Danny Wool on Wikisource

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By Danny Wool, November 2006

I thought it would be a good idea to share some news about another project, the English Wikisource, which has been doing some remarkable work in the past few months, thanks to a small group of dedicated editors and contributors.

First for some background: Wikisource is much more than a library of old and PD texts. It can, and should, operate in tandem with the other projects, by providing the background to the information we offer. For instance, take a look at our English Wikipedia article on the Book of Omni, one of the books of the LDS scriptures: Book of Omni. By clicking on any of the verses mentioned in the citations, you will be taken directly to the actual verses in Wikisource, set in the context of the entire chapter. One of our goals is to make this possible for a wide range of texts, including the Qur'an, the Vedas, and, of course, the Bible, as well as classical Greek and Latin texts, which have a standardized verse numbering system. One of our contributors, Robth1, is already working on a version of Xenophon's Hellenica which will be integrated as source material into the relevant Wikipedia articles, where chapter and verse will link to chapter and verse.

Wikisource, however, is not just for old sources that already exist. We are also doing some fascinating translation work, some of it never before seen. One contributor, Dmitri Smirnov, is hard at work creating stunning translations of some of the major Russian poets, including Baratynsky, Mandelstam, and Pushkin. Here is just one example: More tender than tender.
BirgitteSB managed to find a document in French, describing the establishment of colonies along the Mississippi. It has already been transcribed and posted to French Wikisource, and a new English translation is on the way. You can see it here: An account of the founding of St.Louis.

In breaking news, we are about to collaborate with the Italian Wikisource to transcribe and translate a series of manuscript letters by Michelangelo and Galileo, found by Sherurcij. These letters appear nowhere on the Internet, and will be a great addition to our collection. We are also examining ways to handle multiple versions and translations of texts. This month, our featured text is Donne's Elegie II, a poem for which we have two editions (1663 and 1896). You can read the editions individually, or find a comparison here: Elegy II Comparative text .
The Bible offers a particularly challenging problem, when it comes to multiple translations. To see one way that we are handling it, check Bible/Obadiah/1/1) for the first verse of the Book of Obadiah.

Journals are a great addition to Wikisource, and can provide some great references for articles in other projects. For instance, in 1917, National Geographic published an article about the Russian Revolution and its impact on America. You can find the article, along with the images here: The Russian Situation and Its Significance to America . That same year, NG published a series of sketches on warblers, complete with paintings by famed Swiss-American naturalist Louis Agassiz. You can find an example here: Friends of Our Forests/Magnolia Warbler, complete with links to the English Wikipedia (click on the link above the painting) and Wikispecies (click on the Latin name).

Finally, a word about other encyclopedias – we have them too, and many different ones to keep us busy. Laverock is hard at work adding the original letter B articles from the 1911 edition of Britannica, but we also have specialized encyclopedias of Catholicism, the Bible, and more. Shanel, BookofJude, Shimgray and others have been adding to The New Student's Reference Work, a 1914 edition of an encyclopedia for young people: Here is an article about Australia: The New Student's Reference Work/Australia.

Some of our texts appear nowhere else on the Internet. These include poems by Francis Ledwidge Author:Francis Ledwidge and the Historical Library of Diodorus Siculus, is being developed by Zhaladshar. Soon to come are the diaries of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Also, keep an eye out for our new French Literature portal, which was developed by our friends in French Wikisource. You will probably notice the specialized headers on each of these pages, which were created by Pathoschild. They help to create a uniformity among all the texts, and make it easier to skip from one chapter to the next.

This is just some of the news from the English Wikisource. I hope people will drop by and suggest ways that can help their pet projects by providing a reliable system of internal sources. With all these projects underway, we are also looking for volunteers to help transcribe, translate, scan, proof, link, and add their favorite texts. All of the projects mentioned above are "in progress," and we need all the help we can get. For more information, drop by the #wikisource channel on IRC.