playful cubes for storytelling, brainstorming ideas or playing games in three dimensions

Community & Events

Diffusion engaging with the community, online and out in the world.


an ongoing programme enabling residents at Proboscis studio to create eBooks and StoryCubes for their own projects.

Learning, Schools & Education

eBooks & StoryCubes created for learning and educational purposes


Browse the collection of Diffusion Shareables: eBooks & StoryCubes

Short Work

Home » Short Work
If London Were Like Venice by Somers L Summers
Submitted by on May 23, 2012 – 6:13 pmNo Comment

Download A4 | US Letter PDF 1.2Mb Read Online

About : found on the extraordinary retronaut site, a mad vision of London flooded and become Venice, from 1899.

First Published August 1899, Harmsworth’s Magazine

Sourced from retronaut & Forgotten Futures

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Featured, Short Work
Le Corbeau / The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe tr. Stéphane Mallarmé
Submitted by on July 2, 2009 – 2:04 pmNo Comment


Download A4 | US Letter PDF 666Kb

Selected and Introduced for Short Work by Bronac Ferran, independent researcher and writer and Senior Tutor at the Royal College of Art

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven still causes a shiver to flow through my body now, re-reading it many years after I first heard it. This is poetry of feeling. There is a sense in which one is there, doomed forever to consider what the raven means with his incantation ‘Nevermore’. In this version, Poe’s near hallucinatory intensity is combined with a translation into French by the great poet Stéphane Mallarmé and stark images by Edouard Manet to form a magical combination.

Mallarmé and Manet, fountainheads of modern poetry and painting, were good friends in Paris in the 1860s and 70s. There were many points where their lives touched – indeed they lived in the same street and met almost daily. Mallarmé’s house was a kind of early social network node – the meeting point for a group of artists and poets called Les Mardistes who met on Tuesday evenings. We see in this work, a rare example of a great poet and great painter working in true confluence – both responding to another work and in the process, both honouring and transforming it. In many ways, this work seems to me to be a milestone – in advance of Mallarme’s later work – which broke with conventions of form and presentation in deeply significant ways. The influence of Mallarmé in terms of his dissolution of form, breaking down of the poetic into its essential parts and core components, sifting out sound, silences, analogies and tonal clarities has been acknowledged by many great 20th artists – from May Ray to Pierre Boulez and John Cage. His singular experiments which beautifully combine abstraction with performativity appear ever more significant over time as we look today at the emergence of software code and machine language as drivers of 21st cutural expression. His experiments with form exploring and revealing underlying latencies may be seen as a linguistic and poetic decoding. These were exciting developments that led directly to many of the most important aesthetic and cultural innovations of the 20th century and preceded the emergence, in particular, of serialism, concretism and forms of machine/computer art. We trace these experiments into process-based and open works of the 60s including Computerized Haiku, computer poetry devised by Margaret Masterman (with Robin McKinnon-Wood) of the Cambridge Language Research Unit as well as earlier tense exchanges between Boulez and Cage on the importance of otherwise of chance in composition and performance. Now, in the 21st century, when remix and recombinant processes are accepted as mainstream and hypertext is common we can only imagine what it might have been like to take those first steps, to reorganise the order of things and shift a cultural modality forever.

Bronac Ferran
London, 2009


Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was an American writer and critic, famous for his stories of the macabre, and often credited as the creator of detective fiction.

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) was a French poet and critic, perhaps best known for his typographic experimental poem, Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard.

First Published in 1875
Sourced from Project Gutenberg

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
The 36 Stratagems
Submitted by on May 30, 2009 – 9:38 amNo Comment


Download A4 | US Letter PDF 1.9Mb

AboutThe Thirty-Six Stratagems is collection of ancient Chinese proverbs whose origin is unknown, but is understood to date back to the late Ming or early Qing dynasty. Contemporary versions are all derived from a tattered book discovered at a roadside vendor’s stall in Sichuan or Shannxi in 1941, first coming to wider attention in 1961 when published in the  Chinese Communist Party’s Guangming Daily newspaper. 

The Stratagems (an alternative title was The Secret Art of War) are often paired with Sun Tzu’s celebrated Art of War, but lean more heavily towards the fields of politics, diplomacy and espionage. The text restricts itself to simply naming each strategy with a brief explanation, often containing allusions to the I-Ching, or Book of Changes – modern editions often also contain illustrative stories from folklore and history.

Six multiplied by six equals thirty-six.
Calculations produce tactics which in turn produce calculations. 

Each side depends upon the other. 

Based on this correlative relationship, ploys against the enemy are devised. 

Rigid application of Military theory will only result in defeat on the battlefield.

Unknown first publication date, believed late Ming or early Qing dynasty
Sourced from Wengu and Wikipedia
Translated by Stefan Verstappen

*** a ‘book’ (long edge binding) eBook created using the new Diffusion Generator ***

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
The Anatomy of the Horse by George Stubbs
Submitted by on March 25, 2009 – 12:17 am3 Comments


Download A4 | US Letter PDF 1.52Mb

Selected and Introduced for Short Work by Paul Bonaventura, Senior Research Fellow in Fine Art Studies at the Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art, University of Oxford

George Stubbs (1724-1806) is recognised as one of the most original artists of the eighteenth century. His singular ability to translate the study of nature into extraordinarily balanced compositions marks him out from all other practitioners in the field of animal painting. Although his wide-ranging subjects also included portraits, conversation pieces and paintings of domestic and exotic animals, Stubbs is best known for painting horses, and his reputation was established among noblemen devoted to racing and breeding horses who recognised in him a shared sympathy for the English countryside and rural ways of life.

Stubbs’s career as a painter of horses was rooted in his extraordinary knowledge of equine make-up. In his early thirties, between 1756 and 1758, Stubbs spent eighteen months dissecting and drawing the bodies of up to a dozen horses at a remote farmhouse at Horkstow in Lincolnshire. Out of this unflinching and painstaking industry came a publication called The Anatomy of the Horse and a steadfast commitment to the pursuit of reality.

In A Memoir of George Stubbs, the only contemporary account of the artist’s life and career, Ozias Humphry described Stubbs’s working methods in Horkstow:

‘The first subject which was procured was a horse which was bled to death by the jugular vein – after which the arteries and veins were injected – Then a bar of iron was suspended from the ceiling of the room, by a teagle of iron to which iron hooks were fixed – under this bar a plank was swung at 16 inches wide for the horse feet to rest upon – and the horse was suspended to the bar of iron by the above mentioned hooks which was fastened into the opposite side of the horse that was intended to be designed, by passing the hooks through the ribs and fastening them under the back bone – and by these means the horse was fixed in the attitude which these prints represent and continued hanging in the posture six or seven weeks, or as long as they were fit for use –

His drawings of a skeleton were previously made – and then the operations upon this fixed subject were thus begun.  He first began by dissecting and designing the muscles of the abdomen – proceeding through five different layers of muscles till he came to the peritoneum and the pleura, through which appeared the lungs and the intestines – after which the bowels were taken out, and cast away. –

Then he proceeded to dissect the head, by first stripping off the skin and after having cleared and prepared the muscles, et cetera, for the drawing, he made careful designs of them and wrote the explanation which usually employed him a whole day.

Then he took off another lay of muscles which he prepared, designed, and described, in the same manner as is represented in the book – and so he proceeded until he came to the skeleton – … It must be noted that by means of the injection [of wax or tallow] the muscles, the blood vessels, and the nerves, retained their form to the last without undergoing any change of position.

In this manner he advanced his work by stripping off skin and clearing and preparing as much of the subject as he concluded would employ a whole day to prepare design and describe, as above related, till the whole subject was completed.’

The first edition of The Anatomy of the Horse featured eighteen plates etched by the artist from his drawings, and more than 50,000 words of meticulous scientific text, and its publication in 1766 earned Stubbs instant and lasting appreciation, not least from the animal painters who followed him. ‘[Try] to imagine, for a moment,’ wrote Sir Alfred Munnings, President of the Royal Academy of Arts, ‘Stubbs at his work setting up and dissecting horse-carcasses in the barn there, making detailed drawings, for plate after plate with all the names of the muscles and finally engraving each plate himself, this latter part of the work, an entirely new departure for him, being spread over something like a period of six years, we may then begin to grasp the magnitude of this labour of love.’

Forty-two of Stubbs’s drawings for The Anatomy of the Horse survive in the Royal Academy Collections. Of these, eighteen are scrupulously finished on fine paper, made to be engraved for publication, and drawn to the same scale. The other twenty four are working drawings. Of the eighteen engravings in the accompanying eBook, many have drawings in Piccadilly that directly relate to Stubbs’s original plates. Fifteen of these are from the old set of eighteen, and five belong to the twenty-four working drawings. 

The Anatomy of the Horse is a supreme achievement, but Stubbs’s belief in scientific inquiry as the basis for art should not blind us to the fact that his subsequent portraits of thoroughbed racehorses are more than just paintings of record for they absorb us on so many levels; by engaging the personality and feeding the spirit, they compel examination. To see Stubbs’s work solely as a reflection of the Enlightenment aspirations of his aristocratic clients is to neglect its phenomenal aesthetic quality and its lasting, but frequently overlooked impact on the later development of western art.

Paul Bonaventura
Spring 2009

3 comments - Latest by:

Home » eBooks, Short Work
The minimal compact by Adam Greenfield
Submitted by on March 2, 2009 – 4:09 pm2 Comments


Download A4 | US Letter PDF 426Kb

AboutThe minimal compact: An “open source” constitutional framework for post-national collectivities (v0.1.1)
First written and published online in 2003, the Minimal Compact is a manifesto for creating a constitution between people, based on open-source software concepts and practices, that goes beyond the framework of the nation state.

Published March 2009

Adam Greenfield is a writer and critical futurist, and as of 2009 holds the position of Head of Design Direction, Service and User Interface Design for Nokia. He has spent the past ten years exploring the intersection of technology, design and culture, with a strong focus on issues around ubiquitous computing. His 2006 book on the subject, Everyware, has been acclaimed as “groundbreaking,” “elegant,” and “soulful” by Bruce Sterling, and “gracefully written, fascinating, and deeply wise” by Wired’s Steve Silberman. His book The City Is Here For You To Use (Do Projects, forthcoming) explores the impact of these technologies on urban form and metropolitan experience. Previously a rock critic, San Francisco bike messenger, PSYOP sergeant, and head of the information architecture department for the Tokyo office of the notorious early Internet consultancy Razorfish, Greenfield most recently co-taught the “Urban Computing” course at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program with Kevin Slavin. He currently lives and works in Helsinki, Finland, and blogs at His Twitter feed can be found at

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

2 comments - Latest by:

Home » eBooks, Short Work
Charter of Liberties, People’s Charter & Charter 88
Submitted by on February 6, 2009 – 8:47 amNo Comment


Download A4 | US Letter PDF 290Kb

About : This eBook contains the texts of three key charters of rights spanning almost 900 years. The first, originally published in 1100, was the Charter of Liberties confirmed by King Henry I on securing his throne despite widespread opposition. His reign was subsequently regarded as a golden age of the rule of law and justice, particularly as it was followed by a brutal civil war.

The People’s Charter of 1838 was a response to the Great Reform Act of 1832 which widened the franchise, but stopped short of universal male suffrage, secret ballot, and other elements of parliamentary reform. It was supported by working class ‘Chartists’ seeking representation through enfranchisement and participation in the parliamentary process through MP’s being paid (not having to rely on private wealth).

Charter 88 was a demand for a written constitution, electoral and constitutional reform for the UK arising out of the period of the Thatcher government. Many of its demands are still unmet and pertinent today – visit Unlock Democracy to follow their recent projects.

First Published in 1100, 1838 and 1988
Sourced from Wikipedia, and

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
1689 Bills of Rights
Submitted by on February 5, 2009 – 8:39 amNo Comment


Download A4 | US Letter PDF 317Kb

About : The 1689 Bill of Rights is an Act of the English Parliament setting out the rights of citizens and the relationship between the Crown and Parliament. It was passed, after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, by the dual monarchs William III and Mary II and declared James II’s flight from the country to be an abdication of the throne. The Bill of Rights is one of the cornerstones of the ‘unwritten’ English constitution, as well as a predecessor of the US Bill of Rights and is also enshrined in the laws of many countries of the former British Empire.

First Published 1689
Sourced from The Constitution Society

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
Magna Carta
Submitted by on February 4, 2009 – 7:26 pmNo Comment


Download A4 | US Letter PDF 390Kb

About : Magna Carta is commonly perceived to be the foundation of English rights and liberties, but in fact was a legal charter forcing King John to concede rights, follow legal procedures and agree to be bound by the law, mainly for his barons’ benefit. The 1297 version remains in law in England and Wales and guarantees these rights for all “freemen” – most notably the writ of habeus corpus. Magna Carta is often cited as a milestone on the development of English common law, constitutional law and the US Constitution.

First Published 1215
Sourced from The Constitution Society

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
1628 Petition of Right
Submitted by on February 2, 2009 – 8:45 amNo Comment


Download A4 | US Letter PDF 266Kb

The Petition of Right was a landmark episode in the history of English, and later British, democracy. As a check to the increasingly despotic rule of King Charles I, the English Parliament sought to confirm many of the rights and privileges established through earlier Acts against violation by the king. The Petition of Right confirmed Parliament’s exclusive right to levy taxes, the writ of habeus corpus against imprisonment without trial, no martial law in time of peace or billeting of soldiers in civilian homes. Key figures such as Sir Edward Coke and John Pym were the driving forces behind its drafting.

First Published 1628
Sourced from The Constitution Society

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
Charter of the Forest
Submitted by on January 30, 2009 – 8:45 amNo Comment


Download A4 | US Letter PDF 266Kb

The Charter of the Forest is the lesser known companion to the Magna Carta issued during the reign of King Henry III. In force from 1217 until 1971, recent interest in the charter has focused on the very real rights, privileges and protections that it offered to common people to use the Royal Forests for forage, grazing and fuel. Under a succession of previous monarchs these forests had been greatly enclosed and harsh penalties imposed, including death and mutilation, which the charter repealed.

First Published 1217
Sourced from The Constitution Society

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
Hudson’s Statue by Thomas Carlyle
Submitted by on December 15, 2008 – 8:40 amNo Comment


Part 1 A4 | US Letter PDF 345Kb
Part 2 A4 | US Letter PDF 395Kb
Part 3 A4 | US Letter PDF 380Kb
Part 4 A4 | US Letter PDF 290Kb

Selected and Introduced for Short Work by Stephen Bury, Head of European and American Collections at the British Library

Thomas Carlyle, ‘Hudson’s Statue’ in Latter-day Pamphlets (1850)
The writer and historian, Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), is an acquired taste – Pursewarden, in Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet (1962), described his work as “haggis of the mind”. Nor have Carlyle’s ideas on democracy endeared him to the 20th and 21st centuries.

‘Hudson’s Statue’, dated 1st July 1850, is the seventh in the series, Latter-day Pamphlets. George Hudson was a railway speculator – the ‘Railway King’ – and Carlyle uses the proposal to make a statue of him as the armature of a pamphlet that explores whom his contemporaries think are heroic, and therefore worthy of worship. As Hudson’s speculative empire burst in 1849, the statue was never built, but this does not stop Carlyle making it into a – literally – obscene reality, and which he remorselessly uses to examine mid-nineteenth century England.

Today, when there are doubts about the USA prescribing one-man one-vote democracy for all cultures, we can begin to see some point in Carlyle’s caustic rant. And at a time we hero-worship minor celebrities or make proposals for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, ‘Hudson’s Statue’ can be usefully – if not pleasurably – re-read. Are we any less gullible than those Englishmen who subscribed £25,000 to erect a statue in honour of this speculator and scoundrel?

The only reference that the modern reader might struggle with is Daniel Lambert (1770-1809), a Leicestershire man, who became notoriously fat and charged admission for the public to see him.

Stephen Bury
December 2008

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) was an essayist, satirist and historian, perhaps most famous for his book Sartor Resartus.

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Submitted by on December 10, 2008 – 8:45 amOne Comment

Download A4 | US Letter PDF 286Kb

December 10th 2008 is the 60th Anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly. It is the foundation of international human rights law, the first universal statement on the basic principles of inalienable human rights, and a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.

Proboscis is re-publishing the Declaration as an eBook in the spirit of the 60th anniversary campaign’s aim to help people everywhere to learn about their human rights, “it is timely to emphasize the living document’s enduring relevance, its universality, and that it has everything to do with all of us.”

As the Declaration’s custodians and beneficiaries, all of us must reclaim the UDHR, make it our own. While we are entitled to our human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others and help make universal human rights a reality for all of us. In our efforts lies the power of the UHDR: it is a living document that will continue to inspire generations to come.

First Published in 1948
Sourced from the United Nations

1 comment - Latest by:

Home » eBooks, Featured, Short Work
An Agreement of the Free People of England by John Lilburne et al
Submitted by on December 8, 2008 – 1:39 pmOne Comment

Download A4 | US Letter PDF 377Kb

AboutAn Agreement of the Free People of England is a key manifesto arising out of the tumult of the English Civil Wars and, specifically, the vision of John Lilburne, Richard Overton, William Walwyn and Thomas Prince. It sets out to be a model for an English Constitution, referring back to the 1628 Petition of Rights, which itself confirmed numerous rights and liberties. It called for freedom from absolute power through representative government, elected for one year only by all men over 21 (though not quite universal suffrage); the removal of privileges and exemptions from the law; ban on serving military officers being elected to parliament; the abolition of corruption; the right to silence in court; legal cases to be heard in English and charges against them to be heard by defendants; trial by jury; a limit on term of office and separation of powers between legislature and judiciary; an elected judiciary; civilian control of the military ; freedom of conscience and right to conscientious objection; right to life, liberty and freedom without imprisonment for debt or without due process of law; fair taxation and free trade not monopolies.

At at time when the powers of parliament and civil liberties are being eroded by the executive and police can search an MP’s office, seize material and arrest the MP without a warrant, it is ever relevant to reflect back on our radical past and the establishment of our current democracy. Visionaries like John Lilburne remind us that what we cherish are our ‘freeborn rights’ – protected by the State but not bestowed by it. In those turbulent times three civil wars and the Glorious Revolution were needed to establish the primacy of government by elected representatives – Parliament’s role as overseer of the executive is the bastion against any over zealous government whittling away at those rights,

having by wofull experience found the prevalence of corrupt interests powerfully inclining most men once entrusted with authority, to pervert the same to their own domination, and to the prejudice of our Peace and Liberties

Liberty’s Guide to Human Rights

John Lilburne (1614–1657), also known as Freeborn John, was an agitator in England before, during and after the English Civil Wars of 1642–1650. From 1638 he engaged in unlicensed publishing championing the ‘freeborn rights’ of all. A Lieutenant-Colonel in the Parliamentary Army he fought at Edgehill, Brentford, Marston Moor and Tickhill Castle. Imprisoned in 1645 he wrote the first version of An Agreement for the People which became the focus of the Leveller contingent in the New Model Army’s 1647 Putney Debates. Lilburne was imprisoned by Cromwell in 1649 virtually until his death in 1657.

Richard Overton (c.1599-1664)

William Walwyn (c.1600-1681)

First Published May 1649
Sourced from The Constitution Society

1 comment - Latest by:
  • Nico Macdonald
    Nice idea to re-publish this. Lilburne, Winstanley, et al still sound radical today, not least as we seem to have…
    Comment posted on 12-8-2008 at 23:44

Home » eBooks, Short Work
Sea Shanties
Submitted by on November 18, 2008 – 12:10 pmOne Comment

Sea Shanties Volume 1 A4 | US Letter PDF 360kb
Sea Shanties Volume 2 A4 | US Letter PDF 395kb

Selected and Introduced for Short Work by Francis McKee, director of Glasgow International (2004-08), CCA Glasgow and Research Fellow at Glasgow School of Art.

Beyond society’s canons of literature there are the outlaws – songs and stories that survive in the wild. Sea shanties are among the hardiest of these forms and all the more remarkable for having their roots in a vanished world of sailing ships. There is a raw surrealism in sea shanties that is bred from endless nights in the belly of tomb-like wooden hulks floating on deep swelling oceans. The wild ramblings (‘Cape Cod kids ain’t got no sleds/They slide down the hills on codfish heads’) are tempered by the disciplined, rope burned, rhythms of the nautical work song. It is this emphasis on hard manual labour, combined with a sailor’s wicked word play, which gives these songs their enduring appeal. You can sense their influence behind Shakespeare’s sea song in The Tempest:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that does fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! Now I hear them – Ding-dong, bell.

And you can hear them lurking in the sailors’ song in Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon – ‘Sumatra, where the girls all look like Cleopatra, and when you’re done you’ll simply barter…’ Sea shanties move with a swagger. They tempt purple prose and have given birth to long rambling movies from Moby Dick to Pirates of the Caribbean. They’re proof that not all our genetic code is in the marrow – some of it is in songs like these.

This selection is taken from the collection of Andrew Draskóy on his website Shanties and Sea Songs. As he suggests these lyrics are best heard sung and three good albums provide a starting point:

  • Sailor’s Songs and Sea Shanties (Highpoint, 2004)
  • Blow the Man Down: a Collection of Sea Songs & Shanties (Topic, 1995)
  • Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys (Epitaph, 2006)
November 2008

1 comment - Latest by:

Home » eBooks, Short Work
Overture by Marcel Proust
Submitted by on September 1, 2008 – 12:58 amOne Comment

Download A4 | US Letter PDF 380Kb

Selected and Introduced for Short Work by Chris Meade, Director, if:book London

Attempting to remember my own things past recently, I thought back to first reading the opening overture of Swann’s Way as a teenager on holiday in Ireland. This astounding, swirling, sensuous evocation of the process of recollection unfolds voluptuously to create a mindscape of Marcel. I still haven’t read the whole book, but the opening remains one of my favourite pieces of prose, sonorous and delicious. 

It was a revelation to first encounter this book which described how exactly we struggle to tease strands of dreams back into consciousness, how complex is the fabric of our musings and yearnings of nostalgia. And it’s impossible to write about Proust without trying and failing to write like him, sentences coiling and drifting  like cigar smoke.

Recently I was on the underground pretentiously carrying over my shoulder the “Proust Society of America” book bag which I bought on a trip to New York for a meeting at the Mercantile Library where that society meets. On the tube a man sitting opposite asked if I’d read Proust, then told me that since his retirement he’d read the whole thing six times but never met anyone else who had even dipped in. He’d heard of the New York group, but found nothing like it in London. When I posted this news on the if:book blog (, I soon heard from a London-based Proust Close Reading Group. It’s good to know that the Web connects Lost Time lovers too, because I’ve just been listening to another pundit sounding off on Radio 4 about the limited attention span of the digital generation.  Of course my frenetic, twittering, mashed up excuse for a brain may find it hard to marshal a rational counter argument, but I believe that attending, Proust-like, to how exactly the mind works as it multi-tasks and clicks through layers to uncover depths beneath will surely be more fruitful than indulging in the same old moral panic about what’s newly new. There’s a magic about the transliterate way people read the world in the 21st Century, and we need a Marcel to document the texture and quality of that engagement.  

Chris Meade
August 2008

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was a French writer, best known for Remembrance of Things Past.

1 comment - Latest by:

Home » eBooks, Short Work
The Great Learning by Confucius
Submitted by on July 26, 2008 – 11:23 amNo Comment

Download A4 | US Letter PDF 316Kb

Selected and Introduced for Short Work by Garrick Jones, musician, academic and founder of the Ludic Group. 

The Great Learning by Confucius was written around 500BC and forms the basis of much of Chinese political discourse and philosophy. These books were required texts for admission to Chinese administration for over 1500 years.  They seek to provide a framework that unites the spiritual and the material with higher goals through self-cultivation, inquiry and learning.

The books are influential today in Chinese thought, were relevant throughout the Communist era, and were used didactically during the reign of the Emperors – as such they are essential reading and provide powerful insight into this great Culture.  They are essentially materialist and promote the agency of the individual within society.

The English composer Cornelius Cardew (1936–1981) famously used them as the libretto for his astonishing compositions – the forms of which were in turn uniquely inspired them.  A set series of musical pieces which can be sung by any number of people, with any level of proficiency – and which, to my mind, demonstrate the emergent outcomes of complex, adaptive systems applying simple instruction sets.

Garrick Jones
July 2008

Confucius (Master Kong/K’ung-tzu, 551-479 B.C.E.) is among the world’s most influential thinkers and teachers, his philosophical teachings guiding the Chinese Empire for over two thousand years.

Sourced from Sacred Texts:

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
An Essay on Criticism by Alexander Pope
Submitted by on June 11, 2008 – 4:59 pmNo Comment

Parts I and II A4 | US Letter PDF 450Kb
Part III A4 | US Letter PDF 280Kb 

Selected and Introduced for Short Work by Sebastian Mary Harrington, associate at the Institute for the Future of the Book.

Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism (1711), written when he was only 20, laid the foundations for many of the artistic and critical hierarchies that have remained constant since in the literary world.

The late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in London saw the growing mechanisation of print publishing, and a concurrent boom in both literary production and criticism. Equally, new sales and distribution models increasingly enabled writers to make a living independent of the aristocratic patronage that had been their commonest means of support in earlier times. 

The glut of writing, and divorce of that writing from the values and aesthetics associated with the ruling classes, prompted a vigorous tussle for critical supremacy among those who believed themselves qualified to pronounce on literature. A widely influential – and hotly contested – intervention in this tussle, Pope’s Essay on Criticism seeks to antedate his creative activities in the Greek and Roman past, by replacing the overt eulogising of aristocratic values with an insistence on the primacy of the classical canon. Pope aims to draw from this composite ancient and modern canon a set of precepts from which his contemporary literature and criticism can be judged. 

The age of the blogosphere has seen an equivalent explosion in writing, criticism and debate. While few now read Homer, Pope’s essay addresses questions of authority, quality and cultural legitimacy that, online, are as vigorously contested as ever. 

Sebastian Mary Harrington
June 2008 

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) is one of the most acclaimed English poets of the early eighteenth century. Amongst his well known works are The Rape of the Lock, The Dunciad, Essay on Man and his translations of Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey.

First Published in London 1711
Sourced from Project Gutenberg

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
Common Sense by Thomas Paine
Submitted by on May 1, 2008 – 2:10 pmOne Comment


Of the Origin and Design of Government in General A4 | US Letter PDF 300Kb
Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession A4 | US Letter PDF 350Kb
Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs (Part 1) A4 | US Letter PDF 340Kb
Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs (Part 2) A4 | US Letter PDF 330Kb
Of the Present Ability of America A4 | US Letter PDF 520Kb
Appendix A4 | US Letter PDF 450Kb

Selected and Introduced for Short Work by Alex Steffen, editor of Worldchanging

Bombarded as we are with advertising and propaganda looking to link products or candidates to the concept of freedom, we tend to lose sight of how radical a set of ideas democracy, personal liberty and human rights really are, and how recently, really, the fight to make them the universal rule began. The best antidote to that forgetfulness is Common Sense, the book that, in a very real sense, can be credited with raising the American public will to revolution. It was a radical and deep document then. It is still radical today. Would that we had more writers with Paine’s passion, skill and clarity today.

Alex Steffen
April 2008

Thomas Paine (1737-1809). Englishman by birth. American by choice. French by decree. Citizen of the World.

First Published in Philadelphia 1776
Sourced from Project Gutenberg

1 comment - Latest by:
  • Mark Wilensky
    But surprisingly, kids "get" Paine's Common Sense, and almost easily find similarities between 1776 and now. As a fifth-grade teacher…
    Comment posted on 11-16-2008 at 05:47

Home » eBooks, Short Work
The Rake’s Progress by William Hogarth
Submitted by on April 26, 2008 – 9:27 amNo Comment

Rake\'s Progress by Hogarth

Download A4US Letter PDF 1.6Mb

AboutThe Rake’s Progress follows Tom Rakewell as wealthy merchant’s son in his downward spiral from young man of fashion to gambler, drunk, debtor and lunatic.

William Hogarth (1697-1764) was one of England’s foremost artists working as a painter, printmaker and engraver. His work is probably best known for its social commentary and satiric look on British social and cultural mores on the mid 1700s.

First Published June 1735
Public Domain version sourced from Project Gutenberg

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
The Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth
Submitted by on April 25, 2008 – 9:03 amOne Comment

Download A4 | US Letter PDF 1.2Mb

About : The Harlot’s Progress describes the path of Moll Hackabout from country innocent newly arrived in London to prostitute, prison inmate, mother and finally victim of venereal disease.

William Hogarth (1697-1764) was one of England’s foremost artists working as a painter, printmaker and engraver. His work is probably best known for its social commentary and satiric look on British social and cultural mores on the mid 1700s. 

First Published April 1732
Public Domain version sourced from Project Gutenberg 

1 comment - Latest by:
  • Arrey Mbongaya Ivo
    Hogarth's satire is very relevant today. Poverty has embedded prostitution and propelled prostitutes on an onward march towards destruction…
    Comment posted on 8-17-2008 at 18:21

Home » eBooks, Short Work
Industry and Idleness by William Hogarth
Submitted by on April 24, 2008 – 1:33 pmNo Comment

Hogarth - Industry & Idleness

Download A4 | US Letter PDF 2Mb

About : Industry and Idleness contrasts two apprentices, one who’s hard work leads him to a life of wealth and power; the other whose idleness drives him to criminality and execution.

William Hogarth (1697-1764) was one of England’s foremost artists working as a painter, printmaker and engraver. His work is probably best known for its social commentary and satiric look on British social and cultural mores on the mid 1700s. 

First Published June 1735
Public Domain version sourced from Project Gutenberg 

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
Three Essays by Samuel Johnson
Submitted by on April 13, 2008 – 6:25 pm4 Comments

3 Essays

Download A4 | US Letter PDF 390Kb

Selected and Introduced for Short Work by writer and journalist, Bill Thompson

Every journalist should read Samuel Johnson from time to time. First, because the quality of his writing, especially in his essays, is enough to put even the most self-important hack in their place. Second, because he so often discusses why he writes and what writers do with a brutal honesty and lack of self-regard that we should all try to emulate. And third, because he is witty, entertaining and engaging.

The three essays I’ve chosen here cover the range. In Rambler 2 we see Johnson considering the nature of ambition and the many ways we find to deceive ourselves. In Idler 48 he speaks to every Twitter user and blogger of how we ‘play throughout life with the shadows of business’.  And in Adventurer 95 he explores the process of writing in an age when, it seemed, there was nothing new under the sun.

They are the perfect refuge from the blogosphere and, since they require no external power, excellent for those long journeys when your laptop battery dies before you reach your destination and the only discarded newspaper to hand is yesterday’s Daily Express.

Bill Thompson
April 2008

Texts sourced from EText Library, University of Virginia and Project Gutenberg.

4 comments - Latest by:

Home » Publishing on Demand, Short Work
Short Work
Submitted by on March 12, 2008 – 12:47 pmOne Comment

Short Work consists of public domain texts sourced from Project Gutenberg re-published as Diffusion eBooks. As the title suggests, each is a short work of fiction, poetry or prose intended to be enjoyed in those frequent moments of inbetween-ness that punctuate modern life. The initial selection includes works of satire, experimental writing and poetry chosen for their continuing power to affect the way we see the world.

The eBooks
William Blake – Songs of Innocence & Experience
Saki – Beasts and Super Beasts
Gertrude Stein – Tender Buttons
Jonathan Swift – A Modest Proposal
Samuel Johnson – Three Essays (chosen by Bill Thompson)
William Hogarth – The Rake’s Progress
William Hogarth – The Harlot’s Progress
William Hogarth – Industry & Idleness
Thomas Paine – Common Sense (chosen by Alex Steffen)

Update (13/04/2008) : We’ve invited several friends and collaborators to choose their own public domain texts to re-publish as Diffusion eBooks which we’ll be posting every month or so. Today we’ve added the first of these,  selected and introduced by technology critic and journalist Bill Thompson, who has chosen Three Essays by Samuel Johnson.

Update (05/05/2008) : Alex Steffen, editor of Worldchanging, has selected and introduced Common Sense by Thomas Paine.

1 comment - Latest by:

Home » eBooks, Short Work
Beasts and Super Beasts by Saki (H H Munro)
Submitted by on March 12, 2008 – 12:46 pmNo Comment



The She-Wolf A4 | US Letter PDF 304Kb
Laura A4 | US Letter PDF 280Kb
The Boar-Pig A4 | US Letter PDF 288Kb
The Brogue A4 | US Letter PDF 276Kb
The Hen A4 | US Letter PDF 288Kb
The Open Window A4 | US Letter PDF 268Kb
The Treasure Ship A4 | US Letter PDF 276Kb
The Cobweb A4 | US Letter PDF 292Kb
The Lull A4 | US Letter PDF 284Kb
The Unkindest Blow A4 | US Letter PDF 280Kb
The Romancers A4 | US Letter PDF 272Kb
The Schartz-Metterklume Method A4 | US Letter PDF 284Kb
The Seventh Pullet A4 | US Letter PDF 304Kb
The Blind Spot A4 | US Letter PDF 272Kb
Dusk A4 | US Letter PDF 272Kb
A Touch of Realism A4 | US Letter PDF 300Kb
Cousin Teresa A4 | US Letter PDF 280Kb
The Yarkand Manner A4 | US Letter PDF 288Kb
The Byzantine Omelette A4 | US Letter PDF 272Kb
The Feast of Nemesis A4 | US Letter PDF 272Kb
The Dreamer A4 | US Letter PDF 272Kb
The Quince Tree A4 | US Letter PDF 272Kb
The Forbidden Buzzards A4 | US Letter PDF 272Kb
The Stake A4 | US Letter PDF 272Kb
Clovis on Parental Responsibilities A4 | US Letter PDF 260Kb
A Holiday Task A4 | US Letter PDF 300Kb
The Stalled Ox A4 | US Letter PDF 284Kb
The Story-Teller A4 | US Letter PDF 292Kb
A Defensive Diamond A4 | US Letter PDF 280Kb
The Elk A4 | US Letter PDF 288Kb
Down Pens A4 | US Letter PDF 272Kb
The Name-Day A4 | US Letter PDF 292Kb
The Lumber Room A4 | US Letter PDF 300Kb
Fur A4 | US Letter PDF 276Kb
The Philanthropist and the Happy Cat A4 | US Letter PDF 276Kb
On Approval A4 | US Letter PDF 300Kb

About : 36 short stories in Saki’s final collection to be published before the First World War and his death. Each story, in one way or another, turns on the presence or role of an animal and its relationship to the humans in the narrative, acutely dissecting their foibles and pretensions.

First Published in 1914 by John Lane, The Bodley Head
Public Domain Text from Project Gutenberg

Saki (Hector Hugh Munro) was born in 1870 and killed by a sniper’s bullet in 1916. His acerbic and macabre short stories lampoon and satirise the mores of upper and middle class Edwardian British society.

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein
Submitted by on March 12, 2008 – 12:45 pmOne Comment



Tender Buttons – Objects A4 | US Letter PDF 397Kb
Tender Buttons – Food (Part 1) A4 | US Letter PDF 323Kb
Tender Buttons – Food (Part 2) A4 | US Letter PDF 326Kb
Tender Buttons – Rooms A4 | US Letter PDF 359Kb

About : Tender Buttons is an experimental piece which re-defines a series of common-place words and phrases.

First Published in 1914
Public Domain Text from Project Gutenberg

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was an avant-garde American writer who lived and worked in Paris for most of her life.

1 comment - Latest by:

Home » eBooks, Short Work
A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
Submitted by on March 12, 2008 – 12:44 pmNo Comment

A Modest Proposal

Download A4 | US Letter PDF 341Kb

About : A Modest Proposal For Preventing The Children Of Poor People In Ireland Being A Burden To Their Parents Or Country, And For Making Them Beneficial To The Public – Swift’s biting satire on social inequality and the political expediency of charity and the Poor Laws.

First Published 1729
Public Domain Text from Project Gutenberg

Jonathan Swift (1664-1745) was an Anglican clergyman, satirist, essayist and political pamphleteer most famous for his Gulliver’s Travels.

No comment so far

Home » eBooks, Short Work
Songs of Innocence & Experience by William Blake
Submitted by on March 12, 2008 – 12:43 pmOne Comment

Songs of InnocenceSongs of Experience


Songs of Innocence A4 | US Letter PDF 340Kb
Songs of Experience A4 | US Letter PDF 390Kb

About : two books of poems reflecting the hopes of radical change and reform of the age contrasted with the more sombre mood of the post-revolutionary period in France and in England.

First Published 1789 & 1794
Public Domain Text from Project Gutenberg

William Blake (1757-1827) was a poet, painter and printmaker. His radical and mystical inspiration set him at odds with his times and he remains one of the most visionary of English artists.

1 comment - Latest by: