Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Old Masters

If you're in the mood for reading older translations of classical Nordic literature, the online Open Library project is a useful port of call. Here it's possible to browse scanned facsimile editions of -the collected works of Ibsen in the translations of William Archer and Edmund Gosse (Scribner's, 1907), John Martin Crawford's 1888 translation of the Kalevala, or the plays of August Strindberg in the versions by Edwin Björkman -- to take just three examples from a voluminous store that's accessible free of charge.

The Open Library differs from the by now widely familiar Project Gutenberg in that it offers a listing of every book, not just text files of out-of-print and out-of-copyright titles. Older books, like the one above, are often scanned in their entirety, while those that are still in copyright are simply listed, usually with a photo of the cover, and the bibliographical details. There are at present 22,845,290 titles, 1,064,822 of which are full-text.


Eric Dickens said...

This is an interesting exercise. Do you know any more about Edwin Björkman (1866-1951) who evidently obtained "Mr Strindberg's" permission for his translation of, for instance, "A Dream Play"? The information given here is scant:


David McDuff said...

According to the Inventory of the Edwin Björkman Papers, 1855-1954,

Björkman (1866-1951) was a Swedish-American literary critic, translator, newspaperman, and author, and, from 1925, a resident of North Carolina. Literary, personal, and business correspondence, chiefly from 1907, writings and collected writings, of Edwin A. Björkman. His correspondence is divided into two series: Professional (literary), and Personal. The Professional series includes letters from many significant twentieth century authors, including Zoe Akins, Van Wyck Brooks, James Branch Cabell, Olive Tilford Dargan, John Galsworthy, Francis Grierson, Archibald Henderson, Henry Goddard Leach, William Lyon Phelps, Upton Sinclair, Freeman Tilden, and Allan Eugene Updegraff. Topics include Bjorkman's work as a translator of Swedish literature and drama, his World War I experiences in Sweden as an employee of the British Department of Information and the American Committee on Public Information, and his work in North Carolina as literary editor of the Asheville Times newspaper and, after 1935, as director of the North Carolina Federal Writers' Project. The Personal series consists of correspondence of and writings of Bjorkman's family, including his four wives. The bulk of the papers consists of Bjorkman's writings and collected manuscripts, clippings, photographs, and miscellaneous items.