Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2009 Issue

Wikis: Adding Links to Google Books

Rondout

Rondout: alive in memory. Wikipedia image


By Bruce McKinney

This past month I used Google Books, the word-by-word search of eight million full text books, to look for buried references for the once vibrant and now mostly forgotten community of Rondout, New York, that one hundred and twenty-five years ago was merged into Kingston. Rondout today is a "once was" place that has legally disappeared. No banks or high schools for that matter declaim: "we're from Rondout and nobody is prouder." Kingston itself peaked years ago. It was once the capital of New York State and a few decades ago home to important IBM facilities. The capital was moved in 1797 to Albany and the IBM business went south in the 1990s - literally and figuratively. These days, along what was once the vibrant Rondout waterfront, there are three museums in various stages of hope and promise. One, the Hudson River Maritime Museum, is usually open, another, The Trolley Museum of New York, is open weekends during the summer and another is visible but not regularly open. This place was once the jumping off point for material coming off the D & H Canal carrying coal from Honesdale, Pennsylvania to Rondout where it was loaded onto large boats and barges and sent up and down the Hudson. Railroads eventually made this arduous trip unnecessary. The place has history. Buried portions of it show up in Google Books.

In looking for references to Rondout in Google Books it helps that Rondout is a very good search term. The term is unique and the results inevitably few. That's a good thing. Rondout, in the advanced search, with no other terms or parameter finds only 2,070 references. New York, for comparison, finds 1,320,000. Adding the date range 1601 to 1900 narrows Rondout results to 1,089. Narrowing the search to 1601 to 1800 there are 17.

One of those is Christoph Daniel Ebelings Erdbeschreibung und Geschichte von Amerika. This is a multi-volume set, printed between the early 1790s and the first two decades of the 19th century that I purchased from Bill Reese after learning it was relevant both to Rondout and to my general interest in the history of the Hudson Valley. Bill didn't try to sell me this book. Google Books demonstrated its relevance and I then searched AE's Books for Sale and other listing sites, found various loose volumes of the seven volume set and selected the Reese set as the best combination of price, condition and completeness.

In looking further into Google Books I also ran across an 1841 book with an interesting connection to Rondout. Its title does not betray the connection: "Sketch of a Railway Judiciously Constructed Between Desirable Points. Exemplified by a map and an appendix of facts." It was printed in New York in 1841 and offered by MacManus of Philadelphia in AE's Books for Sale. It includes cost information for shipping coal from Pennsylvania to New York via Rondout. Already, in 1841, the case for railroad versus canal transport was an issue to be debated.

I bought them both.

Rare Book Monthly

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