Another of publisher Frank Tousey’s Ten Cent Hand Books has been fully run through our proofreading process. The latest title is How to Become an Engineer, a guide to running real trains and building model versions at home, compiled by prolific dime novelist Francis W. Doughty under the pseudonym “an old engineer on the New York Central Railroad.”
Like other titles in this series, it is questionable how helpful this book actually was for aspiring engineers. The primary advice repeatedly offered by the book boils down to “work hard, pay attention, and you’ll learn what you need on the job.” The instructions for building model trains are complex, hard to follow, and at least a little bit dangerous (the steam-powered engines could explode if improperly built). In spite of these significant limitations, though, the book is more readable than some of its series-mates, with an enjoyable history chapter at the beginning and a conversational tone throughout.
Certain characteristics of past Tousey titles (tonal inconsistencies, references to sections that do not exist, etc.) have suggested that the publisher “borrowed” text from other sources. Further evidence was found during the production of this eBook, as it was discovered that some of the images here were lifted from the British publication Locomotive Engine Driving: A Practical Manual for Engineers in Charge of Locomotive Engines. If the graphics in this edition are difficult to read, going back to the earlier source offers clearer images.
The entire book can be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.
One of our recent proofreading projects has been turned into a finished eBook in record time thanks to the enthusiasm of Distributed Proofreaders volunteers.
The latest completed title is The Ocean Wireless Boys on the Pacific, part of a series of adventures involving teenaged radio operators. This particular story, the fifth in the series, has the Ocean Wireless Boys helping their millionaire employer find his lost brother, a famous explorer who disappeared in search of a fabulous pearl. The quest leads them into exotic settings where they encounter dangerous flora and fauna, unusual people, and a few old enemies from prior stories.
Like our earlier project, The Brighton Boys in the Trenches, this book is a time capsule of attitudes from nearly a century ago, showing what publishers thought boys wanted to read at the time of the Great War. It demonstrates the increasing commercialization of fiction through some very heavy-handed attempts to sell prior volumes from within the text of the story, and it also shows the pervasive casual racism of the era even while it sometimes seems to be attempting positive portrayals of people from other cultures.
Dime novel enthusiasts might also be interested to know that this is one of the few boys’ series books to also be published in dime novel “thickbook” format, as part of the Circling the Globe Library.
The full text, along with a couple of other Ocean Wireless Boys adventures, can be found at Project Gutenberg, where it can be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular formats.
Our latest proofreading project is Rena Halsey’s The Liberty Girl, a sequel to the earlier Blue Robin, the Girl Pioneer. This 1919 novel deals with, among other things, the Great War, making it an interesting feminine complement to the overtly masculine Brighton Boys in the Trenches. The project also ties in to our dime novel efforts, as Rena Halsey was the daughter of Harlan P. Halsey, better known as Old Sleuth, author of (among countless other titles), The Twin Ventriloquists. Truly, everything around here is connected in one way or another!
The book is now available at the Distributed Proofreaders site. To help us create a new electronic edition, you can read more about our proofreading efforts and then visit the project page.
Continuing our exploration of the works of Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller, this week’s new proofreading project is Little Golden’s Daughter; or, The Dream of a Life Time, in an edition published as part of the American News Company’s Favorite Library. The story was first serialized in the Family Story Paper from June 5, 1882 to September 4, 1882. While many of Mrs. Miller’s works have aged surprisingly well, this story appears to suffer from some painful racial stereotyping — be warned in advance before you dive in!
Because Little Golden’s Daughter is a relatively short novel, the Favorite Library edition contains two filler stories: “A Mock Idyl” by Percy Ross and “Farewell” by W. H. Stacpoole. We are releasing both of these short works for proofreading at the same time as the main tale.
To learn more about our proofreading efforts, which turn digital images from our collection into modern e-books, read this earlier post. To get involved and help with the work, pick the project page of your choice: Little Golden’s Daughter, A Mock Idyl or Farewell.
Written by: Rachel Yerger, Digital Library Intern, Fall ’13
By the start of the 20th century America’s fascination with new motorized vehicles was in full swing. Fueled by the recent inventions of the automobile, airplane and motorcycle, the popular culture surrounding these new exciting means of travel also began to grow. A dime novel series entitled Motor Stories exemplifies the growth of this new popular culture.
This dime novel series follows the adventures the young mechanic Matt King, appropriately nicknamed ‘Motor Matt’ or ‘Mile-a-Minute Matt’. Throughout the 32 issues Motor Matt finds himself at the helm of various motorized vehicles in pursuit of villains from all over the world. Motor Matt is portrayed as an everyday lad whose moral compass guides his every move, which is often challenged by the issue’s antagonist. The author of Motor Stories, Stanley R. Matthews, aims to make Motor Matt an average and relatable boy. The lessons learned by Motor Matt and his friends are ones that the reader can also learn.
For us here at Villanova, Motor Matt holds a different meaning than he did to his contemporary readers. Motor Stories was part of a generous multi-series dime novel acquisition from noted popular materials collector, Joe Rainone. It also happens to be the first complete dime novel series to be added to Villanova’s Digital Library. Not only is the Motor Stories series a pioneer in Villanova’s Digital Library, but it also made headway in dime novel culture. The Motor Stories series have been reprinted and adapted under multiple series and titles. Stanley R. Matthews, Motor Stories’ author, was a pseudonym for William Wallace Cook, one of the most prominent dime novel authors. William Wallace Cook also penned a ‘how-to’ book on writing short fiction entitled Plotto. In Plotto Cook describes, essentially, various plot combinations, most of which were used time and time again in dime novels. It is no surprise then to discover that Motor Matt shows up in other series such as Brave and Bold, Alger Series, Medal Library, Adventure Library and New Romance Library. Perhaps one of the most interesting evolutions is that of Motor Matt into Bob Steele. The Bob Steele character turns up in the Motor Power Series, which was a longer, hard cover publication which combined and revised issues of Motor Stories under the new pseudonym Donald Grayson. This method of recycling plots and characters is an example of how Cook intended his Plotto manual to be used by other authors.
Motor Stories just one small example of what dime novels have to offer. So, take some time to go on an adventure with Motor Matt, or one of the other dime novel characters by checking out dime novels in Villanova’s Digital Library
Our previous eBook release, A Dreadful Temptation, was part of an omnibus edition containing two novels. The second story from the volume is now our latest proofreading project: Wild Margaret, by Geraldine Fleming, which is actually a misattributed reprint of Charles Garvice’s His Guardian Angel.
Charles Garvice is one of several authors who are almost completely forgotten today in spite of selling millions of books during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is listed as one of the “big three” (along with Mrs. Georgie Sheldon and Mrs. Mary J. Holmes) in an ad on the back cover of our copy of The Bride of the Tomb; and Queenie’s Terrible Secret. His Wikipedia page provides a little bit of background information (plus a photograph featuring a monocle); a few of his other novels can already be found at Project Gutenberg.
The book is now available at the Distributed Proofreaders site. To help us create a new electronic edition, and to see what sold millions of copies over a century ago, you can read more about our proofreading efforts and then visit the project page.
Our work on producing electronic editions of the work of story paper writer Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller continues today with the release of A Dreadful Temptation; or, A Young Wife’s Ambition, a relatively early work from her days writing for the New York Family Story Paper and the sixth complete Mrs. Miller novel converted to an eBook from Villanova Digital Library images. Our edition is derived from the hardcover reprint in the Columbus Series.
Like all of Mrs. Miller’s novels, this one feels like the result of throwing a variety of melodramatic story paper tropes in the blender. The core plot involves a young girl marrying an old man for the sake of revenge, but we also have multiple maritime tragedies, a desperate plot to preserve a damaged reputation, and the usual set of highly-improbable coincidences to keep things interesting. While this certainly isn’t Mrs. Miller’s best work — it is hard to top a debut like The Bride of the Tomb — it is yet another entertaining example of late-19th-century popular reading.
The book may be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular formats at Project Gutenberg.
Our work on creating eBook editions of the works of Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller continues with our latest proofreading project: Kathleen’s Diamonds; or, She Loved a Handsome Actor. Unlike our previous projects, which all came from the pages of the New York Family Story Paper, this one comes from one of that publication’s biggest competitors, the Fireside Companion, where it ran from December 19, 1891 to April 16, 1892. The copy we are working with is a later reprint from Arthur Westbrook’s Hart Series.
The book is now available at the Distributed Proofreaders site. To help us create a new electronic edition, and to get a taste of the romance and mayhem that distinguish Mrs. Miller’s works, you can read more about our proofreading efforts and then visit the project page.
Another project has finished the proofreading process this week, and the title is a mouthful: The Twin Ventriloquists; or, Nimble Ike and Jack the Juggler: A Tale of Strategy and Jugglery. As the title suggests, this is the story of two ventriloquists who use their ability to project their voices as a means of fighting crime — a premise more recently used to humorous effect in The Voice segments of old-time radio parody Two-Minute Danger Theater, but here taken completely seriously.
It cannot be said that The Twin Ventriloquists tells a compelling story — more recent conceptions of the mystery novel may lead the reader to expect a well-defined mystery, a web of clues, and a logical conclusion. Those things are all missing here — instead, two ventriloquists randomly wander through New York, encountering crime through sheer luck and thwarting it in a series of loosely-connected episodes often padded with terse and repetitive dialogue. This is, apparently, the Old Sleuth style, designed primarily to produce a large number of books in a short period of time and to encourage people to buy them. The commercial nature of the series could not be more apparent than when the narration pauses to recommend that the reader buy other specific volumes in order to learn more about certain characters and events! For example:
Our hero was a good-looking chap. He had increased in strength and stature since first introduced to our readers in a former story, Number 6 of “Old Sleuth’s Own.”
It should be clear from all of this that The Twin Ventriloquists is not a literary masterpiece for the ages. It is, at best, an interesting glimpse into the evolution of commercialized entertainment. Yet, for all that, when it concludes by promising that in a future volume, “our readers will learn the thrilling romance of the life of Nimble Ike, the most wonderful ventriloquist yet known in all the world, and also will be revealed the secret of the mysterious box,” there is a certain genuine temptation to read on and learn more. Who can resist a mysterious box?
If you want to take a look for yourself, the entire volume can be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular formats through Project Gutenberg.
Our latest proofreading project is Leonie, the Typewriter, a self-described “thrilling romance of actual life,” from the days when a typewriter was not just a machine, but also the person who operated it.
Like several of our previous projects, this tale originated in the pages of the New York Family Story Paper. The copy we have digitized is a later stand-alone reprint. Unfortunately, the condition of the book is rather poor, making this a more challenging project than usual; however, with some perseverance, Leonie will live again!
Please join in the work at the Distributed Proofreaders
project. If you are new to distributed proofreading, you can read more
about our proofreading effort. Once you are ready to help, just visit the project page
and start proofing!