor­ship, but about the larg­er social ques­tion of how much truth we should sac­ri­fice for the sake of com­merce and enter­tain­ment, two human endeav­ors with which edu­ca­tion can­not com­pete.

One of those big Oscar con­tenders, the Fred­die Mer­cury biopic Bohemi­an Rhap­sody, strays from the facts in ways some have even deemed “harm­ful.” But in one respect, at least—and per­haps the most impor­tant giv­en its subject—it is faith­ful.

The film gets the music right, in part by sync­ing best actor-win­ner Rami Malek’s onstage per­for­mances as Mer­cury with Mercury’s actu­al voice, and some­times with the voice of Marc Mar­tel, “a vocal dop­pel­gänger for the Queen front­man,” as Gavin Edwards writes at The New York Times, with a “promi­nent but invis­i­ble role in Bohemi­an Rhap­sody.”

Audi­ences will not know when it’s Mer­cury or Mar­tel, though the singer has received “fleet­ing ‘addi­tion­al vocals’ billing” in the film. A nondis­clo­sure agree­ment keeps Mar­tel from telling—and he did­n’t know until the film pre­miered which scenes would fea­ture his voice. But the fact that audi­ences will like­ly nev­er tell the dif­fer­ence is remark­able. Even Queen drum­mer Roger Tay­lor told Mar­tel, “When I lis­ten to you sing it’s like Fred­die walked into the room.” This was the moment, the singer says, when he embraced the like­ness, which he hadn’t thought very much of in the past. “It’s dif­fer­ent from what I envi­sioned doing as a young musi­cian.”

Martel’s oth­er gig was as the lead singer of a Chris­t­ian rock band called Down­here (he says noth­ing about how his par­tic­u­lar sect views Mer­cury’s sex­u­al­i­ty). He began per­form­ing Queen cov­ers dur­ing a hia­tus and has since appeared on Amer­i­can Idol, released an album of Queen cov­ers, and is now tour­ing in a trib­ute show, “The Ulti­mate Queen Cel­e­bra­tion.” Mar­tel is not a Mer­cury clone, nor has he ever attempt­ed to be. He can “item­ize the sub­tle dif­fer­ences” between his voice and Freddie’s, Edwards writes:

I’m not British, so I don’t usu­al­ly sing with an accent. I don’t have extra teeth like he did, so my Ss come out nor­mal­ly — his were very pierc­ing. But even if I don’t try to sing like Fred­die Mer­cury, peo­ple still hear him in my voice, no mat­ter what I do. I have this weird unique thing where I can sound like him, so why wouldn’t I?

It has become a high­ly mar­ketable skill that’s “pay­ing the bills right now,” as his man­ag­er put it, though Mar­tel is eager to get back to his own song­writ­ing. But even if he wasn’t cel­e­brat­ed at the Oscars, he’s proud of his con­tri­bu­tion to the film, and to the lives of Queen fans. “It brings peo­ple so much joy and nos­tal­gia,” Mar­tel says, “and fre­quent­ly I see peo­ple tear­ing up in the front row.” Whether or not you are a fan of Bohemi­an Rhap­sody, the movie, you’ll be bowled over by the uncan­ny fideli­ty of Martel’s Mer­cury ren­di­tions (his fea­tures even resem­ble Mer­cury’s when he starts singing). Here, see Mar­tel sing “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody,” at the top, “We Are the Cham­pi­ons,” fur­ther up, and, above, a stun­ning ren­di­tion of “Love of My Life.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Mak­ing of “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody”: Take a Deep Dive Into the Icon­ic Song with Queen’s 2002 Mini Doc­u­men­tary

What Made Fred­die Mer­cury the Great­est Vocal­ist in Rock His­to­ry? The Secrets Revealed in a Short Video Essay

Hear Fred­die Mercury’s Vocals Soar in the Iso­lat­ed Vocal Track for “Some­body to Love”

Hear Fred­die Mer­cury & Queen’s Iso­lat­ed Vocals on Their Endur­ing Clas­sic Song, “We Are The Cham­pi­ons”

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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