Part 10: Concluding Thoughts, part 1
Now on to some concluding thoughts.
… to the electronic publishers
I want to take a moment and say, ‘thank you,’ to the many individuals that are working together to produce electronic versions of the Puritan works. Throughout this study I have met several of you. What you are doing is a wonderful service!
From all of us who think “THml” is a new seminary degree — we don’t know exactly what you do or how you do it, but we are thankful you do it. Keep it up!
One of these techies, Thomas Black at stilltruth.com, sent us links to the works of John Owen and Jonathan Edwards. These files work with Logos/Libronix digital Library and are searchable (a Mac version is yet to be released). The Logos/Libronix system is a great and growing resource for searchable Puritan works and many of these resources (like Owen and Edwards) are free because of the generous work of Black and others.
For more information you can check out our friends at StillTruth. They have a large selection of other free resources, too.
For those who are interested in publishing the Puritans in this form, let me encourage you with a few content suggestions.
The most important Puritan works in print that await OCR conversion, editing and tagging into THml include the works of Thomas Boston, Thomas Manton, John Flavel, Richard Sibbes, Thomas Brooks, and Thomas Goodwin. You will serve the church well if your efforts are directed towards these much-needed authors.
… to the print publishers
To my friends who work diligently to republish the Puritans in print format: There are a number of excellent Puritan resources that I cannot recommend because they are unavailable. About half of the Puritan works I would recommend as ‘excellent’ are not even in print format. The church would greatly benefit from the complete works of Stephen Charnock (beyond Existence), William Ames, William Bates, Anthony Burgess, James Durham, William Perkins and Samuel Rutherford (beyond Letters). Maybe the programmers and publishers could work more closely together in re-typesetting these works and simultaneously release the print and THml versions of the works at the same time? At the very least, these Puritans also need to be converted into searchable text formats.
If Puritan publishers and scholars (who favor printed volumes) and the techies who are converting the Puritans into free electronic files would open up in communication, both sides would benefit greatly. Could the two sides meet in a forum to exchange ideas?
On another note, some of the Puritan complete works sets are now being published in paperback form. Is there a way to continue cutting the cost of production? I would love to have every Puritan published in clothbound covers but maybe some these other works (named above) could be more economically printed. Even printed on-demand, maybe? How can technology help publishers cut costs and print more?
… on Puritan PDFs
I want to make one other note about why I recommend people NOT buy Puritan CD-Roms and DVDs (except in rare cases). Most of these files (like the works of Thomas Manton) are simple picture files of the pages. They are usually not text-recognized or searchable and almost never tagged into THml format. These files are both inferior to printed books and inferior to text files. They are a sort of in-between compromise that are not easy to read nor easy to search. This is why they are fading in importance. Focus now on accumulating the print volumes and, in time, the electronic text files as they become more readily available.
… on the value of e-Puritans
In 2003 the World Wide Web contained 170 terabytes of information. That’s 170 million megabytes or more than 200,000 CD-Roms filled with information. In comparison, the entire Library of Congress print collection is only about 10 terabytes in size. To look at it another way, the complete works of Shakespeare comprise only 5 megabytes. So the entire content of the WWW in 2003 (not including text messaging, emails and P2P file sharing) was the size of the complete works of Shakespeare multiplied 34 million times!
The natural consequence of these vast numbers is the devaluing of information. We now look at words as cheap and common.
The danger here is that we begin looking at the men who most faithfully expounded the Word of God as likewise having words that are cheap and common. They are not.
Many of the words of Bunyan were written in a solitary prison cell separated from his family. The words of Spurgeon were forged in years of faithful prayer and amidst painful debates and trials. Men like Sibbes and Calvin ministered during political upheaval and turmoil. The most powerful preachers in Christian history were purified in the fires of struggle and pain. Their words (unlike dozens of terabytes available on the Internet) are precious gold.
Publishers who release the Puritans in beautiful clothbound covers should continue this practice. And pastors need to continue to support publishers that treat the Puritan works with such respect. Publishers like The Banner of Truth, Tentmaker and Soli Deo Gloria remind us of the value of Puritan words.
As the Internet continues to grow by the terabyte and the electronic texts of great Puritans become more plentiful, we must beware this cheapening of Puritan words. We must always remind ourselves that these words were slowly and carefully sculpted in pain, out of a fear of God, through an intense study of His Word, and from a love of His glory.
(to be continued…)
Next time … Part 11: Concluding Thoughts, part 2