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Now in proofreading: What’s Your Hurry?

  • Posted by: Demian Katz
  • Posted Date: February 26, 2013
  • Filed Under: Project Gutenberg

Following the recent completion of our Atchoo! project, we have unveiled another example of George Niblo’s vaudeville comedy for proofreading.  This time, the title is What’s Your Hurry? A Deck Full of Jokers.  As with past examples from the Street & Smith Humor Library, this book gives a glimpse of comedic tastes from over a century ago, and sometimes they aren’t pretty — be prepared for some offensive stereotypes in between the puns.

If you aren’t put off by the subject matter or the hard to read decorative font, you can help with the proofreading efforts at the project page.  To learn more about our proofreading efforts, see this earlier post.


eBook available: Catholic Colonization in Minnesota

  • Posted by: Demian Katz
  • Posted Date: February 25, 2013
  • Filed Under: Project Gutenberg

One of our earliest proofreading projects has just been completed.  Catholic Colonization in Minnesota is now available for download or online reading through Project Gutenberg.  The book, released in 1879, is designed as a guide for Catholics interested in setting up farms in Minnesota.  While this is a rather narrow topic, the book contains a variety of interesting details.  It offers elaborate (though possibly biased) descriptions of the economic and agricultural conditions of the period.  Railroad historians may also appreciate the tables describing travel arrangements.  Machinery aficionados will likely enjoy the illustrations of farm equipment found in the advertising section.  If any of this sounds worth a look, you can find the book here.


eBook available: Atchoo!

  • Posted by: Demian Katz
  • Posted Date: February 19, 2013
  • Filed Under: Project Gutenberg

Balancing the Books

Another of our proofreading projects has been completed: George Niblo’s Atchoo! Sneezes from a Hilarious Vaudevillian, which started the process in August.

As mentioned previously, this book is a transcript of a live comedy routine from 1903.  For the most part, the humor has not aged well, particularly since there are quite a few nasty ethnic stereotypes on display.  However, some of the book’s targets are still considered fair game in some circles today — lawyers, policemen, newlyweds — and many of the jokes have a familiar ring to them.  Puns haven’t changed much in over a century.  Here is a representative example:

My brother Tom was hit on the head some time ago, and at the hospital they said they would have to amputate half his brain. I didn’t want them to, because he is absent-minded anyway.

“We’ll have to give him something to make him sleep,” said one of the surgeons.

“That won’t be necessary,” said another; “he’s a policeman.”

That made Tom sore, and he snapped: “I’ve got half a mind to cave in your ribs for you.”

“You won’t feel that way in a minute,” said the surgeon, “because that’s the half of your mind we’re going to cut out.”

It was a great operation. When I told my wife of the surgeon’s little joke and how Tom came back at him she said she never knew a time when Tom wasn’t ready to give anybody a piece of his mind.

If you are interested in the full experience of reading a Vaudeville routine (and are fully prepared to be offended), the complete book is now available for online reading or download to electronic reading devices from Project Gutenberg.


Through Hell to the stars

  • Posted by: Laura Bang
  • Posted Date: February 18, 2013
  • Filed Under: Events, Exhibits
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita. (I.1-3)
Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray
from the straight road and woke to find myself
alone in a dark wood.

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate (Abandon every hope, who enter here)
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate. (III.9)
Abandon all Hope ye who enter here.

On February 12, the Digital Library Team led a journey through Hell in the form of a marathon reading of Dante’s Inferno. The event was supported by the Library’s Scholarly Outreach Team, and co-sponsored by the Italian Club, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and the Villanova Center for Liberal Education. Reading began at 10am and continued through all 34 cantos to about 4pm, with cantos being read in English and Italian.

Mini exhibit of Dante-related books and movies.
Dante-related materials from a mini-exhibit.

This event was originally dreamed up by Dr. Diane Biunno, an assistant professor in the Italian Department and a Digital Library Intern for Summer 2012 (Diane is currently working on a Masters of Library Science at Drexel University), and Michael Foight, Digital Library & Special Collections Coordinator. As her internship project, Diane curated the online exhibit “Dante’s Illustrated Adventure” (you can read Diane’s post about her exhibit here). The marathon reading was originally scheduled for October 30, 2012, but was canceled due to the inclement weather produced by Hurricane Sandy. There was a lot of excitement for the event, however, so we rescheduled it for the February date.

Diane Biunno, dressed as "Beatrice," started the reading with Canto I.
Diane Biunno, dressed as “Beatrice,” started the reading with Canto I.

Diane provided a brief welcome and began the reading in Italian shortly after 10am. Volunteers were then asked to read each subsequent canto, with a choice of reading in either Italian or English. If a canto was read in Italian, the next reader would read the same canto in English, so that everyone could follow along. The English translation that we used for the day was John Ciardi’s (which is also used for the English translations within this post). There was a good turnout throughout the day and among the readers were students from Italian classes of various levels, faculty from the Department of Romance Languages & Literatures, and several others. All participants had a fun time, partaking of thematic snacks along the way, and we emerged on the other side of Hell at the end of Canto XXXIV just after 4pm.

E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle. (XXXIV.139) And we walked out once more beneath the Stars.


eBook available: How to Fence

  • Posted by: Demian Katz
  • Posted Date: February 17, 2013
  • Filed Under: Project Gutenberg

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve already heard about How to Fence twice: in July when it was rediscovered in our basement, and in August when it first went into proofreading.  Now, at last, the book is available in electronic form at Project Gutenberg.  As you might expect, 60 pages of text won’t actually make you a master of fencing, broadsword combat, archery, and assorted Olympic-style sports, but it’s interesting to see just how much the author tries to cram into the available space.  The book can be read online or downloaded for all popular reading devices here.


eBook available: Bolax by Mrs. Josephine Culpeper

Portrait of "Bolax when he went to college."

Portrait of "Bolax when he went to college." (Facing p. 158.)

One of the latest of our books to be made available as a Project Gutenberg ebook is Bolax: Imp or Angel–Which? by Mrs. Josephine Culpeper. Besides having one of the most fantastic titles I have ever encountered, this book is a fictionalized biographical account of Mrs. Culpeper’s son, Bolax, who attended the boys’ academy at Villanova for a few years before transferring to another school.

Mrs. Culpeper raised her family in the area — in Wayne on the Main Line — and our copy of the book was presented to Villanova College (as it was then) by the author. In an inscription at the front of the book, Mrs. Culpeper explains the origin of Bolax’s name:

“The odd name comes from the boy’s father calling him bowlegs because as a baby he walked crooked. The boy caught the sound as Bolax and was so called until quite a big boy.”

An unsigned note below Mrs. Culpeper’s explains the Villanova connection (as well as revealing Bolax’s real name):

“In 1892-93 the son of Mrs. Josephine Culpeper, Osmond J., attended classes at Villanova, to which reference is made in her pages. Mrs. C– lives at Wayne, Pa.; it was from thence that the little ‘Bolax’ was sent to St. Thomas of Villanova….”

There is also a letter inserted between the pages after the above notes, in which Mrs. Culpeper says that the book is “true to life” and that she “kept a diary of all [her] children’s saying and doings and from this wrote the book.”

The book follows the escapades of Bolax from the age of five to fourteen. He has an older sister named Amy as well, but the primary focus is on Bolax and his struggles to be a good Catholic boy. Among his adventures and misadventures, Bolax goes for a “real piggie-back ride” (p. 13), a picnic with his Sunday school class (p. 42ff.), and his first confession (p. 62). Bolax declares his wish to attend the school at St. Thomas’ College on page 70 and he is admitted on page 77, even though at nine he is two or three years younger than their youngest pupils. Bolax attends the boys’ preparatory school that eventually became Malvern Preparatory School. Some of the noteworthy mentions of life at Villanova include the description of Bolax’s first two weeks (p. 83ff.), an epidemic of scarlet fever (p. 155-6), and slang expressions in use at the school (p. 159).

Snippet of text ("I just know he is an angel...") with marginalia.
Bolax describes one of the priests at Villanova on
page 84 and a marginal note poses a possible
candidate for the real-life Augustinian alluded to
(“Evidently Father Charles McFadden is meant”).

There are some interesting scenes and insights into late-19th-century life in the Philadelphia suburbs, but it is a rather oddly written book that incorporates many different writing styles that don’t really blend well. Besides the (fictionalized) biographical narrative, there are epistolary passages and several didactic passages — on topics ranging from the lifecycle of the ladybug (p. 35-6) and how to raise good little boys (p. 52-60) to a “pleasant controversy” of differing religious views (p. 29-32). Of course, the writing also incorporates the casual racism that was common at the time. In addition to the variety of writing styles, there are also quite a lot of typos and grammatical mistakes — some of which a previous reader tried to correct in pencil (see, for example, the third line of page 13) — which makes the book seem like an early-20th-century version of a vanity press publication. Despite these flaws, Bolax is still a good read for those interested in the social history of the Main Line, late-19th/early-20th-century Catholic life, or the history of the prep school at Villanova.

If you’re interested in seeing the marginalia, you can view the page images of Bolax in our Digital Library. For a cleaner reading experience, you can download the ebook or view it online at Project Gutenberg. You can read more about our proofreading project here.



Last Modified: February 1, 2013