Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thoreau-ly Useful

Thoreau-aholics everywhere will be pleased to learn that The Walden Woods Project has just finished scanning all 20 volumes of The Writings of Henry David Thoreau. Walden, The Maine Woods, all the journals, and many other works as published by Houghton Mifflin in 1906 are now available online.

I've already used it. As a nature writer, I often want to know what Thoreau said about a plant, animal, or issue for possible inclusion in an essay or article. Yesterday, I was working on a piece about American ginseng, a woodland herb found in Eastern hardwood forests valued for medical properties by Native Americans and ever since. It sounded like the kind of plant that would attract Thoreau's keen eye, and I was able to quickly search to find what he had to say about it on June 3, 1851. To investigate your own Thoreau-ly fascinating questions, go to your favorite search engine, type in the term or phrase of interest, plus "Thoreau writings1906" (no space between writings and 1906). So cool.

To learn more about The Walden Woods Project's efforts to promote Thoreau's literary and philosophical legacy, visit their website: Walden Woods Project. Other worthy recent projects include opening a self-guided interpretive trail, "Thoreau's Path on Brister's Hill," and offering for sale a unique Steinway concert grand piano featuring maquetry depicting scenes from the Massachusetts woods. Some of the proceeds from the piano's sale will help support conservation of Walden Woods.

The Thoreau volumes join many other classic writings about nature that are free for the asking and occasionally free for the searching on the web. While teaching online mini-classes about Evolution, I found Origin and many other books by and about Darwin among the 20,000 volumes in Project Gutenberg's e-library. If you'd like free access to some classics online, visit Project Gutenberg. Or, you could go to the library . . . .

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