Sunday, November 29, 2009

Adventures in Google Books, Pt 1

Last night I was looking at a lot of different public-domain editions of Velleius Paterculuson Google Books. (Yeah, that's right, I'm a wild man, tearin' it up on Saturday night.) (Velleius Paterculus was an ancient Roman who wrote a history of Rome.) And it was really fascinating. Mostly 19th-century editions, many 18th- and 17th-, the oldest one I've seen so far is from 1590. The 18th-centiry editions tend to have very fanciful etchings on or near the title pages. I wish I could link a couple of them here but I haven't figured out how to link Google Book pages.

And I take back what I said about extremely-long critical apparatus and prefaces and on and on being a recent sign of doom. Some currently-published editions of Latin classics may have a lot of non-text in them compared to your typical one from the early 20th or late 19th century -- that'd been my main point of comparison up until now -- but they've got nothing on some 18th-century editions, in which prefaces follow each other like clowns getting out of a tiny car, more and more of them while you wonder When o when merciful Lord will it stop? followed by the main text which is one-fifth main text on an average page and four-fifths footnotes, followed by huge appendices and incredibly useless commentaries which just. Don't. End.

I was having big fun looking at all these different editions when suddenly Google Books ended my fun: every time I tried to take a look at another book I got an automated message informing me that Google suspected that my computer was sending automated requests.

It seems Google just can't imagine that an actual human being would do anything like that for fun.

And you still can't search for pages, or books, written in Latin on Google. There are over 1,000 hits for a Google Book search for public domain books written by Velleius Paterculus, a relatively obscure author, most of them in Latin, untranslated. You can do a search in Icelandic or freakin Esperanto -- Esperanto?! You know what? I hope not -- but not in Latin.

Anyway, for the moment Google is back to not suspecting me of -- doing what, exactly? Last night it began refusing my requests to search in public-domain material -- so I'm back to looking at different editions of Velleius Paterculus.

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