Cauli Le Chat

Cauli Le Chat
Cauli Le Chat, MPL Roving Reporter

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Britannica, the Pride of the Cyber-Ocean

An 1856 broadside advertisement providing the lyrics to a popular British song, "Britannia, the Pride of the Ocean," reminded its patriotic listeners that Great Britain ruled the waves. The tune was also used in the American song, "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean" (1843), with the Yankee lyrics written by Thomas รก Becket for actor David T. Shaw, who wished to sing a (then) contemporary patriotic song at a public celebration.  (Shaw published the song under his own name, but Becket composed it.)  Brits maintained that Becket plagiarized "Britannia" to compose "Columbia," and this has become a "chicken-or-egg which-came-first" historical controversy.  The music to "Britannia" was composed by Thomas Williams, taking as lyrics an 1842 poem by Irish-born journalist Stephen Joseph Meany.  The National Library of Australia has various sheet music for the piece that dates between 1855 and 1864, but  the song may have been composed as early as 1842.

For our purposes, "Britannia" ruling the ocean serves as a metaphor for a new online database that my Library has recently acquired.  It is (wait for it . . .) Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, and you should rush to our website to try it out, if you have an Evergreen Indiana library card issued from Mooresville Public Library.

Britannica Public Library Edition offers several encyclopedic features, with search and browse capabilities one expects from an online interface. Britannica has an extensive video and image repository (especially in Britannica Image Quest), from which you may visually learn more about historical and contemporary persons, places, and events.    There are timelines, geographical information (world atlas, country data, and country comparatives), as well as famous quotations, classic literature, and bibliographical references to primary sources and e-books.  Besides the encyclopedia, you may access the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary & Thesaurus, as well as look up words in an online Spanish-English dictionary.

This is a wonderful research tool for students in grades 7-12, while younger students (grades 4-6) may find it useful with adult assistance. Grown-ups, too, should find it packed with a magnificent array of facts about history and the world around us.  It will remind many adults (especially the forty-somethings and older) of their school days in which they visited their libraries to wrestle with gleaming multi-volume bound sets of paper encyclopedia like Encyclopaedia Britannica or World Book Encyclopedia (primarily for elementary school students).  Scowl-Face used the 1966 edition of World Book, which his parents bought for his brother and him, well into what was then called junior high school.  Folks of his generation should find the online version of Britannica to be much easier to use, once they get the hang of boolean searching.  The searching mechanisms are fairly intuitive, which makes Britannica Online reasonably easy to use.

Cauliannia Rules the Supper Dish--Just Singing,

Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
High-Tech News Beat

P.S.  This fellow sings a rousing (sort of) rendition of "Britannia, the Pride of the Ocean."   Nice piano playing.  With that expression, he could double for Scowl-Face.

P.P.S.  Let's compare "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean" (1843), as sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

P.P.P.S.  So, which song came first?  Beats me.  Somebody out there has probably written a doctoral thesis about this question, so let's ask her or him.  Let me know what s/he tells you.

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