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Agnes Giberne
Born (1845-11-19)19 November 1845
Belgaum, Karnataka, India
Died 20 August 1939(1939-08-20) (aged 93)
Nationality English
Other names A. G.
Occupation Writer and scientist
Years active 1864–1930
Known for Popularising science and juvenile evangelical fiction
Notable work
Sun, Moon, and Stars (1879)
Giberne Midnight in Saturn
Artist's impression of midnight on Saturn from Giberne's popular astronomy book Sun, Moon and Stars

Agnes Giberne (19 November 1845 in Belgaum, India – 20 August 1939 in Eastbourne, England) was a prolific British novelist and scientific writer. Her fiction was typical of Victorian evangelical fiction with moral or religious themes for children. She also wrote books on science for young people, a handful of historical novels, and one well-regarded biography.

Biography

Giberne was born in Belgaum, Karnataka, India on 19 November 1845, the daughter of Captain Charles Giberne (16 June 1808 – 21 December 1902) of the Bengal Native Infantry and Lydia Mary Wilson (c. 1816 – 20 May 1890). Her ancestors were Huguenots from Languedoc in France where the "de Gibernes" lived in Chateau de Gibertain. Charles Giberne was from a large family. He had eight sisters and four brothers. Three of his brothers also served in India.

Giberne's parents married at St. Mary the Virgin, Walthamstow on 11 December 1838. It is not absolutely clear how many siblings Giberne had. The British Library's India Family History and Families in British India Society records show:

  • Mary Lydia Giberne, on 1 December 1840 at Karrack, Persian Gulf. She died at Ahymednuggar on 7 May 1842, aged 17 months.
  • Twins born on 21 January 1844 at Ahmednuggur, with the boy still-born and the girl, Helen Mary Giberne, surviving. However, She died in the first quarter of 1861, aged 17.
  • Agnes, born on 19 Nov 1845 at Belgaum, the subject of this page.
  • Florence, born on 1 June 1847 at Poona. However, she died in Brighton on 5 September 1858, aged 11 years.
  • Eliza, born on 5 December 1848, At her maternal grandfather's at Worton House, Over-Warton, Oxfordshire. Died aged 79 on 22 February 1928.

By the time of the 1851 census, Lydia Mary was staying with her four surviving daughters at Beach in Weston-super-mare with the Rector of Eyam in Derbyshire and his family. Charles Giberne had already been pensioned off and was staying at no 17, Beaufort, in Bath with two servants. By the time of the 1861 census, only two girls survived, Giberne and her sister Eliza.

Eliza was educated privately, by governesses and special masters. She began to scribble stories at age seven and shared these with her sisters She ascribed her literary tastes to her mother and her scientific curiosity to her father.

Writing

Giberne states that she began to publish children's stories at seventeen. These were probably short stories in magazines. The first children's book by Giberne in the British Library is A Visit to Aunt Agnes (Religious Tract Society, London, 1864). It was advertised on 24 November 1864 at the price of two shillings. Giberne would have been 19 by then. Copson states that her children's stories were "typical works of Victorian evangelical fiction emphasizing childish faults and the need for salvation."

The lithographs by Kronheim & Co. for A Visit to Aunt Agnes, by courtesy of the University of Florida Digital Collections.

Initially, Giberne's work was signed either A. G. or she was indirectly indicated through identifying other works she had written. The first book in England which bears her name was The Curate's House which she wrote to draw attention to clerical poverty. Giberne had a wider range than just evangelical and didactic stories for young children. She also wrote books targeted at young adolescent girls, which was mainly published by the Religious Tract Society.

Giberne also wrote historical novels including:

  • Detained in France : a tale of the first French empire (Seeley, 1871). A story about the English people detailed by Napoleon on the outbreak of war.
  • Aimée: a tale of the days of James the Second (Seeley, 1872). A story about the Hugenot persecution in France and their flight to England.
  • Coulyng Castle, or, A knight of the olden days (Seeley, 1875). A picture of castle life under Henry IV and Henry V.
  • Roy. A tale in the days of Sir John Moore. (Pearson, 1901). Returns to the theme of those detained by Napoleon, but adds in Sir John Moore's famous retreat and the Battle of Corunna.
  • Under Puritan rule: a tale of troublous days (National Society's Depository, 1909). Focuses on the sufferings of those Anglican clergy who were deprived of their livings by the Puritans.

In 1895 Giberne published A lady of England: the life and letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker (Hodder & Stoughton), who wrote children's fiction under the pseudonym "A Lady of England" (A.L.O.E.), and late in life, became a missionary in India. Giverne's Aunt Caroline Cuffley Giberne (1803-1885) had also worked as a missionary in India, and also concentrated on work with women and girls.

However, Giberne is best remembered for her books popularising science. Giberne was an amateur astronomer who worked on the committee setting up the British Astronomical Association and became a founder-member in 1890. Giberne's first foray into science was a book on astronomy Sun, Moon and Stars: Astronomy for Beginners (Seeley, 1879). She had sent the proofs to Charles Pritchard (29 February 1808 – 28 May 1893), the Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford University and he was so impressed by it that he wrote, without being asked, a very positive introduction.. The Graphic stated that "As an introduction to a science, it could scarcely be more attractive, and it is the best book of the kind we have seen."

The book remained in print for many years and had sold 10,000 copies by 1884, 24,000 copies by 1898, and 26,000 by 1903, when she issued another revised edition. However, this total probably does not include the sales in the United States, where the book was published as The Story of The Sun, Moon, and Stars, as the totals cited come from the edition count on the title page of the Seeley editions, and Seeley would only have counted their own editions, and not those of another publisher.

Giberne wrote several other books on Astronomy including:

  • Among the Stars, or wonderful things in the sky (Seeley, 1884), intended for younger children, where a boy called Ikon has the solar system and stars explained to him by a professor. St James's Gazette said that Giberne "tells about the wonderful things in the sky in clear pleasant language that every child can understand, and in a manner that is probably new to them. Some of the lessons are illustrated by little experiments which will be both amusing and instructive to repeat in the nursery; and there are visits the sun and moon that read like strange and beautiful fairy-tales. In every way this is a most excellent book for children.
  • The starry skies, first lessons on the sun, moon and stars (Seeley & Co). In this book Giberne "offered lucid and simple explanations of gravity, the seasons, the rotation of the earth, the moon, the sun, the planets of the solar system, comets, meteors, stars, and nebulae". As with some of the other books for children Giberne used the power of the imagination to help teach scientific fact.
  • Radiant suns (Seeley & Co, 1895), a sequel to Sun, moon and star but more advanced. It covered the history of astronomy, the relatively new science of spectral analysis, and a discussion of the stellar universe.
  • This Wonderful Universe (SPCK, 1895). Completely rewritten and revised for an illustrated edition in 1920. An introduction to the heavens for younger readers.

Giberne did not ignore the other sciences, she also wrote books on:

  • Geology, with The world's foundations, or Geology for beginners (Seeley, 1882). In her preface, Gilberne noted that some counted Geology to be a dangerous subject, and that there can be no confict between the Bible, as the word of God, and His handiwork, in the shape of the Geology of the Earth.
  • Physics, with Twilight Talks, or easy lessons on things around us (Religious Tract Society, 1882).A little volume for children on scientific subjects.}} In her preface, Giberne says that if the book were called "An introduction to Physics" it would frighten off its intended users.
  • Hydrology with Father Aldur. A water story, etc. Here again imagination (a sleeping boy dreams of the river as a living being) and scientific fact are interwoven.
  • Meteorology, with The Ocean of Air, Meteorology for Beginners (Seely, 1890). This volume also had an enthusiastic preface written by Charles Pritchard, again volunteered by him, when he read the proofs. The book described the "gases, water, forms of life, movement, disturbances, and forces within air." The photographs illustrating the book were said to be "genuine works of art".
  • Natural History, with A modern Puck, a fairly story for children (Jarrold, 1898). This was ostensibly a fairy story but contained lots of nuggets of information about animal behaviour, insects etc. One review said that the book was one which "teaches much", but unobtrusively and not "as if it were teaching at all," and every healthy-minded child must be delighted "with such a book, with its pleasant and quite natural make-believe." The magic cloak which the fairy used enabled the heroine to see "into the homes of many an animal and insect."
  • Oceanography, with The Mighty Deep and what we know of it (Pearson, 1902). One reviewer said "Call it oceanography and it is apt to repel; put it in Miss Giberne'e graceful words and it attracts while it teaches.". Another said "It is a singularly informing book, and is written in such a way that any boy or girl of average intelligence will not only understand it readily but will thoroughly enjoy it. There are too too few books of this class."
  • Science in general, with This Wonder World (Religious Tract Society, 1913). In this volume, Giberne addresses a range of topics "how the wood and the iron and the coal come to be here, and how the air and the water and the fire serve us. Concerning these and other subjects such as flying machines, Miss Giberne writes very simply and effectively."
  • Botany, with The garden of earth, a little book on plant-life, plantgrowth, and the ways and uses of plants (SPCK, 1920). "It is not a Manual of Botany with hard and dry names, which often make the subject distasteful, but a book introducing us gradually and simply to an intimate and loving acquaintance with the inhabitants of the vegetable world."

Giberne was prolific. At her peak in the 1880s and 1890s, she produced 36 and 33 volumes respectively. Her output tapered off after 1900. However, her output over eight decades indicates her dedication to her work.

Published volumes by Giberne per decade
Decade Number
1860–1869 12
1870–1879 26
1880–1889 36
1890–1899 33
1900–1909 11
1910–1919 7
1920–1929 4
1930–1939 1

Later life

Although the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that Giberne wrote for her own interests rather than to earn money, she relied to some extent on her royalty income. Giberne found herself with severe financial problems in 1905, and applied to the Royal Literary Fund. She was now sixty, and was said to have given up the best years of her life to support her ailing father (who had died in 1902). She had failing eyesight, with cataracts in both eyes, and a weak heart. Her income was listed as an annuity, the royalties from her books, and £100 a year from the Indian Civil Service as a pensioner's child. She was awarded £200 from the Royal Literary Fund and £273 from the Royal Bounty Fund, both to be put towards the purchase of a Post Office annuity. However, her royalty income was falling, and her nominal income of £170 was not sufficient due to the rising cost of living, and she had been force to sell some furniture and all of her silver as well as moving into smaller accommodation. This time she was awarded a grant of £50.

The 1911 census found her lodging in rooms at 2, The Avenue, Eastbourne. In 1939 she was living at 21 Enys Road Eastbourne. She died in a nursing home at 16 Motcombe Road, Eastbourne, on 20 August 1939, aged 94. Her estate was worth £539 18s 11d.

List of works

The following list of works has developed largely from a search on the Jisc Library Hub Discover database.. Where necessary, missing details such as page counts and publisher's names have been filled in by searches on WorldCat and on newspaper archives.

Published works by Giberne
Serial Year Title Place Publisher (in London unless stated) Pages Notes
1 1860 Short account of the four ancient empires Madras American Mission Press, Madras 42 p., 14 cm
2 1864 A visit to Aunt Agnes, for very little children London Religious Tract Society 80 p., ill. (a col.), 19 cm
3 1864 Maude Grenville London SPCK 2, 132p., 3 ill., 18cm
4 1865 Among the Mountains, or the Harcourts at Montreux London Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday 348 p., 8º
5 1865 Mabel and Cora, or The sisters of Stoneycroft Hall London Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday 245 p. : fs., 19 cm
6 1865 Sunday Afternoons with Mamma London Religious Tract Society 80 p., 8º
7 1866 Linda London SPCK 1, 159 p. , 3 p. of plates : ill, 19 cm
8 1867 Beechenhurst, A tale London Nisbet & Co 4, 418, 2p. : ill., 17cm
9 1868 Willie and Lucy at the sea-side, For very little children London Religious Tract Society 96 p., plates (col.) : ill., 17.8 cm
10 1869 Hungering and thirsting London Religious Tract Society 106, 2p. : ill., 17cm
11 1869 Mignonette London Seeley, Jackson, & Halliday 348 p. : ill., 19 cm
12 1869 The curate's home London Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday 4,391,5p. : front., 8 ̊.
13 1871 Charity's birthday text London Religious Tract Society 104, 4 p. : 2 ill., 16 cm
14 1871 Detained in France, a tale of the first French empire London Seeley, Jackson & Halliday v, 1, 363, 5 p. : 1 illustration, 20 cm
15 1871 Eva and Bertie, a tale for little children London Religious Tract Society 178, 2 p., 1 p. of plates : ill., 16 cm
16 1871 The day-star, or The Gospel story for little ones London Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday vii, 264 p. 11 p. of plates : ill., 17 cm
17 1872 Aimée, a tale of the days of James the Second London Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday vii, 1, 404, 4 p. : fs., 8 ̊
18 1872 The two little Bruces London Religious Tract Society 191, 1 p., plates, 16.5 cm
19 1872 Willie and Lucy at Home London Religious Tract Society 104 p., 8º
20 1873 Not forsaken, or The old house in the city London Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday iv, 194, 2 p., 4 ill., 18 cm
21 1874 Drusie's own story London Seeley, Jackson, & Halliday 329, 3 p., 1 plate : 1 ill., 19 cm
22 1874 Floss Silverthorn, or the Master's little handmaid London Seeley, Jackson, & Halliday (c. 240p p. in other eds.), 8º
23 1874 The mists of the valley London Seeley, Jackson, & Halliday 247 p., 19 cm
24 1874 Willie and Lucy abroad London Religious Tract Society 92 p., 4 of col. plates : ill., 19 cm
25 1875 Coulyng Castle, or A knight of the olden days London Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday x, 347, 2 p. : 1 ill., 19 cm
26 1875 Lisa Baillie's journal London Religious Tract Society 105, 2 p. : 1 ill., 16 cm
27 1875 Old Mattie's Musings. [In verse.] London 1 Vol., 16º
28 1876 The lost found, or Brunhild's trials London Religious Tract Society 127 p., 1 ill., 17 cm
29 1876 Will Foster of the ferry London Seeley, Jackson, & Halliday iv, 186 p., 1 1 ill., 18 cm
30 1877 The battle-field of life London Seeley, Jackson, & Halliday iv, 344, 4 p., 1 1 ill., 19 cm
31 1878 Nurse Seagrave's story, her first, second and third places London Religious Tract Society 128 p. : ill., 17 cm
32 1878 The hillside children London Seeley, Jackson & Halliday iv, 259 p., 1 illustrations, 19 cm
33 1879 Hand and Heart Christmas Box of Fireside Tales and Sketches London 'Hand and Heart' Publishing Office 160 p., 8º
34 1879 Hohnfrida's Christmas Cheer
35 1879 Muriel Bertram, a tale London Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday vi, 382, 2 p. : ill., 19 cm
36 1879 Sun, moon and stars, astronomy for beginners London Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday xiv, 302 p., 16 ill. (some col.), 19 cm
37 1879 The rector's home, a story London Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday viii, 373 p., 19 cm
38 1879 The upward gaze London Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday viii, 183 p., 11 cm
39 1880 Royal Priests London Seeley & Co x, 176 p., (16º)
40 1881 Duties and Duties. A tale London Seeley, Jackson & Co viii, 346 p., 8º
41 1881 My Father's House, or Thoughts about Heaven London Seeley & Co x, 234 p., 16º
42 1881 Readings with the Little Ones London Religious Tract Society 95 p., 8º
43 1881 Through the Linn, or Miss Temple's Wards London Religious Tract Society 160 p., 8º
44 1882 Decima's Promise London Nisbet & Co vi, 244 p., 8º
45 1882 Jacob Witherby, or “Need of Patience.” London Religious Tract Society 160 p., 8º
46 1882 Our Folks, John Churchill's letters home London 'Hand & Heart' Publishing Office 86 p., 8º
47 1882 Sweetbriar, or doings in Priorsthorp Magna. London Seeley, Jackson & Halliday iv, 404 p., 8º
48 1882 The world's foundations, or Geology for beginners London Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday xi, 313 p., 16 ill. (8 col.), 20 cm
49 1882 Trying to enter London Seeley, Jackson & Halliday 149 p., 8º
50 1882 Twilight Talks, or easy lessons on things around us London Religious Tract Society 156 p., 8º
51 1883 Daily Evening Rest, or Thoughts of Peace about the Master London Nisbet & Co viii, 243 p., 8º
52 1883 Five little birdies. Illustrated with black-and-white drawings by Robert Barnes. London The Religious Tract Society 95 p., ill., 17 x 22 cm
53 1883 Kathleen, the story of a home London Nisbet & Co viii. 324 p., 8º
54 1883 Next-door Neighbours London Religious Tract Society 128 p., 8º
55 1883 The Nameless Shadow. London 'Home Words' Office 378 p., 8º
56 1884 Among the Stars, or wonderful things in the sky London Seeley & Co viii, 310 p., 8º
57 1884 Beryl and Pearl London Nisbet & Co viii, 343 p., 8º
58 1884 Old Umbrellas, or Clarrie and her Mother London Nisbet & Co 147 p., 8º
59 1885 Daisy of the "old meadow" London Nisbet & Co x, 139, 28 p., 19 cm
60 1885 Gwendoline London Religious Tract Society 256 p., 8º
61 1885 St. Austin's Lodge, or Mr. Berkeley and his nieces [a tale] London Nisbet & Co vii, 375 p., 8º
62 1885 Tim Teddington's dream, or "Liberty, equality, and fraternity" London 'Home Words' Office 42p.
63 1886 Enid's silver bond London Nisbet & Co vi, 375 p., 5 ill., 19 cm
64 1886 Five Thousand Pounds London Nisbet & Co 144 p., 8º
65 1886 Profit and loss, or Life's ledger London Religious Tract Society 218,4p.,1plate, 19cm
66 1887 Father Aldur. A water story, etc London Seeley & Co vi, 333 p., 8º
67 1887 His adopted daughter, or A quiet valley London John F. Shaw and Co 346 p., 4 of plates (inc. front.) : ill., 21 cm
68 1887 Miss Con, or All those girls London Nisbet & Co viii, 341 p. : front., ill., plates, 19 cm
69 1888 Ralph Hardcastle's Will London Hatchards vi, 356 p., 8º
70 1888 Ready, aye Ready! London Nisbet & Co viii, 194 p., 8º
71 1888 The Earls of the Village London J. F. Shaw & Co 256 p., 8º
72 1888 Twilight Verses London Nisbet & Co iv. 72 p., 8º
73 1889 Number Three Winifred Place London Nisbet & Co viii, 264 p., 8º
74 1889 Stories jolly, stories new, stories strange & stories true, a series of new and original tales for boys and girls from six to fourteen years old London Skeffington & Son viii, 265, 3 p., plates : ill., 19cm
75 1890 'Least said, soonest mended' London James Nisbet & Co 260 p. , 4 p. of plates : ill, 20 cm
76 1890 Nigel Browning London Longmans & Co viii, 435 p., 8º
77 1890 The ocean of air, meteorology for beginners London Seeley and Co xiv, 2, 340 p., 16 ill., 20 cm
78 1891 Miss Devereux, Spinster, a study in development London Longmans & Co 2 volumes, 8º
79 1891 The Dalrymples London Nisbet & Co vi. 279 p., 8º
80 1891 Tim Teddington's Shoes, or who was the worst off? A second dream London 'Home Words' Office 80 p., 8º
81 1891 Won at last, or Mrs. Briscow's nephews London John F. Shaw and Co vi, 7-256 p. : ill., 20 cm
82 1892 A case of poisoning London SPCK 30 p., 21 cm
83 1892 Beside the waters of comfort, thoughts from many minds London Seeley & Co 389 p., 18 cm
84 1892 Great unwashed Jimmy London SPCK E. & J.B. Young & Co 32 p., 22 cm
85 1893 A pretty kettle of fish London S.P.C.K 31 p., 21 cm
86 1893 Ida's Secret, or the Towers of Ickledale London J. F. Shaw & Co 220 p., 8º
87 1893 Life in a Nutshell, a story London J. F. Shaw & Co vi, 222 p., 8º
88 1893 On the horns of a dilemma London SPCK 32 p., 21 cm
89 1893 The dread cry London SPCK 32 p., 21 cm
90 1894 By hook or by crook, a story of water London SPCK 32p., 22cm
91 1894 Miles Murchison London Nisbet & Co vi, 184 p., 8º
92 1894 The Andersons, brother and sister London Nisbet & Co 300 p., 4 ill., 20 cm
93 1894 The starry skies, first lessons on the sun, moon and stars London Seeley & Co viii, 242, 6 p. : ill., 18 cm
94 1895 A lady of England, the life and letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker London Hodder & Stoughton xii, 519p : ill, 21cm
95 1895 Radiant suns, a sequel to "Sun, moon and stars" London Seeley & Co. xiv, 2, 328, 8 p., 18 ill. (some col.), 20 cm
96 1895 This Wonderful Universe London Seeley & Co 128 p., 8º
97 1896 Life-Tangles, or the Journal of Rhoda Frith London J. F. Shaw & Co 288 p., 8º
98 1896 Little eyebright, and her pund o' care London J. F. Shaw & Co 160, 16 p. : ill., 19 cm
99 1896 Marigold's Decision, etc London Nisbet & Co 128 p., 8º
100 1896 Miss Primrose London J. F. Shaw & Co 160 p., 8º
101 1896 Old Comrades London J. F. Shaw & Co 218 p., 8º
102 1896 The Girl at the Dower House and afterward, etc London W. & R. Chambers 374 p., 8º
103 1897 Little Miss Lustring London Marshall, Russell & Co 109 p., (12º)
104 1898 A modern Puck, a fairy story for children London Jarrold 278, 10 p. : 50 ill., 20 cm
105 1898 Everybody's business London John F. Shaw and Co viii, 308, 32 p., 5 ill., 20 cm
106 1898 Monsters of Olden Times, with an account of the early history of the earth, etc Madras Christian Literature Society for India, Madras 44 p., 8º
107 1899 Easy Lessons on things around us London Religious Tract Society 156 p., 8º
108 1901 Anthony Cragg's Tenant London Religious Tract Society 256 p., 8º
109 1901 Roy. A tale in the days of Sir John Moore London C. Arthur Pearson x, 328 p., 8º
110 1902 A knight of honour, historical and other stories London 1 Vol, 8vo.
111 1902 The Mighty Deep and what we know of it London C. Arthur Pearson xii, 290 p., 8º
112 1902 The Rack of this Tough World London Hutchinson & Co vii. 335 p., 8º
113 1903 Stories of the Abbey Precinct London Religious Tract Society 313, 2 p., 3 ill., 20 cm
114 1903 Sun, moon and stars, astronomy for beginners London Seeley & Co 2, xvi, 329 p., 16 ill. (some col.), 20 cm
115 1905 The Pride o' the Morning London S. C. Brown, Langham & Co vii. 312 p., 8º
116 1906 Rowena London T. Werner Laurie viii. 307 p., 8º
117 1907 Little 'Why-Because' London Religious Tract Society 180 p., 8º
118 1909 Under Puritan rule, a tale of troublous days London National Society's Depository 298, 6 p., 5 ill., 21 cm
119 1911 Polly, the Postmaster's Daughter London Religious Tract Society 48 p., 8º
120 1911 Val and his friends London Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts viii, 190 p., 16 17 ill., 20 cm
121 1912 Glimpses of Christ ... With a preface by Arthur W. Robinson London Skeffington & Son xi, 140 p., 8º
122 1913 Life's Little Stage London Religious Tract Society 320 p., 8º
123 1913 This Wonder-World London Religious Tract Society xii, 195 p., 8º
124 1913 Two little girls and Aunt Bessie [London Religious Tract Society 31, 1 p.; ill.; 19 cm
125 1914 The Doings of Doris London Religious Tract Society 368 p., 2 2 col. ill., 20 cm
126 1920 This Wonderful Universe London SPCK x, 182 p., 8º
127 1921 The garden of earth, a little book on plant-life, plant growth, and the ways and uses of plants London SPCK xiv, 178 p : col. front., illus, 19 cm
128 1928 Jock with Mousie, etc London Religious Tract Society 192 p., 8º
129 1929 Capitalism and the Common Good. By H. J. Marshall and Agnes Giberne London London Ratepayers Union 48 p., 8º
130 1930 Please Tell Me Another Tale, A Collection Of Short Original Stories for Children. London Skeffington & Son 220 p., fs., ill., 18 cm
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