State of MTP: General Update

I took the reins of MTP in early 2014. At that point, plenty of obvious Church classics like the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Talmage’s The House of the Lord, The Lectures on Faith, History of the Church, History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, etc. etc. were not readily available in Kindle format from any free, reputable source, despite having been out-of-copyright for many years.

At this point, that problem has been solved. Obviously the Project Gutenberg catalog is still not comprehensive, but it’s not embarrassing either; the key things are there, along with a healthy sampling from the long tail. Few people are going to read everything on our Available Texts page and still want a lot more where that came from. (If you do, please get in touch–I imagine you are an interesting human being).)

So, where to now?

I do not anticipate adding a lot more books to Project Gutenberg. There are a few works that might be out of copyright due to non-renewal (which is a lot harder to demonstrate than expiry), and I might tackle one or two of them eventually. If and when copyrights expire, for example on more of Widtsoe’s work, that will open up a few more options. But I think we’re past the point where it makes sense for me to try and get tons of people to proofread tons of stuff, all of which I then post-process and put up on PG.

I am still interested in trying to get more people to read the books, and generally using MTP to further the work of the Church. To that end, I may put up some more posts focused on commentary, quotations, etc. I want to actually read some of the stuff that I have only been able to post-process! We’ll see how this goes, and I will be interested in feedback.

Eventually content production may drift to a halt–we shall see–but I do expect to keep the site up more or less indefinitely in its role as a passive index to what is on PG. We do seem to get some level of recurring traffic from search engines, which I assume is driven by that sort of thing.

As the book-mass-production phase closes, I offer my thanks to everyone who made it happen. Dozens of people have each donated many hours of their time to proofreading and other tasks, some anonymously. Research assistants Mariah Averett and Steven Fluckiger did outstanding work, supported by a few generous donors, under the supervision of Dr. Alonzo Gaskill at BYU. Ben Crowder founded MTP and inspired me to follow in his footsteps. My wife offered heroic support.

Thanks, everyone.

Renah Holmes, Most Valuable Proofreader

Stop what you are doing and be inspired by Renah Holmes, who has probably proofread more early church literature than you have read.

Renah has volunteer proofreading credit on nineteen different e-books. (Name the last nineteen early church books you read…) That number is not because she’s been taking the softball projects, either–she’s worked some of the most doorstop-worthy volumes we’ve ever done, including Scrap Book  of Mormon Literature vol. 1 and History of the Church vol 5. She has done literally thousands of pages of proofreading.  And she just knocks it out. She is easily the most prolific proofreader I’ve ever been blessed to work with.

Her productivity, and the fact that I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her in person, almost makes me wonder if she is secretly a whole basement full of people operating under an assumed name. Against that idea, though, her work has been incredibly consistent and high-quality ever since she started in 2014. This comes through in the finished product, as you can appreciate. It also makes my work in the the post-production process super easy (which has also tended to result in more books getting done sooner).

Be like Renah Holmes. You’ve sort of missed your chance to proofread a ton of the most important old church books and help make them freely available (not least because Renah already did, to the point that the low-hanging fruit has been picked). But maybe if you consistently pour hour after hour into volunteer work for years you, too, can make thousands of peoples’ lives a little bit better, even if they will mostly never know who to thank.

Thank you, Renah Holmes.

 

(P.S. Renah, hopefully this isn’t too embarrassing, but I suspected you might be too modest to want it posted if I asked permission, so there you go.)

All 6 volumes of “History of the Church” now free on Project Gutenberg

You can now get all six volumes of the original Joseph Smith/B. H. Roberts History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for Kindle, for free, on Project Gutenberg.

For academics the Joseph Smith Papers, which have superior editorial standards and more comprehensively cover their scope, have rightly gone a long way towards supplanting HotC. Any general reader ought to start with Saints vol. 1, which is just better–it covers the same time period, more readably, in fewer pages, to a higher standard of the historian’s craft. But HotC was the definitive Church history for generations, and now it’s at your fingerprints if you’d like to dive deeper. Have a look: Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6.

Thanks to all those who did the OCR proofreading/transcription for these volumes–I know that was a ton of work. (Anyone who looks carefully at the posting dates will see we got Vol. 1 released on PG in October 2014, and Vol. 6 was in November 2019. An embarrassing proportion of that gap relates to lag in my post-processing backlog, but there really was a whole bunch of proofreading done in there too.)

Free e-books of B. H. Roberts’ “New Witnesses for God”

This three-volume set is now available on Project Gutenberg in its entirety. The “New Witnesses” Roberts discusses are Joseph Smith (volume one, 1895) and the Book of Mormon (volumes two and three, both released 1909). I commented on volume one here and volume two here back when they were released.

Volume three picks up right where two left off, with further consideration of evidence for the Book of Mormon, and then goes over objections to it. Have a look!

New release: 1912 Young Women’s manual on “The Restoration of the Gospel”

As the author Osborne Widtsoe (Elder John A. Widtsoe’s brother) wrote, “The following chapters on the subject of the Restoration are the outcome of an invitation to write, during the winter of 1910-11, a series of lessons for the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association.” The result, now available as a free e-book on Project Gutenberg, was originally published with a preface by then-Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, where he stated:

This book, prepared by Elder Osborne J. P. Widtsoe, dealing with the important subject of the restoration of the everlasting Gospel, should be read and its contents carefully considered by those who are seeking after truth. It treats the restoration clearly, and places before the people many things that have not been generally considered heretofore. It will be a means of strengthening the faith of the youth of Israel and will impart information that is invaluable. May the spirit of truth accompany the work and rest upon all those who diligently read it with a desire to learn of and profit by the restoration of the Gospel!

Thanks to Renah Holmes and Andy Hobbs for their work on this one.

New Release: Parley P. Pratt poetry anthology

Full title is “The Millennium, and Other Poems: To Which is Annexed, A Treatise on the Regeneration and Eternal Duration of Matter,” first published 1839 in NYC. It’s now available as a free e-book on Project Gutenberg. Here’s the original preface:

When these Poems were first written, the Author had no intention of compiling them in one volume: they sprang into existence one after another as occasion called them forth, at times and in places, and under circumstances widely varying. Some came forth upon the bank of the far-famed Niagara, and some were the plaintive strains poured from a full heart in the lonely dungeons of Missouri where the Author was confined upwards of eight months during the late persecution; some were poured from the top of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and others were uttered while wandering over the flowery plains and wide-extended prairies of the west; some were written in crowded halls and thronged cities, and some in the lonely forest; some were the melting strains of joy and admiration in contemplating the approaching dawn of that glorious day which shall crown the earth and its inhabitants with universal peace and rest; and others were produced on the occasion of taking leave of my family, friends, or the great congregation, on a mission to other and distant parts; and some were wrung from a bosom overflowing with grief at the loss of those who were nearest and dearest to my heart, “The Regeneration and Eternal Duration of Matter,” in particular was a production in prison, which was more calculated to comfort and console myself and friends when death stared me in the face, than as an argumentative or philosophical production for the instruction of others. At length, the Author was induced to embody the whole in one volume in the hope that perhaps others might find them a source of instruction, edification, and comfort.

New Release: “Scrap Book of Mormon Literature” vol. 1

Are you pathetically ignorant of early Church pamphlets? Or, getting past pathetic ignorance into more of an ashamed, repentant ignorance, maybe you have thought “Hmmm, based on the importance of pamphlets in early Church history, I wish there was a selection of them that I could read. Ideally it would be chosen by someone early enough in Church history to be close to the pamphlet tradition, but who lived late enough to have a broad selection to choose from. I’d also want the person choosing them to have a boots-on-the-ground perspective on real missionary pamphlet usage and which pamphlets were effective or worth reading. Basically I really wish I could get a mission president in perhaps the early 1900s to select a few dozen pamphlets for me to read, and get them on my Kindle.”

Well, President Ben E. Rich of the Eastern States Mission has got you covered, and the first volume of his Scrap Book of Mormon Literature (first published 1911) is now available on Project Gutenberg. It contains 38 pamphlets by the likes of B. H. Roberts, Orson Pratt, Lorenzo Snow, George Q. Cannon, Orson Hyde, Charles W. Penrose, John Morgan, etc. etc. Volume 2 has been available for a while too (e-book, post on its contents).

Thanks to Renah Holmes for proofreading this one.