Tuesday, January 10, 2006

India-Oriented Works at Project Gutenberg: Bankim and Beyond

The Project Gutenberg folks are steadily amassing quite a collection of books that have fallen out of copyright. And while it's not quite a fully-functional virtual library yet, many of the materials they have up might be of value to scholars, especially of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Many of the newer books that have been going up are formatted in HTML, which makes them very readable, especially if one is reading online. A few even have scanned illustrations, which is even nicer. I hope this trend continues.

The next step for them, I would think, is tagging. To compile the below, I did title and subject searches (under the advanced search option) for "India," "Bengal," and so on. But it might also be helpful to have contributors pre-group the materials they're adding as they add them. As it is, one has to dig.

I also might appreciate a ratings system, as well as reader feedback (comments).

* * * *
The big news this week, for me at least, is the addition of Miriam S. Knight's translation of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's The Poison Tree. It's a nice, HTML version of Bankim's novel, with some graphical niceties, and embedded chapter links -- much nicer than the standard text file. And Bankim's story about wifely devotion is intriguing -- elements of the supernatural, as well as the rural/urban divide in Bengali life.

There are many other India-oriented texts that have been made available, most of them in the past 5 years. Below is a short list of some that I've come across, with books that look especially interesting or important near the top:

Annie Besant, The Case for India (1917). Besant has been an important figure in some recent scholarship on theosophy (especially Gauri Viswanathan's Outside the Fold). She's also a typically eccentric example of a westerner who made India her home. These are lectures given in 1917, describing the rise of the independence movement; nicely formatted in HTML.

S. Mukherji's Indian Ghost Stories. I read a couple of these stories (first published in English in 1914). While not thrilling, they do seem worth checking out as an example of early Indo-Anglian fiction in the horror genre. The second story involves an atrocity committed during the Indian Mutiny (others might also follow this vein).

Maud Diver, Far To Seek: A Romance of England and India (1920). Judging from a quick look at her prose, Diver clearly has literary aspirations; this is more than a "I went to India, and it was hot, and I had an adventure" type book (i.e., in the vein of O. Douglas below). One of the main characters, Lilamani Sinclair, is a mixed-race Anglo-Indian. Nice HTML edition.

Edward Washburn Hopkins' The Religions of India (1896)

Talbot Mundy, Hira Singh: When India Came to Fight in Flanders (1918). This is apparently a fictional narrative written in the voice of a Sikh soldier in Europe during World War I. Quite unusual, actually. Also see two other India-related novels by Talbot Mundy, King of the Khyber Rifles and The Winds of the World.

O. Douglas Olivia in India (1912). "O. Douglas" was the pen-name of a woman writer, who did a series of "Olivia" novels in the 1900s and 1910s.

George Robert Aberigh-Mackay, Twenty-One Days in India, and Other Stories

Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali, Observations on the Mussulmans of India (1832!). This an account of Indo-Islamic life written by a British woman who married a Lucknavi Muslim, who had spent some years in England (read the interesting preface). This looks like a very detailed and finely written ethnography of Shia Islam as it was practiced in India two hundred years ago.

John Biddulph, The Pirates of Malabar, and An Englishwoman in India Two Hundred Years Ago (1907).

Commissioner Booth-Tucker, "Darkest India" (1891). A Christian reformist essay, modeled after Booth's Darkest England.

Sir Valentine Chirol, Indian Unrest. By the same author, India, Old and New

William Eleroy Curtis, Modern India (1905). A series of short chapters, which were originally pieces published in the Chicago Tribune. Nice HTML edition with scanned photographs of India in 1904 and 1905.

Caroline Augusta Frazer, Atma, A Romance (1891). This novel involves the Sikhs, and begins with an account of the fall of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's empire in the 1840s.

S. B. Banerjea, Tales of Bengal (can't find a date). These short stories look really interesting...

Sarojini Naidu, The Golden Threshold (1896). These "spiritual" poems are heavily influenced by the European symbolist movement, though knowing this doesn't make them any more exciting to read.

Surendranath Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy (1922)

Edward Ellis, The Jungle Fugitive: A Tale of Life and Adventure in India

Edwin Arnold's Translation of the Bhagavad Gita

Sakuntala, Kalidasa

The Loves of Krishna in Indian Painting and Poetry

Akbar, Emperor of India

India's Love Lyrics

John Morrison, New Ideas in India in the Nineteenth Century

Fernao Nunes A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar): A Contribution to the History of India

Lewis Wallace, The Prince of India (and volume 2)

Herbert Strang, In Clive's Command: The Story of the Fight for India

Frederick Sleigh Roberts, Forty-One Years in India: From Subaltern to Commander-In-Chief

Oliver Optic, Across India (1895)

* * * *
Oh, and did I mention their holdings of Rudyard Kipling, Rabindranath Tagore, or Mohandas Gandhi? I thought everyone already knew about those. Not to mention Kisari Mohan Ganguli's translations of the Mahabharata, or Hindu Literature (which includes translated poems by Toru Dutt, selections from the Ramayana, as well as the rare Sanskrit text called Hitopadesa).


Blogger Nitin said...


All I can say is - thank you very much for pointing these links out!


8:13 AM  
Blogger tilotamma said...

Oh that poor Toru Dutt - I remember that poet from A Suitable Boy.

Maitri - on your blogroll - is also very active on Project Gutenberg - I am sure you already know that.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Amardeep said...

I actually hadn't realized it. Then I went to her blog and saw that she's been involved with Gutenberg for 12 years!

I should send her my list of recommendations. (A starting point might be "Anandamath"! And maybe something by Ananda Coomaraswamy...)

I'm trying to find texts written in Indian languages (i.e., other than English) on Gutenberg. But I'm not seeing many... just a couple of odd things in Sanskrit (and those are in Roman script).

But I wonder about the OCR software for Hindi, Tamil, etc. Does it exist? Is it good?

10:49 AM  
Blogger Jane Sunshine said...

Thank you so much for the link.

6:50 AM  
Blogger Vikash Singh said...


4:53 PM  
Anonymous Srikanth said...

The Digital Library of India project has a large collection of books in Indian languages.

Unfortunately, it has scanned images of the pages. Looks like they have not discovered Unicode yet.

PS: Wow, no Word Verification!

4:23 AM  
Anonymous VIP said...

Если бы мне, болельщику с 35-летним стажем, еще недавно сказали, что «Зенит» может обыграть марсельский «Олимпик» на его поле, да еще до начала своего внутреннего чемпионата, я бы вряд ли поверил. Но в минувший четверг отложил валидол в сторону уже на пятой минуте матча.

3:29 AM  
Blogger Fadereu said...

Amardeep, this ROCKS!!

srikanth, that link aynt werking, man.


7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this very helpful....
Also thought you may wat to look at Max Mullers books...
theyre not on gutenberg per se..
but the Umich library has them in downloadable text format.......
and they talk about ancient india.
Good luck!

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Satyajit said...

Great one Amardeep. I am a relative newcomer to your blog, and am getting increasingly addicted to it every passing day. There are so many things to learn from here!

By the way, can you suggest any books which talk about the Indian Railways, it's history and the colourful characters associated with it? I have seen some amazing tracks (e.g. Badarpur-Lumding, 220 kms, 45 tunnels!) made more than a hundred years ago that piqued my curiosity.

A small point though, I think "A Forgotten History" is by Robert Sewell. However, the book does contain translations of accounts by Nuniz and Paes.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Leo said...

Hello Amardeep,

Just wanted to let you know that our publishing firm, CinnamonTeal Print and Publishing, offers all these books in print version, in orders of one copy or more. We offer this service through print-on-demand so each copy can be personalized with a note.

For more details visit http://www.cinnamonteal.in/india.html


Leonard Fernandes

10:46 PM  
Blogger Mampi said...

Thank you Amardeep for this post.
VEry enlightening.
Gutenberg is my favorite to read. ANd I didnt know it had these collections.

11:14 AM  

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