Bartleby Review

750 words - 3 pages

According to founder and CEO of, Steven van Leeuwen, the Bartleby Project offers, “the most comprehensive public reference library ever published on the web” (, 2000, para. 4). The Bartleby Project—the name of which comes from Melville’s classic short story Bartleby, the Scrivener—began as a personal research experiment at Columbia University in which van Leeuwen sought to combine his information systems knowledge with his love of books to create accessible, searchable electronic versions of classic literature and reference works. The first book published on the site was Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in 1994. Following this success, van Leeuwen continued to develop the project privately, becoming in 1997 and continuing to expand into the impressive collection of classic and modern reference and works of literature that it is today (Hane, 2000).
On first visiting the site, the user is impressed by the simple, friendly layout. The collection is divided into Reference, Verse, Fiction, and Nonfiction. Users can click on drop down menus or tabs for each category to go directly to the title of the work they seek. And each menu or tab is divided into subcategories so users may locate similar formats or subjects with ease. Works can also be found through author, subject, or title keyword searches, or one can browse the “featured” selections that are frequently updated on the home page. The content of every title in the collection can be keyword searched to locate specific quotes or phrases that are of interest to the user within the work.
In addition to the notably simplistic design, the collection itself provides access to a remarkable breadth and depth of both classic and contemporary works with over 370,000 web pages of searchable data, the largest collection of quotations ever published, and the largest freely available verse database in the world (, 2011). The reference section includes, among others, a King James Bible, a thesaurus and dictionary, numerous quotation sources, The Columbia Encyclopedia, The World Factbook, Strunk’s Elements of Style and Fowler’s The King’s English. The literature section is similarly comprehensive with the complete works of Shakespeare and Harvard Classics, Aesop, Austen, Grimm, Dickens, and many, many more. Overall, the collection is broad and useful for anyone from high school...

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