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eBook available: Addie’s Husband

Addie's HusbandThis week’s eBook release is Addie’s Husband; or, Through Clouds to Sunshine, by British novelist Mrs. Gordon Smythies. Like many British novels, this one was reprinted in America as part of George Munro’s Seaside Library, quite possibly with little or no compensation to the author. From there, it eventually made its way to our Digital Library, and from there, to Distributed Proofreaders and Project Gutenberg.

As the title suggests, the book is a romance, telling the tale of a young girl thrown on the world when her father squanders the family fortune. Help comes in the form of an unexpected marriage, but, needless to say, there are plenty of melodramatic complications before the promised sunshine arrives. While the book stays well within the bounds of most 19th century romantic conventions, it is perhaps noteworthy for giving both its hero and heroine physical and emotional imperfections and at least a hint of pragmatism, in an era where many similar novels featured exaggeratedly idealized characters driven by extreme passions.

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


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Available for proofreading: How to Do Chemical Tricks

How to Do Chemical TricksIt has been quite some time since we have released a Frank Tousey Ten Cent Hand Book to Distributed Proofreaders, so today’s new project is somewhat overdue. How to Do Chemical Tricks offers a series of science experiments for its young readers, and like previous release How to Make Electrical Machines, it shows that our attitudes about what children should be doing on their own may have changed a bit in a century.

To help produce a new electronic edition of this vintage book, first read our earlier blog post about the proofreading process, then join in the work at the project page.


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eBook available: Motor Matt in Brazil

Motor Matt in BrazilAnother week brings another Project Gutenberg release from the Motor Stories series, thanks to the work of Distributed Proofreaders volunteers.

In volume 18, Motor Matt in Brazil; or, Under the Amazon, the Motor Boys continue their adventures aboard the submarine Grampus, finding themselves opposed by the Sons of the Rising Son, a fanatical Japanese nationalist group determined to prevent the craft from falling under the control of the American government. Perhaps it goes without saying that some unfortunate period stereotypes are put on display along the way, and the story’s heroes demonstrate varying degrees of racism, though the narrative is careful to differentiate between the story’s villains and the friendly Japanese government.

The book is filled out with “In the Hands of the Enemy,” a short story involving an African uprising (and, unsurprisingly, some more racist attitudes).

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


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eBook available: Motor Matt’s Close Call

Motor Matt's Close CallAnother Motor Stories adventure has arrived at Project Gutenberg through our collaboration with Distributed Proofreaders.

In issue 17, Motor Matt’s Close Call; or, The Snare of Don Carlos, the submarine Grampus once again faces revolutionaries in Belize through the machinations of a villain with a talent for impersonation.

The issue also contains some interesting filler material: a feel-good New Year’s story by Horatio Alger, Jr. and an article about dangerous careers, which includes such memorable passages as this one, about the hazards faced by pearl divers:

Many succumb every season to a strange and deadly form of paralysis. Many more are eaten by sharks, drowned through getting their feet entangled in weeds, caught in crevices in the rocks while exploring the depths of the sea, or seized and devoured quickly by shoals of gigantic octopi—those ghouls of the ocean—which invariably infest the fishing-grounds.

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


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eBook available: Motor Matt’s Quest

Motor Matt's QuestThis week, we mark the halfway point through the 32-volume Motor Stories series on Project Gutenberg with the release of the sixteenth adventure, Motor Matt’s Quest; or, Three Chums in Strange Waters.

Picking up where the previous adventure left off, this reveals the government assignment that Motor Matt and his friends must undertake in their submarine: rescuing an American consul from revolutionaries in Belize. The volume also includes the usual random assortment of filler material, including “Mischievous Ned,” in which the young boy of the title aggressively pushes the boundary between “mischief” and “criminal assault.”

As usual, the entire book can be read online or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.


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eBook available: Frank Reade and His Steam Horse

Frank Reade and His Steam HorseIt is easy to imagine that the steampunk movement — science fiction featuring steam-powered inventions and a 19th-century style — is purely a modern invention, an exercise in “what if there had been a Victorian equivalent to today’s sci-fi genre?” However, early science fiction actually included much more than just the well-remembered works of literary figures like Jules Verne, and there really were a wealth of popular stories about steam-powered robots and other wild inventions before the turn of the 20th century. Many of these fictional creations were the products of boy inventor Frank Reade (or later, his son, Frank Reade, Jr.).

Our latest eBook release on Project Gutenberg, courtesy of Distributed Proofreaders, is an early Frank Reade adventure, Frank Reade and His Steam Horse, starring the senior inventor and written by Harry Enton before the series was taken over by the far more prolific Luis Senarens. As the title suggests, this adventure involves the creation of a steam-powered horse, which 16-year-old Reade takes to the west with some of his friends and relatives to stir up trouble.

This book is very much a product of its time and has some (likely unpleasant) surprises in store for the modern reader: plenty of racism and broad stereotypes, and a teenaged “hero” who sees no harm in casually slaughtering his foes en masse, as long as he’s reasonably sure they’re outlaws or Indians. It is not hard to see why Frank Reade has largely fallen off the cultural radar, but it is nonetheless interesting to study an early contributor to the science fiction genre, warts and all.

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


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eBook available: The Spider and the Fly

The Spider and the FlyThe latest Project Gutenberg release derived from images in our Digital Library is another novel by prolific British author Charles Garvice.

Like many of Garvice’s works, The Spider and the Fly is a romance dealing with the British upper class of the late 19th century. However, for this one, a few extra elements have been thrown in to spice the mix: a fishing village with a secret, a mysterious ghostly nun, and an escaped convict with a talent for manipulating everyone around him. The resulting blend of mystery, intrigue and romance may not be a work of high literature, but it does help demonstrate why Garvice was so popular in his time.

The entire book can be read online at Project Gutenberg, where it is also available for download in popular eBook formats.


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Available for proofreading: Tragedies of the White Slaves

Tragedies of the White SlavesThe latest item from our collection to open for proofreading at Distributed Proofreaders is Tragedies of the White Slaves, a collection of “true crime” stories dealing with the exploitation of women. Published in 1909 in a colorful, paper-covered format, this is an interesting (though certainly not unique) example of a publisher attempting to take commercial advantage of a sensitive (and sensational) subject.

To help produce a new electronic edition of this text, you can learn about the proofreading process from this earlier post, then join in the work at the project page.


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Available for proofreading: The Art of Kissing

The Art of KissingThe latest of our books to become available on Distributed Proofreaders is Will Rossiter’s The Art of Kissing. This 1902 volume claims to consider the subject of kissing “curiously, historically, humorously, [and] poetically.”

To help produce a new electronic edition of this text (and, presumably, to learn about kissing), you can first read this earlier post for information on the proofreading process, and then you can join in at the project page.


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eBook available: Custer’s Last Shot

Custer's Last ShotToday’s Project Gutenberg eBook release, courtesy of Distributed Proofreaders and our Digital Library, is Custer’s Last Shot; or, The Boy Trailer of the Little Horn by Col. J. M. Travers (actually a pseudonym of St. George Rathborne). While the eBook edition is based on the Wide Awake Library reprint from 1883, the story was first serialized in Boys of New York starting on August 7, 1876, less than two months after the Battle of the Little Bighorn depicted in the tale, demonstrating just how quickly publishers were willing to exploit news of the day for sensational fiction.

Custer’s Last Shot weaves the story of the battle with that of a criminal conspiracy, and while historical figures are given a prominent role, the main protagonists are Pandy Ellis and Bolly Wherrit, aged but hard-fighting and apparently indestructible rangers (who also figure in other Rathborne tales), and the titular “Boy Trailer,” who seeks to rescue his kidnapped sister from a series of abductors.

The story is told in a conversational style, with frequent authorial tangents, and it combines historical detail with sensational invention, spiced with editorial opinions. One particularly astute observation is this critique of historians and journalists:

 We always find the affair termed a massacre when the Indians are victorious; but when the tables are turned it is “a splendid campaign,” “a hard-fought battle,” and “a glorious victory for the troops.”

Similar comments have been made by later authors for different reasons. While it would certainly have been interesting to find a dime novel of this nature expressing some sympathy toward Native Americans, that is not the case here; Rathborne (whose portrayal of “Indians” is uniformly demeaning) is instead suggesting that the word “massacre” is insulting to the fallen soldiers. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see the author attempting to stimulate the critical thinking of his action-hungry, juvenile audience.

This is not the only surprise to be found in the hastily-written and disposable, yet historically interesting, text. If you wish to discover more, the entire novel can be read online (or downloaded in eBook format) through Project Gutenberg.


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Last Modified: June 26, 2015