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Now in proofreading: The Shadow of a Sin

Our latest proofreading project is another dime novel romance: The Shadow of a Sin, by “Bertha M. Clay.”

“Bertha M. Clay” is an interesting figure in the history of 19th century literary piracy. Prior to 1891, there was no American law governing republication of foreign works. As a result, many American publishers reprinted foreign works without obtaining permission or paying authors. While this may have been unethical (and many authors, including famous names like Charles Dickens, objected loudly), it wasn’t technically illegal, and the practice was widespread.

One victim of this piracy was prolific British romance novelist Charlotte M. Brame. Many of her works were reprinted in America by multiple publishers, sometimes under false names. One of the most common Brame aliases was Bertha M. Clay (note the similarity of initials), which was frequently used when Brame novels appeared in dime novel format. In fact, the fictional “Bertha M. Clay” was so successful that, after Brame’s death, American authors began to write additional “Clay” books in imitation of her style.

It probably goes without saying that this situation makes it a bit difficult to figure out the origin of some books from this period. Fortunately, a very detailed Charlotte Brame bibliography is available through Victorian Secrets’ Victorian Fiction Research Guides to help sort out the confusion.

According to the guide, The Shadow of a Sin was first serialized between November, 1874 and January, 1875 in the Family Herald, a British story paper. The edition in our collection is undated, but we know that it was printed in Philadelphia, most likely in the late 19th or early 20th century.

If you would like to help turn this old volume into a modern eBook, you can read about our proofreading project and then visit the project page.


eBook Available: History of the Catholic Church in Paterson, N.J.

  • Posted by: Demian Katz
  • Posted Date: January 14, 2013
  • Filed Under: Project Gutenberg

Title page of History of the Catholic Church in Paterson, N.J. (1883)When we first blogged about the Digital Library’s involvement with the Distributed Proofreaders project in March of last year, our first project was History of the Catholic Church in Paterson, N.J. A few months later, the project has been completed, and the book is now available on this page to read online or download onto the electronic reading device of your choice.

As the title implies, this is a history of a particular church in Paterson, N.J. from its construction up to the book’s publication in 1883.  The church’s predecessors are also discussed, as is the early history of Catholicism in the region.  The book includes brief biographies of several prominent Paterson Catholics, making it of possible interest to genealogists.

More proofreading projects will be completing soon, so watch this blog for further announcements.


Now in proofreading: World War I children’s fiction

This week, we have opened up a new online proofreading project.  The Brighton Boys in the Trenches is part of a series of American children’s novels written during World War I portraying (and glorifying) the battles overseas.  While a  lightweight children’s story about trench warfare is hard to imagine today, these types of violent adventures were popular during both of the World Wars, and quite a few were published.  More information on wartime children’s fiction, as well as essays on other interesting trends in popular culture, can be found in two essay collections in Falvey’s stacks: Pioneers, Passionate Ladies, and Private Eyes and Scorned Literature.

This project is Villanova’s first contribution to Project Not Quite Nancy Drew, a subset of the Distributed Proofreaders effort which focuses on preserving vintage children’s series fiction.  You can visit the PNQND page to find other similar projects currently in progress as well as links to completed eBooks (including other books in the Brighton Boys series).

As always, you can help with our proofreading by visiting the Brighton Boys in the Trenches project page, and you can learn more about the proofreading project from our earlier blog post on the subject.




More early 20th century humor in proofreading

Today’s new online proofreading project is a direct follow-up to an earlier title. Jiglets: A Series of Sidesplitting Gyrations Reeled Off by Walter Jones, the third volume of the Street & Smith Humor Library, immediately follows Atchoo!, which we made available back in August.

Like Atchoo!, Jiglets is essentially a transcription of a live comedy routine, illustrated with numerous line drawings.

Here is an excerpt (describing the comedian’s acting career) to give a feel for the sort of humor on display here:

I played Hamlet, Egglet, Eyelet, Omelet and To Let.

Every time I played Hamlet, I got an Egglet in the Eyelet, and I saved them up and made an Omelet, which caused such a disturbance among the other boarders, that my landlady told me my room was To Let.

If this brand of silliness appeals to you, please visit the project page to help us produce a modern electronic edition of this forgotten text.  You can also learn more about the proofreading project in this earlier blog post.



Last Modified: January 2, 2013