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eBook available: Motor Matt’s Launch

Motor Matt's LaunchThe latest title to be transformed from images in our Digital Library into a Project Gutenberg eBook by Distributed Proofreaders is the twenty-first Motor Stories adventure, Motor Matt’s Launch; or, A Friend in Need. This adventure starts Motor Matt off with a clean slate, as it sends his old friends Carl and Dick off on a trip and allows him to meet a new cast of supporting characters.

Those relieved at the prospect of a break from the German stereotyping of Carl Pretzel will be disappointed to find him replaced with, if anything, an even less sympathetic ethnic portrayal in the form of the unfortunately named Ping Pong, a Chinese character who teams up with Motor Matt after winning a boat in a raffle. The book’s exaggerated racial portrayals are at least slightly offset by the fact that Matt himself steadfastly refuses to join in his fellow characters’ racism, and his kindness and open-mindedness is ultimately shown to pay off — another example of the complexities and contradictions to be found in this series.

As with most issues of Motor Stories, the book is filled out with an extra story, in this case, “The Man-Eater,” telling of an encounter with a dangerous tiger.

The entire book may be downloaded or read online through Project Gutenberg.


Available for proofreading: The Prince of the House of David

The Prince of the House of DavidBefore dime novelist Prentiss Ingraham was writing adventures like Wizard Will the Wonder Worker, his father Reverend J. H. Ingraham published a number of successful religious novels. Our latest Distributed Proofreaders project is one of these tales, an epistolary novel called The Prince of the House of David. The particular edition we are using as the basis for this project comes from Chicago-based publisher David C. Cook’s New Sabbath Library, a series of inexpensive editions of religious novels sold by subscription.

To help make this once-popular book available again in convenient electronic formats, first read about the proofreading process here, then join in at the project page.


eBook available: Leslie’s Loyalty

Leslie's LoyaltyOur latest Project Gutenberg eBook release, produced with the help of the Distributed Proofreaders project, is Leslie’s Loyalty by Charles Garvice. This is the third Garvice title we have worked on, following Wild Margaret and The Spider and the Fly.

Leslie’s Loyalty seems to be a fairly typical Garvice romance, with an irresponsible but good-natured upper class hero, a beautiful but poor heroine, and some melodramatic complications to delay their eventual union. There aren’t as many unusual plot elements as were found in The Spider and the Fly, but there are mix-ups and misunderstandings enough to fuel a screwball comedy. This is no comedy, however — in spite of some humorous moments, it more often aims for a tragic tone.

As in Wild Margaret, the author’s prose holds a certain charm that goes at least a little way to offset the conventionality and absurdity of the plot. Perhaps it’s the tongue-in-cheek snobbishness of the narration, or the fact that the story makes an effort to paint nearly every character sympathetically; whatever it is, there is a certain intangible quality that helps to explain how these novels were best-sellers in their day.

In case you’d like to form your own opinion, the entire book can be read online or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.


Available for proofreading: Will Rossiter’s Talkalogues

TalkaloguesOur latest Distributed Proofreaders project is another book from the author of the recently released The Art of Kissing. Unlike that previous volume, this new title, Will Rossiter’s Talkalogues by American Jokers, does not limit itself to a single theme but instead presents a random assortment of jokes and cartoons. The book will probably not appear very funny to a contemporary audience, but it does provide a window into the humor of over a century ago.

To help create a new edition of this long-forgotten book, first read this earlier post to learn about the proofreading process, then join in at the project page.


eBook available: Motor Matt Makes Good

Motor Matt Makes GoodThis week sees the release of the twentieth issue of Motor Stories on Project Gutenberg, courtesy of Distributed Proofreaders and our Digital Library. Motor Matt Makes Good; or, Another Victory for the Motor Boys concludes the “submarine Grampus” story arc begun all the way back in issue 12. The next issue could take Motor Matt and his friends just about anywhere!

The issue also includes the conclusion to “The Spider Water,” begun last issue, and some filler material about alligators and venomous fish.

The entire text may be read online or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: How to Do Chemical Tricks

How to Do Chemical TricksAnother book in our collection has been given the Project Gutenberg / Distributed Proofreaders eBook treatment this week. How to Do Chemical Tricks is, as the title suggests, a collection of science experiments (not strictly limited to chemistry) from Frank Tousey‘s Ten Cent Hand Book series.

Like many other books in the series, this seems to have been cobbled together from multiple sources, as it seems a bit disorganized and sometimes repeats itself. In spite of its flaws, though, it is an interesting read, and some of the experiments might still be fun to perform today (if you can figure out how to modernize the archaic terminology). However, the book is obviously a product of a different time, as it encourages its young audience to do things that today’s parents would probably not approve of, including inhaling nitrous oxide, asphyxiating mice, and (of course) creating a variety of fires and explosions.

As always, the entire book can be read online or downloaded through Project Gutenberg, but remember — don’t try some of these things at home!


Available for proofreading: In the Wonderful Land of Hez

In the Wonderful Land of HezA couple of years ago, we released an eBook of In the Depths of the Dark Continent, a dime novel adventure featuring, among other things, giant crabs and a lost civilization. Our latest project at Distributed Proofreaders comes from the same author and is written in the same vein: In the Wonderful Land of Hez; or, the Mystery of the Fountain of Youth.

To help create a new electronic edition of this forgotten adventure, first read this earlier post to learn how the process works, then join in at the project page.


eBook available: The Art of Kissing

The Art of KissingThis week’s Project Gutenberg eBook release (courtesy of Distributed Proofreaders and our Digital Library) is The Art of Kissing by Will Rossiter, an eclectic mix of history, trivia, anecdotes and jokes. It is surprisingly extensive, so the best way to describe it is simply to reproduce its table of contents:

    I.    Origin of kissing; the Scandinavian tradition; an old poet’s idea—Kissing in ancient Rome, and among the Jews and early Christians—Biblical kissing—Religious significance—Kissing in early England—Ancient kissing customs as described by Erasmus—The puritanical views of John Bunyan—How Adam kissed Eve—A kiss defined: By the dictionary, Shakespeare, Robert Herrick, Sidney, Coleridge—Comical and short descriptions—A grammar of kissing—The scientific reason why kisses are pleasant.

II.    How to kiss—The act fully described—Size of the mouth to be considered—Large mouths and those of the rose-bud sort—The girl who claws and struggles—Poetical directions—Dangers of hugging—Tapping the lips of a Mexican senorita—Kissing a Chinese girl—How to receive a kiss—Long-remembered kisses—The kiss in betrothal and marriage.

III.    The significance of kisses—The kissing of hands in religious ceremony and social life, in ancient Rome, Mexico and Austria—The politic achievement of a kiss—An indignant cardinal—A kiss within the cup—Something about lips, the sweet petitioners for kisses—Dancing and kissing—An Irish kissing festival—Electric kissing parties—Kissing under the mistletoe—New year’s kissing in old New York—A Western kissing bee.

IV.    Kissing in different countries: In Arabia, Egypt, Russia, Finland, Iceland, Paraguay—A pleasing but perplexing Norwegian custom—The “blue laws” of Connecticut—Kissing in the eyes of the law—Money value of a stolen kiss—Sanitary dangers of kissing—Kissing the dying—Famous kisses—The Blarney Stone—Soulful kisses—Kissing the feet of beggars.

V.    Different kinds of kisses: The long, long kiss, the paroxysmal, the icy, the Western, the life-teeming kiss—How college girls kiss—The kiss of a female cornetist—Platonic kisses—Roman osculation—Characteristics of kisses—The kiss as a punishment—The king of baby-kissers—The kiss after marriage—Stolen kisses, sometimes called “dainty bits of plunder”—The story of a Circassian girl.

VI.    Men kissing each other in France, in England, and in Germany—Origin of the custom of kissing the Pope’s toe—Henry IV. and his punishment—Kissing the feet of royalty an ancient custom—Kisses as rewards of genius—The part osculation has paid in politics—Curious bargains for kisses—What legally constitutes a kiss—A kiss at auction—Giving $50 to kiss Edwin Booth.

VII.    Excuses for kissing; how all nature justifies the practice—The childish and the humorous excuse—Kissing casuistry—The gluttony of kissing; unaccountable osculatory demands—Excuses for not kissing—Kissing experiences—Dominie Brown’s first kiss—The kiss of the Spanish girl, the nurse, the mother—A curious German custom.

VIII.    The important consequences connected with kissing—Arrah-na-Pogue—Refusing the sacrament on account of a kiss—How a child’s kiss affected the course of a desperate man—What a little mare’s kiss did—Brought to life by a kiss—The kiss of death—Kissing in tunnels—A mountain experience—Kissing the cook.

And in case you are keeping score, yes, the book does share some of St. Augustine’s wisdom on the subject.

The entire book can be read online or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: Tragedies of the White Slave

Tragedies of the White SlavesOur latest completed project from Distributed Proofreaders is Tragedies of the White Slave, an inexpensive paper-covered volume from 1909 that seems to fall into the same category as early “cautionary” films like Reefer Madness, adopting a highly moralistic tone while also providing shocking-for-its-time accounts of taboo topics.

Although the title page promises “ten tragedies of ten girls,” the book actually delivers six single-chapter anecdotes and a seventh tale split into six additional chapters. All claim to be true stories, and the long piece, about Irish lace-maker Ella Gingles, does appear to refer to a real case that was covered in such papers as the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times, among others. The author, Hal Mcleod Lytle, also appears to be a real Chicago Tribune reporter of the period, based on a search of the Ancestry database.

The premise of the book is that big cities, and in particular, Chicago, harbor a widespread and efficient industry specializing in entrapping young girls into forced prostitution. Human trafficking remains a real (if controversially-defined) problem, and undoubtedly some of today’s problems were already brewing in 1909 (and earlier). However, many of the anecdotes here resemble dime novel melodrama more than believable criminal activity, suggesting that, at best, this is a loose mix of fact and fantasy. Significantly, the real case involving Ella Gingles seems to offer a lot more ambiguity and room for alternate interpretations than the shorter, more apparently fictionalized or generalized stories.

If nothing else, this book offers an interesting view of how some particularly horrific subjects were viewed and portrayed in a much more conservative time, and it might also provide some starting points for deeper research into how reality and public perception differed on the subject of the exploitation of women during this period.


eBook available: Motor Matt’s Defiance

Motor Matt's DefianceThis week sees the release of another Motor Stories issue on Project Gutenberg, thanks to the labor of Distributed Proofreaders and the use of images from our Digital Library. In Motor Matt’s Defiance; or, Around the Horn, the Motor Boys continue their mission to deliver a submarine into the hands of the U. S. government while facing a variety of foes and obstacles.

Perhaps more interesting than the lead story here is the inclusion of the first half of “The Spider Water,” an unattributed tale which turns out to be abridged from a portion of Frank H. Spearman’s Held for Orders, a collection of rail-themed short stories. This particular story appears to have been reprinted in a variety of places, and it might be interesting to investigate how it made its way to the pages of Motor Stories, where it seems stylistically a bit out of place.

As always, the full issue can be read online at Project Gutenberg.

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Last Modified: September 15, 2015