September 02, 2008
By Robert B. Townsend
Over the past year I have received a few expressions of interest in the history of the Gutenberg-e project, as it now enters its final phase. Since we believe in making as much of the historical record available as possible, with the permission of our partners in the project we have now posted our reports to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The reports have been slightly edited—removing personal information about the authors and some redundant financial information—but this should provide a record of the various twists and turns the project has taken over its ten year history.
As indicated in my final report (PDF), I think the Gutenberg-e monographs provide a range of models showing what can be done within the available media, and the project taught us a number of lessons about the preconditions for legitimating digital scholarship. Sadly, I think, we could not demonstrate a workable business model, and a number of the authors have been disappointed by the limited number of book reviews they have received. Hopefully, the reports will provide background information for anyone seeking a better understanding of the assumptions that went into the project at the beginning, what we tried, and where we might have gone wrong.
For those interested in learning more about the project, we will be holding a conversation with twelve of the authors and project manager Kate Wittenberg on Friday, January 2, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. in the Riverside Ballroom in the Sheraton New York, during the AHA’s 123rd Annual Meeting (thanks to the generous co-sponsorship of George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media). We hope all those interested in the project will join us for that session.
Also, visit the Columbia University Press’s Gutenberg-e site, which was recently made free to all visitors, to view all of the Gutenberg-e digital works. Some of the most recent titles include: “Pursuit of an ‘Unparalleled Opportunity’: The American YMCA and Prisoner of War Diplomacy among the Central Power Nations during World War I, 1914-1923” by Kenneth Steuer; “Arms and the Woman: Just Warriors and Greek Feminist Identity” by Margaret Poulous; and “From Heads of Household to Heads of State: The Preaccession Households of Mary and Elizabeth Tudor, 1516–1558” by J. L. McIntosh.