I recently read J. Scott Miller’s Adaptations of Western Literature in Meiji Japan (New York: Palgrave, 2001) and am full of Thoughts on Meiji writers, literature, zeitgeist, continuity, and adaptation. Let me express some of them here.
I heard a remark the other day that struck a cord – or, churned my butter, a bit.
The gist of it was, “we should make digital facsimiles of our library materials (especially rare materials) and put them online, so they spark library use when people visit to see them in person, after becoming aware of them thanks to the digitized versions.”
Now, at Penn, we have digitized a couple of Japanese collections: Japanese Juvenile Fiction Collection (aka Tatsukawa Bunko series), Japanese Naval Collection (in-process, focused on Renshū Kantai training fleet materials), and a miscellaneous collection of Japanese rare books in general.* These materials have been used both in person (thanks to publicizing them, pre- and post-digitization, on library news sites, blogs, and social media as well as word-of-mouth), and also digitally by researchers who cannot travel to Penn. In fact, a graduate student in Australia used our juvenile fiction collection for part of his dissertation; another student in Wisconsin plans to use facsimiles of our naval materials once they’re complete; and faculty at University of Montana have used our digital facsimile of Meiji-period journal Hōbunkai-sui (or Hōbunkai-shi).
These researchers, due to distance and budget, will likely never be able to visit Penn in person to use the collections. On top of that, some items – like the juvenile fiction and lengthy government documents related to the Imperial Navy – don’t lend themselves to using in a reading room. These aren’t artifacts to look over one page at a time, but research materials that will be read extensively (rather than “intensively,” a distinction we book history folks make). Thus, this is the only use they can make of our materials.
The digitization of Japanese collections at Penn has invited use and a kind of library visit by virtue of being available for researchers worldwide, not just those who are at Penn (who could easily view them in person and don’t “need” a digital facsimile), or who can visit the library to “smell” the books (as the person I paraphrased put it). I think it’s more important to be able to read, research, and use these documents than to smell or witness the material artifact. Of course, there are cases in which one would want to do that, but by and large, our researchers care more about the content and visual aspects of the materials – things that can be captured and conveyed in digital images – rather than touching or handling them.
Isn’t this use, just as visiting the library in person use? Shouldn’t we be tracking visits to our digital collections, downloads, and qualitative stories about their use in research, just as we do a gate count and track circulation? I think so. As we think about the present and future of libraries, and people make comments about their not being needed because libraries are on our smartphones (like libraries of fake news, right?), we must make the argument for providing content both physically and virtually. Who do people think is providing the content for their digital libraries? Physical libraries, of course! Those collections exist in the real world and come from somewhere, with significant investments of money, time, and labor involved – and moreover, it is the skilled and knowledgable labor of professionals that is required.
On top of all of this, I feel it is most important to own up to what we can and cannot “control” online: our collections, by virtue of being able to be released at all, are largely in the public domain. Let’s not put CC licenses on them except for CC-0 (which is explicitly marking materials as public domain), pretending we can control the images when we have no legal right to (but users largely don’t know that). Let’s allow for free remixing and use without citing the digital library/archive it came from, without getting upset about posts on Tumblr. When you release public domain materials on the web (or through other services online), you are giving up your exclusive right to control the circumstances under which people use it – and as a cultural heritage institution, it is your role to perform this service for the world.
But not only should we provide this service, we should take credit for it: take credit for use, visits, and for people getting to do whatever they want with our collections. That is really meaningful and impactful use.
* Many thanks to Michael Williams for his great blog posts about our collections!
What am I working on these days? Well, one thing is working with the Taiyō magazine corpus (1895-1925, selected articles) from NINJAL, released on CD about 10 years ago but currently being prepared for web release. In addition, I should note that Taiyō has been reproduced digitally as a paid resource through JKBooks (on the JapanKnowledge+ platform).
Taiyō was a general-interest magazine spanning Meiji through Taishō periods in Japan, with articles on all topics as well as fiction, and innovative for its time in 1895 with the use of lithography to reproduce pages of photographs. (And let me tell you, they were random at the time: battleships, various nations’ viceroys, stuff like that. I’m not making this up.) Unfortunately, the text-only nature of my project doesn’t reflect the cool printing technology and visual nature of the magazine, but I was wondering, what can I do with just the text of the articles and metadata kindly provided by NINJAL (including genre by NDL classification and style of writing).
Because I’m working on another project (under wraps and in very beginning stages at the moment) involving periodicals in the Japanese empire, I was already thinking about this question. I hit upon something very basic but an important topic: what language did Japanese publications use to talk about Japan at the time? With “Japan” in the early 20th century, we can think of both a nation and an empire, with blurred and constantly shifting boundaries. Over the span of Taiyō‘s publication, Japan annexed both Korea and Taiwan, increased hostilities with China, and battled (and defeated) Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (thus gaining some territories there). There was a lot going on to keep Japan’s borders in flux, and make Japanese question the limits and definition of their “nation.”
Especially because of the discourse in the early 20th century of naichi 内地 (inner lands or “home islands”, referring to the archipelago of Japan we know today) and gaichi 外地 (outer lands or “colonies”, referring to Korea/Taiwan), which are both subsumed under the name of Japan, I’m really interested in how those terms were being used, other terms that might have been used as well, and what qualities and relationships were associated with them. How did Japanese define these areas and how did it change over time? While I can’t get in the minds of people in the imperial period, I can take a look at one of its most popular magazines, intended for a broad audience, to see at least the public, print discourse of the nation and empire.
How to work with it, though? That’s where I’m still just beginning. It’s a daunting project in some ways. For example, I am not a linguist, let alone a Japanese linguist. I haven’t specialized in this period in the past, so keywords for territories will take some research on my part (for example, there were multiple names for Taiwan at the time in addition to the gaichi reference). Moreover, the corpus is 1.2 GB in UTF-8 text (which I converted from sentence-tokenized XML to word-tokenized, non-tagged text). It breaks Voyant Server and Topic Modeling Tool on my machine with 12 GB RAM when attempting to analyze the whole thing at once. Of course, I could split it up, but then that raises another methodological question: how and why to split it up? What divisions should I use: years, genres, authors, etc.? Right now I have it in text files by article, but could combine those articles in any number of ways.
I am also stymied by methodologies for analysis, but my plan at the moment is to start by doing some basic visualizations of the articles, in different groupings, as an exploration of what kind of things people talked about in Taiyō over time. Are they even talking about the nation? When they talk about naichi what kinds of things do they associate with those territories, as opposed to gaichi? Is the distinction changing, and is it even a reliable distinction?
As a Price Lab Fellow this year at Penn, I hope to explore these questions and start to nail down what I want to analyze in more detail over time in Taiyō — and hopefully gain some insight into the language of empire in Japan 1895-1925.
In addition I’ll be presenting about this at a workshop at the University of Chicago in November, so if you’re in the area please attend and help me figure all this out!
In this past year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how the form of the anthologies I study (literary individual author anthologies in Japan at the turn of the 20th century) impacts possibilities of reading and interpretation. I’ve also commented at a couple of conferences that the narratives of who these authors “belong” to have been shaped and guided in these anthologies, and have written that taking works out of their original contexts fundamentally erases a part of their meaning (in terms of the ways readers encounter them) and simultaneously alters the work in terms of its received meaning.
After doing some reading this morning, I realized that one thing links these various threads in anthologies, and it’s a word I wasn’t using: politics.
I want to talk specifically about the example of Higuchi Ichiyō. For much of her career, she wrote for the magazine Bungakukai (among others) which was a driver of the first Romantic movement in Japan. In her anthologies, of course her serial works from that magazine are included as whole pieces, as though they were wholes from the outset, which has its own implications for reading. But the other piece of this is that just as the editors were writing the Bungakukai coterie social and ideological connections out of her career in their prefaces, they simultaneously erased this connection – this fundamental supplier of meaning – from her works by taking them out of their original Romantic context.
The first readers of Ichiyō’s works would have seen them embedded in theory and poetry heavily influenced by western Romanticism, including translations of English works and illustrations of faded ruins and statuary. The readers of her individual anthology, as well as reprints in wider circulation magazines such as Bungei kurabu before her death, would have encountered a very different context: in the magazines, other “modern” mainstream Japanese literature (presented as unaffiliated with any coterie or group other than the influential publishers of the magazines), and in the anthology, Ichiyō’s own works as a cohesive and self-contained whole. No longer would her work be infused, by virtue of proximity, with the politics of literature at the time she wrote in the early-to-mid 1890s. She becomes depoliticized, ironically despite the heavily social and what I would call political themes of her work: that is, the plight of the lower class and the inequity of Japanese society at the turn of the 20th century.
Especially in her second anthology, published in 1912, Ichiyō becomes a timeless woman writer, an elegant author of prose and poetry whose works are infused with tragedy – just as her poverty-stricken life was, to paraphrase the editors of the two volumes. Yet it is not a structural tragedy that pervades society, as it is in her work, but a personal, elegant, and heart-wrenching individual tragedy, one that makes her work even more poignant without necessarily having political implications. I can’t speak to the Romantic movement’s attitude toward this kind of theme found in Bungakukai, not being as familiar with its politics as I should be, but I can say that Kitamura Tōkoku – the founder of Bungakukai – basically started his career with the publication of Soshū no shi, a piece of “new-form” poetry about a prisoner, written at the height of his political involvement in the late 1880s.
So there is an association, simply by virtue of publishing in the same venues, between Ichiyō’s politics and those of Tōkoku, and the literary politics of the Romantic movement vis-à-vis the multitude of other ideologies of writing that existed at the time. Yet in her anthologies, this politics disappears and her context is lost entirely, in favor of a new context of Ichiyō alone, her works as something that stand alone without interference from the outside world. It is a profound depoliticization and something to think about in considering other anthologies as well, both early ones in Japan, current ones, and those found elsewhere in the world.
Waseda bungaku, the literary magazine of Waseda University (Tokyo Senmon Gakkō until 1902), was originally published in the 1880s by famed writer and theater critic (and professor) Tsubouchi Shōyō, and ceased publication in the 1890s. It was started up again by his successors, explicitly in his honor and in that of the original magazine, in 1906, and went until 1927. This, as opposed to the first run (dai ichi-ji) is known now as the second series or run, dai ni-ji. It’s since gone through a number of changes in ji and is on dai-jūji (#10) in its current form – it’s still a running literary magazine today.
I’m particularly interested in this second run of the magazine because of its content, as well as its clear intent to do honor to the original, influential mid-Meiji (1868-1912) periodical. As I’ve touched on in previous posts, it’s highly nostalgic, with articles not only on current novels but on earlier Meiji works, and memories of the writers regarding their literary and social groups from their youths in the 1880s and early 1890s. There were some special Meiji literature issues (特別号) that came out in expanded form and cost significantly more than the typical issue, but even the other issues are full of memories, not just current concerns.
The publisher of the magazine, Tōkyōdō, is also of interest to me, and I’m currently starting to try to look into the relationship of this commercial publisher and the academic interest group behind Waseda bungaku. Surprisingly to me, there is quite a lot published (in a relative sense, and relative to my expectations) on both Waseda University, and also Tōkyōdō itself. (Including great titles like A Stroll Through 100 Years of Tōkyōdō History.) I’m fast checking these books out and they’re becoming a growing mountain on my office bookshelves, with a significant amount of space taken up by four volumes of the 9-volume set 100 Years of Waseda University History.
Why am I so interested in this publishing history? Well, I recently received the 1929 Meiji bungaku kenkyū, which is ostensibly (according to catalog records, anyway) a reprint edition of the special Meiji literature issues of Waseda bungaku. However, when I examined the two-volume set itself, it’s a set of rebound issues – original covers and advertisements and all, bound up in hardcovers. Even the preface refers to new binding (新装) specifically, rather than a new printing or a collection. It’s extremely explicit that it’s a literal collection of old magazine issues.
The fact that Tōkyōdō seems to have rebound its overstock in 1929, two years after the journal ceased, and sold it at relatively low prices (5 yen for the set) is interesting enough, but what is even better is the fact that the advertisements are not from 1925, when the first issues included were originally published, but from 1927. Even more interesting, they’re Meiji-focused, largely for the series Meiji bungaku meicho zenshū, a collection of “famous writers” of Meiji literature (which I’ve posted on previously). These are obviously reprinted issues of the magazine from 1927, two years after their original publication date, and have had current advertisements related to the content of the issues (remember, “special Meiji literature” issues) inserted into them instead of the original 1925 ads for things like books written by the journal editors on Western philosophers. (By “original” I’m referring actually to a reproduction I have of these same issues with 1925 ads, but am not actually sure if these are from “originals” as in first printings, or if these are also later printings that have been reproduced.)
So this indicates that not only are these overstock that Tōkyōdō wanted to try to sell off in a repackaged format (“as a resource for future Meiji scholars” rather than “old issues of a literary magazine from four years ago”), but they were later printings than the 1925 original first printings. This means that there was enough interest in and demand for the Meiji special issues, whether at the time or after the fact, for them to be reissued by a commercial publisher whose goal is to make money off of them. There must have been such demand that the publisher saw profit in it.
This brings me back to previous posts about interest in Meiji, Meiji nostalgia, and Meiji and Meiji literature themselves as “things” to be studied, as fields, newly invented post-Meiji and specifically in the late 1920s. (Even if this isn’t the first appearance of the phrase “Meiji literature,” I’d still argue that as a “thing,” it really came into being at this time in terms of being popular, published, studied, and talked about.) There is obviously a market and demand for things Meiji at this time, testified to by both the reissued magazines and their rebinding, packaging, and marketing to “scholars.” I’m still on the fence about what the interest in Meiji actually meant – was it really scholarly work as these collections advertise themselves, or was it something about grasping onto recently lived past and lost youth? Or perhaps both?
I’m always struck by the nostalgia for the Meiji period (1868-1912) that I find even before the end of Meiji, but especially in what ramps up in the 1910s-late 1920s, in particular with the reprinting of literary coterie Ken’yūsha’s Garakuta bunko (late 1880s) in 1927, the re-publication of Waseda bungaku‘s special Meiji articles and issues in the form of Meiji bungaku kenkyū in 1929, and the publication of Meiji bungaku meicho zenshsū (The Complete Collection of Famous Meiji Literary Writers) from 1926. It’s something about this late-20s flurry of Meiji activity, plus what precedes it in the literary journal Waseda bungaku, that fascinates the part of me that is interested in archives and social memory.*
Why social memory? Well, Waseda bungaku, the literary journal of Waseda University (started by Tsubouchi Shoyo in the 1880s-1890s, then on hiatus until 1906, restarting in that year – late Meiji), contains a huge number of articles written by surviving members of Meiji literary groups about their memories and their friends, long or recently dead, and their reminiscences of the early days of those groups and associated publications. Shimazaki Tōson writes of the founding and early period of literary magazine Bungakkai and its coterie in the early 1890s, Kōda Rohan writes of the death and life of Awashima Kangetsu, and Emi Suiin writes volumes about Ken’yūsha and its early and late history.
In fact, Suiin not only wrote these lengthy articles, he also penned the book Meiji bundanshi – jiko chūshin (A History of the Meiji Literary World – Focused on Myself) in 1927, and another, Ken’yūsha to Kōyō (Ken’yūsha and [Ozaki] Kōyō) in the same year. These are focused entirely on his memories of his life in the Meiji literary world, including big shot Ozaki Kōyō, Ken’yūsha’s founder and one of the most popular and influential writers of the mid-Meiji period (d. 1902). His books, coincidentally – or perhaps not – came out in the very same year as a reproduction of Ken’yūsha’s first literary magazine, Garakuta bunko, reprinted by an individual (Kaneyama Fumio) with the express purpose of providing more material to Meiji literary scholars interested in that coterie’s activities, for whom the archives were dwindling if they existed at all. Likewise, in 1927 an article appeared in Waseda bungaku on Ken’yūsha’s somewhat later Edo murasaki magazine, testifying to renewed (if perhaps not sustained) interest in that coterie’s publications and, importantly, that specific time period of the early Meiji 20s (late 1880s-early 1890s).
Just two years later, in 1929, a publication came out that commemorated the 27th anniversary of Ozaki Kōyō’s death with a special society pamphlet, for lack of a better word (kaishi 会誌). Why it’s the 27th anniversary is anyone’s guess (or, if I’m missing something culturally significant, please fill me in!).
I recently received a fascinating set of books for my library that collects the “Meiji issues” (Meiji bungaku gō) of Waseda bungaku from 1925-1927, and was published in 1929. It appears to be bound volumes of individual, original Waseda bungaku issues, although there is a discrepancy between those and the reproduction of the “originals” that also arrived – the ads are different, and the ones in the “1925” issues all date from 1927 or later. Leaving this fascinating publishing story aside for the time being, let’s take a look at the preface. Just as with the Garakuta bunko reprints, the editor (Honma Hisao) of Waseda bungaku and these volumes claims that there is a dearth of material for those studying “Meiji literature” and in order to help future scholars, it is a mission of “a magazine with a tradition stretching back into the Meiji period” (i.e., Waseda bungaku) to collect its issues in a gappon 合本 and re-release them to the public.
As Michael Williams pointed out to me, this isn’t even primary sources on Meiji literature – it contains Taisho and Showa writing on Meiji. But I think there’s a particular draw, an almost-primary-source quality, because the articles are by and large written by other Meiji big shots (if not the deceased Kōyō himself) such as Rohan and Tōson and Suiin, and they’re about those Meiji memories and Meiji experiences. They’re social memories of Meiji, giving the reader a direct connection to events and literature of the past through the firsthand experiences of the writers.
So is it really about a lack of Meiji sources? Possibly, but unlikely. Meiji literature was being reprinted and recirculated both in single-volume form as well as in zenshū, or “complete” literary collections, of various kinds. I think it’s more a mixture of nostalgia and fear of the experiences and memories of the period disappearing, perhaps along with the fires that accompanied the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, and along with those who were dying, like Awashima Kangetsu had only a few years before. It was a time when the original Ken’yūsha members were old and dying off, when major Meiji figures were disappearing and no longer accessible – and no longer surrounded by others who could also remember the time of their youth.
I have one other tidbit to add to the Meiji nostalgia boom of the late 20s. The series I referenced above, Meiji bungaku meicho zenshū, was published in 12 volumes from 1926-1927 and there are publisher advertising leaflets for it stuffed into the books that make up Meiji bungaku kenkyū (the Meiji re-issues of Waseda bungaku that has been discussed). One is nearly poster-sized. The books that make them up, save for Kōyō’s Irozange and Rohan’s Fūryūbutsu, are largely forgotten now, and it even includes one translation by Morita Shiken. Yet it’s a “scholarly resource” including explications, criticism, photographs, and illustrations – not exactly nostalgic. But I’d argue that it’s the context in which I find those leaflets that makes them intimate parts of the fabric of Meiji social memory: they’re reprints of the very books that the writers of the nostalgic essays would have read in their youths, and supply the means to remember Meiji through direct experience in 1927, 15 years after the end of the period in 1912.
All of this Meiji-related publishing activity, I see as a flurry of nostalgia for and fear of the loss of Meiji memories, of Meiji experiences, and ultimately of the memories of the writers’ and publishers’ very youth itself. These actions bind up inextricably the institutions of archives (personal and official), publication (private and commercial), remembering (individually and socially), and commemorating – creating the very idea of “Meiji” and “Meiji literature,” an idea that can never be severed, at least in the late 1920s, from the memory and social fabric of those Meiji survivors still living.
* Actually, I came to my dissertation research topic – literary anthologies of the recently deceased – through a course entitled “Archives and Institutions of Social Memory.”
The Meiji periodical founded and written by Fukuzawa Yukichi and others, Meiroku zasshi 明六雑誌, has now been put online in full text – or rather, page images. They’re available in both JPG and PDF format. This is a great resource for Meiji researchers, as it’s not exactly easy to get ahold of this 1874-1875 periodical otherwise. And let me tell you, these are high quality color images, highly readable, and you can even get a sense of the texture of the page. It’s a beautiful digitization and a valuable project.
You can access it at the 明六雑誌画像 website.
On March 15, 2013, the National Diet Library made public their new digital archive of historical recordings. In partnership with a number of groups, including NHK, they have digitized and made available recordings from SPs from 1900 to the 1950s, in order to preserve them and prevent their becoming lost.
As time goes on, they plan to hold approximately 50,000 recordings in the archive. Although many recordings can be accessed via the Internet, some are only available to listen at the NDL itself due to copyright restrictions.
You can also access an NDL article on the digitization of recordings, entitled 音の歴史を残す (PDF link).
The archive is the Historical Recordings Collection, accessible at http://rekion.dl.ndl.go.jp/
There has been a bit of a furor over Instagram’s new terms of service, in which I unwittingly took part – well, perhaps half unwittingly. I jumped on the bandwangon of outraged Instragram users and posted directions on how to delete your account and backup your photos on my Twitter, before getting the news (also via Twitter) that they’re backtracking on the offending language of being able to give your photos, profile information, geolocation information, and other metadata to advertisers (‘third parties’) for their use, without compensation, presumably in advertising (‘enhanced advertising’ if you will). I seriously considered deleting my account, despite my abject love of the service. As a semi-professional photographer, it’s been amazing for getting my photos online quickly, taking more shots than I would otherwise, and self-promotion. I’d be very sad to have to leave.
Yet some of the furor has been over people worrying that their kids’ photos would be used without their knowledge or compensation, even if they were private photos. I’d like to take this chance to remind people of publicity rights, the right to not have one’s likeness used to promote products or otherwise, without their permission. This applies to everyone, not just celebrities. So the use of kids’ photos without permission is flat-out illegal and Instagram could be sued for doing so; given this, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that this would ever happen. People worried about kids’ or friends’ or family’s photos have nothing to worry about.
Still, there is some pushback on the part of media companies who want to use your photos as they see fit. (Note also that we all need to be reminded that we still hold our copyrights – what we’re granting is a non-exclusive license, not a copyright transfer, so people need to not be flipping out about this either. You still own your stuff.) Quoted from an article I came across:
Right of publicity laws protect people, both celebrities and everyday citizens, from having their names or photos used for commercial purposes. However, using a person’s name or photo for news reports is not a violation of these laws, according to the Digital Journalist’s Legal Guide , which was produced by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
In fact, Facebook defended its “sponsored stories” as “newsworthy” in the California lawsuit, saying that people’s brand preferences should be considered “news” to their Facebook friends.
The fact that Facebook is arguing that this is “news” is interesting and disturbing. I really hope they lose this lawsuit, because otherwise this would be a massive blow to publicity rights, and thus people’s control over their own likenesses. This is an important right in terms of privacy, one that predates the digital world, and is crucial to people’s sense of self-determination. I am going to be following this story closely, although it turns out that Facebook wants to settle a class-action lawsuit that would give only $10 to each offended individual. That is, in a word, wack.
But for the meantime, worry about services using non-likeness photos, because hopefully Facebook will lose and we will only be left with the serious issue of terms of service dictating non-exclusive licenses of copyrighted material.
What I’d really like to see is a lawsuit involving that, to see if terms of service are actually binding contracts, but I haven’t heard of any court cases of this nature so far. I’d like to hear from my readers who are more knowledgable than I am in this area, and who may have heard of court cases pending that might answer this question for me.
I came across a book a while ago from 1912 entitled What Books to Read and How to Read when searching around in the university library basement. (Incidentally, this is where all of my wonderful finds come from – including the ones that make up the basis of my research!) It’s such a fascinating and still-relevant book that I’d like to introduce it here. (Full citation: David Pryde, LL.D. What Books to Read and How to Read: Being Suggestions for Those Who Would Seek the Broad Highways of Literature. New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1912.)
The book starts off with the anxiety that is surely familiar to us: there is too much information out there, and it’s growing exponentially. It’s overwhelming. The number of books being printed is too much for any one human to deal with and the problem is only getting worse. What to do in the face of this?
Well, this book has an answer. First, how to read books. You don’t want to become a “dungeon of learning,” someone who reads a wide variety but can’t apply any of it to real life. Instead of just ingesting, investigate first. The advice reads like a library seminar on reliable sources and searching for research leads. Learn something about the author first. Read the preface carefully. Take a comprehensive survey of the table of contents – “if the preface is the appetizer, the table of contents is the bill of fare.”
Give your whole attention to whatever you read. “A book is a representation of the best workings of the author’s soul. In order to understand it, we must shut out our own circumstances, cast off our personal identity, and lose ourselves in the writer before us. We must follow him closely through all his lines of thought, understand clearly all his ideas, and enter into all his feelings. Anything less than this is not worthy of the name of reading.”
Be sure to note the most valuable passages as you read. Write out in your own language a summary of the facts you have noted.
Most important? Apply the results of your reading to your every-day duties.
This guide is a paean to close reading and taking books to heart. It’s a guide to knuckling down and processing information in a useful way, rather than simply succumbing to the overwhelming amount of books out there. It’s reading for use, not reading for reading’s sake.
The second half of the book involves a full bibliography of books you should read, and annotations of them. It’s a catalog of useful knowledge that everyone ought to be familiar with.
There is much to be said for going outside a set canon and reading widely, and for not relying on authoritative sources to tell you what to read. But I can’t help but wish there were an updated version of this book – and perhaps the “how to read” does not really need to be updated. Actually, the bibliography probably doesn’t need to be either. But it could be adapted and expanded to meet the specific contents of our information overload now. In any case, I found it remarkable that 100 years ago this year, someone was writing in a very 21st-century way about just the same problems that we wrestle with now, and over which many anxious words have been spilled.
Information. It’s always a problem. The question is what you’ll do about it. Say what you will about the contents of any particular bibliography, but the advice of Mr. Pryde is timeless.