Gutenberging: History of Lapland

Inspired by this blog post from Jesus College, Oxford, a couple of years ago I started a project on Distributed Proofreaders for A History of Lapland, by John Scheffer, published in 1674. Now it’s finally made its way to Project Gutenberg.

The books starts off in very dry fashion, attempting to disentangle the names of various tribes and regions in different sources, but gets much more interesting once it moves on to the lifestyle of the Laplanders.

During a celebration, for example:

Now they who by reason of the scantiness of room in the hut, cannot be admitted to the feast, such are boies and girles, climb up to the roof of the hut, and from thence let down threds with hooks tied to them, to which they fasten pieces of meat, and the like, so that they also enjoy their share of the banquet.

There’s much space given to the use of drums in divination, and eccentricities such as the use of skis for locomotion:

Another point of emphasis is the importance of the reindeer both for transport and for food, here carrying a swaddled child:

Wedding ceremonies were also remarkable:

the Bride like one strugling against it, and endeavoring the contrary, is dragged along by the man and woman that are to wait upon her, and would seem to admit of her marriage with great unwillingness and reluctancy, and therefore in her countenance makes shew of extraordinary sadness and dejection

Thanks to all those proofreaders who helped with this one, especially for their work in figuring out the long ſ letters!

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Oran 2 (21/30): Fluff

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Oran 2 (20/30): Hero

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Cats of Constantinople

Like many Mediterranean places, Turkey turns out to be quite the cat country. Unlike in some areas, however, they seem to enjoy a good balance between being well looked-after and exercising their freedom.

There are cats in cafes:

Cats in shops:

Cats in hotels:

Cats in the Hagia Sophia:

Cats on lights:

And cats on bikes:

The streets are full of feeding and watering stations, which seem to be maintained by both individuals and businesses. When it’s milk o’clock though, only mum will do:

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Oran 2 (19/30): Shrike

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Oran 2 (18/30): Pigeon feeder

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Oran 2 (17/30): Sardinian Warbler

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Oran 2 (16/30): Raven

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Reading List 10

35 books completed again this term, making a neat 70 for the year.

George Eliot

Adam Bede — George Eliot
The Mill on the Floss — George Eliot
Silas Marner — George Eliot
Romola — George Eliot
Felix Holt, the Radical — George Eliot
Middlemarch — George Eliot
Daniel Deronda — George Eliot

The genius of animal similes: “hardly more in need of salvation than a squirrel”.

And so wise: “he was not unmixedly adorable. He suspected this, however, as he suspected other things, without confessing it, and like the rest of us, felt how soothing it would have been to have a companion who would never find it out.”


A Midsummer Night’s Dream — William Shakespeare

The Shakespeare read-through continues at a stately pace.


Harraga — Boualem Sansal
The Last Summer of Reason — Tahar Djaout
The Fall — Albert Camus

Harraga was great fun. Not great literature, but amusing and perceptive about … local issues.


The Heart of England — Edward Thomas
The World’s Illusion — Jacob Wassermann
In Pursuit of Spring — Edward Thomas

More enjoyable books from Edward Thomas this time, though he does tend to repeat himself. In Pursuit of Spring mentions rookeries 19 times, and tells us of 15 different chiffchaffs. Wassermann was very highly wrought.

Other Literature

The Magic Flute — Alan Spence
Moon Tiger — Penelope Lively
Canal Dreams — Iain Banks
A Death in the Family — Karl Ove Knausgaard
The Sense of an Ending — Julian Barnes
Day — A. L. Kennedy
MaddAddam — Margaret Atwood
The Four Books — Yan Lianke

Knausgaard was brilliant — so good I could almost overlook the comma splices. The Four Books — terrifying and funny, as were (in slightly different ways) The Sense of an Ending and Day. I was very glad to put the MaddAddam trilogy behind me.


The Eyre Affair — Jasper Fforde
Lost in a Good Book — Jasper Fforde
City of Saints and Madmen — Jeff Vandermeer
The Player of Games — Iain M. Banks
The Quiet Woman — Christopher Priest
Gifts — Ursula Le Guin
The Owl Service — Alan Garner
A Tale of Time City — Diana Wynne Jones
The Sandman Volume 2 — Neil Gaiman
Escape Plans — Gwyneth Jones
Anima — M. John Harrison

Christopher Priest and M. John Harrison are both masters of the non sequitur: Priest in his whole plots, and Harrison in his descriptions and dialogue:

She craned her neck to stare at the other passengers — men with the soft brown eyes, dark moustaches and apologetic gazes of drunks….

‘Are those Hungarians?’

‘No’, I said.

I was enjoying it less than Isobel…. I had flown before, in aircraft which did not have such obvious rivets.

‘They’re people who’ve just failed job interviews in Bolton.’


By Hook or by Crook — David Crystal
Essays — Wallace Shawn

Next semester: all of Du Fu (in a recent complete translation by Stephen Owen, bizarrely made available absolutely free here). Generally fewer and bigger books — I’ve started Alan Moore’s spectacular Jerusalem, and I need to read some poems. I might even get round to those Germans.

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Assekrem is a site in the Hoggar mountains near Tamanrasset, where a French priest established a hermitage in the early 20th century.

Near, in this case, means 75km along a dirt track; about three hours each way, though fortunately with some rest and photo stops along the way. It takes a while to reach the really spectacular mountains, but when you do, they’re really quite impressive, with organ pipe formations stretching all the way up the cliffs:

Home for tourists is a “refuge” with very basic beds, but fortunately also very warm blankets:

A couple of hundred metres further up, at about 2800m, is the hermitage, including a church with a view:

Most come for the sunset:

The hardy for the dawn, too:

In between those, you can stargaze away from the city lights, as long as you can withstand the cold:

Pleiades centre-right, with Taurus to the right and Auriga below
Orion and Taurus
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