Internet Reviews

Joni R. Roberts; Carol A. Drost


The Chymistry of Isaac Newton. Access: http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/newton/.

Eli Gandour-Rood, University of Puget Sound, egandourrood@pugetsound.edu

Isaac Newton is well known for his contemplation of overripe apples and resultant invaluable contributions to physics, while his lifelong interest in alchemy has been overshadowed. The Chymistry of Isaac Newton is an online resource dedicated to investigating this understudied aspect of a scientific icon.

A team of science historians, librarians, chemists, and digital media specialists at Indiana University-Bloomington, has created the Chymistry project to bring together both primary source material and new secondary research for the first time. This unique collection of digital resources are invaluable to the study of Newton and his devotion to chymistry, the 17th-century term for the discipline of alchemy, which formed the underpinnings of modern chemistry.

The heart of the project is a digitized collection of Newton’s alchemical manuscripts. Each manuscript is descriptively cataloged and presented in two versions: a diplomatic transcription hewing as closely as possible to the original and a normalized transcription, edited to be made more readable. Moreover, every manuscript is also available as a high-resolution scan of the original document, providing users the opportunity to engage with Newton’s handwriting and original drawings. The collection is browsable and full-text searchable.

In addition to the robust manuscript collection, the project provides a glossary of alchemical terms, a guide to the pictograms and symbols used by Newton in his writing, and a free downloadable font, which includes Newton’s unique symbols as well as other alchemical symbols commonly used in the 16th and 17th centuries. One of the more intriguing tools provided is the intimidatingly named Latent Semantic Analysis tool, complete with mystifying instructions (“choose a search type and chunk size in Step 1…”). Fortunately for those not already well versed in digital humanities methods, a comprehensive help guide is available that gives not only detailed documentation for how to use this particular tool, but also offers useful background about semantic analysis as a research method.

Finally, the Chymistry project is also devoted to replicating the experimental techniques and investigations described in Newton’s writing. Particularly appealing is the detailed photo documentation of experiments reproducing Newton’s method for creating mineral acids, such as sulfuric acid (“oyl of vitriol” in Newton’s terms) and nitric acid (“aqua fortis”). This “archeology of early modern chymical techniques,” as the researchers put it, brings Newton’s work to life with an immediacy that will fascinate students.

ChoralWiki. Access: http://www3.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page.

Mary Wise, Central Washington University, mary.wise@cwu.edu

As the name implies, ChoralWiki is a database of references, scores, and recorded music samples of choral works. It began in 1998 as the Choral Public Domain Library, and became ChoralWiki in 2005. All music reproduced is in the public domain and contributors are continually adding information.

According to the website “CPDL currently hosts free scores of at least 23,452 choral and vocal works by at least 2,737 composers.” ChoralWiki is organized into logical areas and is easily searchable from the homepage by a keyword or exact match search. There is a page for tips on using advance search techniques.

Composers with works represented on the site can be found alphabetically, by era, by nationality, by birth year, death year, or by notable anniversaries between 2005 and 2025. Thomaskantors and women composers are searchable, and even composers whose works are not represented in the database are searchable for information and references. The sheet music section is arranged similarly, either alphabetically or by subcategories. There are 25 subcategories, such as children’s music, larger works, musical eras, sacred music, secular music, song cycles, unfinished works, voicing, and many others. In the Multi-Category Search, the user can create a search using several categories: genre/subgenre, voicing, musical era, language, and accompaniment. Users can also limit the search by part of the title or composer’s name and by recent publications.

The main page for the composer or musical work offers a variety of information depending on what is available in the public domain. This information may include sheet music that can be printed, sound files with electronic versions or samples of the music, printed lyrics, translations, publication information, brief biographies of the composers, links to more information, and works lists.

This is a very good resource for vocal music in the public domain. Since all submissions to ChoralWiki are contributed by individual users, the content of the database is dependent on the accuracy of the information provided by the contributors. Although there are a few broken links, ChoralWiki is a worthwhile resource for anyone seeking public domain vocal music.

Media History Digital Library. Access: http://mediahistoryproject.org/.

Ford Schmidt, Willamette University, fschmidt@willamette.edu

An open access initiative led by David Pierce and Eric Hoyt, Media History Digital Library (MHDL) provides access to magazines and journals dealing with media (television, radio, but largely film) history. All materials are in the public domain, and are scanned from print copies on loan from museum collections and private owners.

Materials can be accessed two ways—either through the Collections Gateway, which provides browsing access, or Lantern, which is self-described as a “search and visualization platform.”

The Collections Gateway, accessed from a box on the right side of the page or a “Collections” tab near the top of the main screen, offers nine subject collections, as well as an option for the combined collection. The collections include such subjects as the “Hollywood Studio System Collection (1914–1948),” the “Fan Magazine Collection (1911–1963),” and the “Global Cinema Collection (1904–1957).” Titles offered include well-known titles such as Variety and Photoplay to more obscure titles like FilmIndia. Articles can be read online or downloaded. The periodical collections are divided into two lists. Extensive Runs consists of those titles that hold five or more years of coverage, of which there were 36 listed when checked. Selected Holdings have shorter runs or have missing volumes or issues and number around 150 titles.

Lantern provides in-depth searching to the entire MHDL collection. There is a basic search option as well as an advanced search option. Limiting is available by date, title, collection, format, and language. Lantern also provides several download and viewing options.

Six tabs along the top of the main page provide navigation to other options. In addition to “Collections,” there is “Blog,” “About,” “Press & Awards,” “FAQ,” and a “Sponsorship” tab for those inclined to contribute financially to the enterprise. An email list is available for those interested in updates concerning the site.

The site provides access to between 1.3 and 2 million pages, depending upon whether you read the MHDL page or the Lantern description. There is also some discrepancy as to the dates of coverage. MHDL claims coverage from 1903 to 1995, while Lantern says it indexes material covering 1855 to 1996.

Those discrepancies aside, MHDL is a useful collection for film research or just to browse, and is recommended to film scholars or anyone interested in film history.

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