Electronic access to letters written by and on behalf of Shoghi Effendi that have not been included in published compilations!
Those are words that are sure to perk up the ears of individuals, members of institutions, authors, scholars, and researchers. If you cannot wait before dipping into the new collection, here is the link. Don Calkins, a Bahá’í from Great Falls, Montana, calls his compilation “Uncompiled Letters by Shoghi Effendi, first written or published 1922–1957.” For those of you who want to know more about the collection, here is what Don has to say about the new compilation:
It all started several years ago after I looked at Duane Troxel’s collection of letters on bahai-library and thought how great it would be if it were redefined and expanded. Someone had put fair-quality scans of U.S. Bahá’í News on h-net for anyone to see, and then bahai.works put up even better ones as individual scans. I made arrangements to “mine” their entire collection for letters from Shoghi Effendi and started going through them. Helen Hornby, a Bahá’í from the United States and a long-time pioneer to Columbia, had published and then revised Lights of Guidance (1983, 1988). Around the same time, the Universal House of Justice had made available a number of compilations, many of which were compiled and published as Compilation of Compilations, volumes 1, 2 (both 1991), and 3 (2000). A number of National Spiritual Assemblies had published their collections of letters from Shoghi Effendi. Then some scholarly journals begin to publish smaller compilations. I decided that “my” collection would best serve by not duplicating anything in these collections.
What I aimed to do was fairly easy to do because I had electronic copies of the unpublished letters in my searchable database. Because of my interest in biography and social history, I have accumulated one of the larger personal collections of this type of print material. It dawned on me that here was another free source that could be made available.
What I have done is to collate letters written by and on behalf of Shoghi Effendi that had not be published by a publishing trust in a compilation. I am including a few that have not been published either for sale as hard copies or somewhere on the internet. These letters were distributed at one time as typescripts. A couple of these came from the Moffets, who were American Bahá’ís living in Chicago and then Des Moines, Iowa. In the 1940s Ruth Moffet made up a collection of selections from messages that she and her family received and distributed them. In the 1970s, Ruth made the letters available again, along with her pilgrim’s notes. I worked off the copy she gave me.
I should note that I have also included in my collection a couple of collections that are on the internet but that have never been well publicized—for example, the Jamshed and Parvati Fozdar Collection. I think I have provided the provenance of all the messages in the individual files. If not, I meant to.
Why this format? RFT files are as close to a generic formatted text file as one can get. They can even be opened by operating systems from the 1990s, and I wanted to make my compilation as widely available as possible. I also wanted the letters to be individual files to make searching as fast and easy as possible. I am a Mac user, and they can be dropped into Archive, the Mac equivalent of Ocean, and used as is. Further, desktop search capabilities can also search them quickly. Even with more sophisticated text indexing and search engines, small files are found and displayed quicker. Words are indexed only to the file, not to a place in the file. Thus once a file is found, the search engine starts at the beginning and searches through the file to find a specific quotation. The smaller the file, the quicker this happens. Also, the RFT format allows an individual with limited computer skills to annotate and hyperlink to and from a specific file or to make a personal collection by merely duplicating a file. For example, I have quickly made a few collections of messages sent to certain localities.
I am now working on an augmented version of my collection of Shoghi Effendi letters, formatting all the messages from the various national collections in like manner, to be collated by date (for example, compilations of letters to Alaska, the Antipodes, Australia and New Zealand, Australasia, the British Isles, Canada, Germany and Austria, India, the Indian Subcontinent, and the several volumes published in the United States). One of the interesting things I have noted, which will be more obvious in such a database, is where Shoghi Effendi has made a similar point at a given time with different emphases in messages to the generality of Bahá’ís and to various National Spiritual Assemblies and individuals. At some point I expect scholars to discuss this in their examinations of how Shoghi Effendi worked.
Happy reading and happy hunting as you explore Don Calkins’ compilation of letters from and written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi not included in published compilations. And don’t forget to send thanks and prayers to him for all the thought and work that he has put into this project.