Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Margaret Fell, Fervent and Lion-Hearted

“As the Quaker movement grew, it owed much to other leaders also: in particular to James Naylor, a man of temperament more ethereal than Fox always understood, and to the fervent and lion-hearted woman whom eventually Fox married, Margaret Fell.”
–Geoffrey Nuttall, in the introduction to The Journal of George Fox, ed. John Nickalls

Margaret Fell was a remarkable woman.  As a co-founder of the Religious Society of Friends, she held Quaker meetings for worship in her home and opened her house to traveling ministers.  She herself traveled widely, supporting Friends in England and petitioning various English governments (at least two kings, plus Cromwell) on behalf of persecuted Quakers.   She wrote (or co-wrote) at least 23 pamphlets and hundreds of letters, supporting, cajoling, nurturing and haranguing her readers, both Quaker and non-Quaker.
Her pamphlet, Women’s Speaking Justified (1666, 2nd edition 1667), was one of the many works she wrote while in prison for holding Quaker meetings at her house and for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance.  It is still being cited today by women seeking the right to fill the roles of ministers and priests in their own denominations.  Women’s Speaking Justified provides scriptural example after scriptural example of women who prophesied and taught, and of men, and Jesus and God, accepting and approving.  Sadly, more than 300 years later, some denominations still fail to recognize prophesy and spiritual instruction as both a male and a female responsibility.
So, imagine my surprise when I searched for Women’s Speaking Justified on both Amazon’s and Barnes and Noble’s websites, and found that it was listed as being out of print.  This piece is far too important, and timely, to be difficult to find.  And so it has become our first ebook project here at Gypsy Bees.
The style of the 1600s can be challenging to read.  They had excellent lungs back then, and so their sentences tend to be long-winded.  More than that, though, is the appearance of the page…. Modern readers tend to be distracted by the busy-ness of the page.  Virtually all nouns are capitalized, quotes are italicized, and proper nouns are both capitalized and italicized.

We have been editing Women’s Speaking Justified with a light touch, because we want Margaret Fell’s voice to remain clearly her own.  We have been updating capitalization, italicization, and citation styles to make her more readable.  We have also chosen to make some minor changes to the punctuation, where we won’t risk changing Fell’s meaning or voice.

And what a voice:  “And was it not prophesied in Joel 2:29 that hand-maids should prophesy?  And are not hand-maids women?  Consider this, ye that are against women’s speaking, how in Acts the Spirit of the Lord was poured forth upon daughters as well as sons.”
Definitely fervent and lion-hearted.  We are very pleased to help make Margaret Fell easier to find.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

So I Bought Myself a Nook

Early this spring, I spent some time considering how I could continue reading and acquiring books, without buying a bigger house and more book shelves.  My bookshelves were full.  With seven avid readers in the household, this tends to happen.  We donate books to the library, and the school occasionally has a book drive… but so many of our books are keepers!  I tried not reading anymore, but that wasn’t particularly satisfactory.  That’s when I began to think about e-readers.  I’d seen them for sale, and been intrigued by them, but it had never dawned on me before that they might have a practical benefit for my life.  Ebooks don’t take up much shelf space.
So I downloaded the free Kindle app for my computer, and tried it out.  I was impressed, and my husband even more so.  He was thrilled to discover that he could carry a whole library around on his laptop. 
And he was even more thrilled when he realized that he never had to worry about damaging, ruining, or losing a book again.  We have filled several dumpsters with books over the years, ruined from various floods.  Books in the Cloud are immune to flooding, even if the device one reads them on is not.
Eventually, I decided that I wanted a dedicated device for reading.  I looked at the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet, because I liked the bonus of portable web access.  The reviews I checked out said they were both quite good, but the Kindle Fire had an edge for movies and music, and the Nook Tablet had an edge for personalization.  I didn’t want to watch movies; I wanted to read books.  And I liked the way the Nook Tablet looked and felt, and the physical controls… so I bought myself a Nook.
I fell in love immediately.  This is reading!  If only I had had one of these when I was in college.  Ebooks are portable.  I can carry thousands of ebooks with me, everywhere I go, in the space of one largeish paperback.  I can make notes on the text, bookmark or highlight passages I like, and I can search any text in the book.  Indexes are obsolete in ebooks, because the entire book is searchable.  It would have saved me hours in school studying and researching assignments.  Literally hours and days.
Because ebooks do not take up shelf space on store shelves, the long tail of book availability is building up beautifully.  Books that have been out of print for years are available, often for free.  Newly published specialty books are as easy to acquire as New York Times bestsellers. Literally millions of titles are available in moments, on every conceivable topic.  To a reader, it’s paradise.
There is, however, a wee bit of trouble in paradise….  many out-of-print, public-domain books have been scanned, but not proofread.  And so it can be frustrating, reading the text.  Lots of typos…. The sort only a computer can make.  I’ve read sentences that were completely indecipherable.  Somewhere between “wicli” and “G4d”, my years as a professional editor came boiling out:  “This is completely unacceptable! Who edited this?!”  And the answer, of course, is: No one.
Editing is a need I can fill.  There are centuries of books by and about Quakers and the Religious Society of Friends that deserve to be available, in a format that is clean of typos and easy to read.  Gypsy Bees Publishing will be scanning and proofreading public domain books of interest about Quakerism.  We believe that we can make that long tail more beautiful.