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CD-ROM REVIEW John Ruskin. The Works of John Ruskin on CD-ROM. The Library Edition. Edited by E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. $750.00 U.S. John Ruskin reportedly once said diat only books bound in white vellum should touch die hands of a young lady.1 So what would he think of one reading his work on a computer, hands on plastic keys, eyes on glowing pixels, no vellum in sight? Ruskin's reaction aside, I confess some nostalgia for fine paper and real engravings. But nothing beats a CD-ROM for convenient research. Ruskin was arguably the greatest Victorian prose stylist in a period renowned for its extraordinary non-fiction; his purple passages read like poetry. An art, architecture, literary, and social critic, a geologist, mythographer, and educator, Ruskin was hugely influential in his own era and after; he inspired die Pre-Raphaelites, the Arts and Crafts Movement, aspects of die Gothic revival and die British Labour Party. Although he was a dauntingly prolific and wide-ranging writer, most people now know Ruskin only through excerpts of a few very famous works, like "The Nature of Gothic," available in The Norton Anthology of English Literature and in Penguin's collection, which highlights Ruskin's controversial ideas on political economy. Another famous snippet is die much quoted paragraph from "Of Queens' Gardens" tiiat decrees women's appropriate role in Victorian society; ironically, despite die notorious passage's frequent appearance in venues as diverse as best sellers, literary criticism, and dieatrical programs,2 it is usually out of print. The publication of die Complete Works on CDROM saves readers from having to approach Ruskin's complex and highly allusive arguments in abbreviated selections, returns to the public forum die majority of Ruskin's gorgeous writing, and reproduces die original editors' exhaustive annotations and cross-references, available at the flick of a finger. The new CD-ROM is a faithful replication of the great Cook and Wedderburn edition, published from 1903-1912 in thirty-nine enormous 122Victorian Review and beautifully crafted volumes. The editors have long been credited widi producing one of the best, most meticulously edited Complete Works ever.3 Any older, well-established research library already owns a copy, but widi only 2,062 sets of die standard edition printed, die cost of acquisition to new or expanding institutions is difficult, to individuals almost impossible. At $750.00, the CD-ROM offers Cook and Wedderburn's magnificent edition of Ruskin's works at a price affordable to most libraries and some scholars. It provides die important additional benefit of small size: a six-foot bookshelf diat slips into a pocket. Price, convenience, and availability would be reasons enough to recommend diis CD-HOM, especially as a method of disseminating Ruskin's writings to libraries and people unable to get diem before, but as a medium die CD-ROM itself offers very exciting benefits. Aldiough Cook and Wedderburn produced an amazingly thorough index, die advantages of a computer search are undeniable. The CD-ROM finds any existing string of words or characters, obviously an invaluable tool for literary critics. Indeed, die proliferation of library CD-ROMs and etexts may alter die kind of critical study we do. We may see renewed interest in quantitative analysis of images, word choices, and linguistic patterns — tasks which, along widi quotation searches, computers were born to do. To test die efficacy of die CD, I have used it almost exclusively for my newest article on Ruskin and gender.4 Search screens are clear and self-explanatory; searches can be modified to consider partial matches, words near other words, and related words. Ruskin habitually repeated himself from book to book, often widijust slighdy different phrases; die computer precisely locates quotations widiin his vast oeuvre. That it finds die quote widiin die standard edition and not some other format makes die CD even more important to scholars writing for publication, since die CD preserves die original Library Edition's pagination. The CD also permits searches using Cook and Wedderburn's index: just click on die entry, and it appears. Likewise die CD uses die Library Edition's richly informative Table...


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