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Bartlett's Quotations updated - Hear and See It Now

By Jo Ann Cahn

aris, 19 July 1997 - Bartlett's Quotations, as one of the drier and harder to search items in a standard reference collection, was a good candidate for multimedia transformation. After all, much of modern - and especially postmodern - culture is indeed quotation of non-text objects, as Thomas Hine points out in his preface to this edition. Max Ernst put a mustache on the Mona Lisa, Terry Gilliam put Botticelli's Venus into his Baron Munchausen movie, pop music snips "samples" of other composers into songs. The Time-Warner CD-ROM version of Justin Kaplan's updated edition of the classic reference book misses the boat, however, mainly because it fails to integrate the multimedia material adequately into the main portion of the work.

The expansion is a new section, a timeline that contains more than 400 "multimedia" quotations, we are told. Some of these, though, do not appear under the author's name unless the medium is also specified. Two film excerpts of JFK are not found under Kennedy unless audio is also requested; Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech is listed under his name alone, without specifying a medium, but the speech the night before his assassination ("up to the mountaintop") appears only when audio is requested. The multimedia "quotation" for Neil Armstrong accompanying the text of "One small step for man, a giant step for mankind" is not the audio version but a still photograph of him stepping on the moon. Is a still photograph of Magic Johnson (with no text) a quotation? What about the famous OJ Simpson freeway chase? The internationally-known Barbie doll is here too, although not if you look under Barbie: it can only be found under "object" if you are curious about the identity of Ruth Handler, who happened to be the designer.

The poor sound quality should be mentioned, as well as the lack of credits to any artists except occasional photographers (and most but not all translators), and the failure to provide audio quotations of pop music: yes John Lennon belongs in Bartlett's text version, but Elvis Presley is quoted not for his words, but for the sound that we do not hear, for legal and financial reasons, according to the preface. Doing this project right, though, required either a bigger permissions budget or waiting until some of the fair-use questions of multimedia are resolved.

This CD-ROM is a little easier to use than the print version, because of its fast search features. The unmodernized 1907 9th edition can also be searched rapidly on the Internet. One of many sites offering this service is http://www.cc.columbia.edu/acis/bartleby/bartlett/

BARTLETT'S FAMILIAR QUOTATIONS EXPANDED MULTIMEDIA EDITION published by Time Warner Electronic Publishing (an arrangement of Warner Books, Inc. and Little, Brown and Company).
Available for Mac and Windows.

E-Mail Jo Ann Cohn



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