Friday, April 16, 2010

Help Corvus help the Kate Sharpley Library

I've got a lot to say, sometime soon, about mutual-aid economies and the power of small, periodic support for small projects, but, for once, let's get the practice out there in front of the theory. Despite my tendency to be into a bit of everything all the time, the heart of my personal project is still to try to make widely available those potentially important radical texts which just aren't going priority for many other people to archive or translate. (There are, of course, some other people, and it is my privilege to call a number of them friends.) I'm pretty good at sifting through the stuff that other people consider "better you than me" material. But one of the problems of focusing on the marginal is that, well, it's marginal, and much less likely than other texts to have been preserved someplace handy. That means acquisition is usually on the open market, rather than in a library, and that can be expensive. The factors that make this stuff hard to acquire for a scholar or publisher apply for radical archives as well, so there is a class of very interesting material that tends to remain pretty hard to access.

The class of text I'm thinking of include things like Dyer Lum's "Utah and its Peoples" — a relatively minor text by a major anarchist figure, made a little expensive for most of it because of its Mormon content — or Eliphalet Kimball's "Thoughts on Natural Principles" — the rare-as-hen's-teeth only published collection by the man who said, in 1861, "Anarchy is a good word; it means 'without a head.'" It seems to me that the ideal way to get this sort of text where the curious can see it is to spread the cost around a bit on the front end, and then make sure we spread the results around by the time we're done. After some discussion with friends on Facebook, I've set up a donation option on the Corvus store, to establish a fund with which to purchase material in this "obscure and at risk of disappearing" category. All the items purchased will end up in the Kate Sharpley Library collection. On the way there, I'll scan or photograph them, so that they can be transcribed. They will be posted free online, like all the Corvus texts, and I'm going to be making an extra effort to see that these texts get wide distribution in the various digital archives. I'll also be sending out hard-copy "Thank You editions" of the texts to contributors, and to a couple of other anarchist collections.

I've already had some generous offers to help get this off the ground, but in many ways I would feel more confident if more people would commit to give five or ten bucks once in awhile when they thought about it, or when the research here seems to be taking an interesting turn. Giving a little bit now and then, and making a point of mentioning the projects involved  to sympathetic friends would be as powerful a strategy in the long run as larger sums from the usual suspects. Potentially, we can do some very good things with very little outlay of money or effort by anyone except yours truly — and I've made that sort of effort my main job, so obviously I don't mind.

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