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eBook available: History of Orrin Pierce

  • Posted by: Demian Katz
  • Posted Date: January 14, 2014
  • Filed Under: Project Gutenberg
Reading in the Graveyard

Reading in the Graveyard

Another proofreading project has reached completion: History of Orrin Pierce, a Sunday School reader from 1847. Filled with simple illustrations (some hand-colored by a former owner), the book tells of a life of religious devotion in simple language. While the brief narrative probably won’t do much to capture your imagination, it offers a glimpse of the sort of fiction that many parents encouraged their children to read in the 19th century.

The entire book can be read online at Project Gutenberg, where it may also be downloaded for offline reading in a variety of popular formats.

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eBook available: How to Become an Engineer

How to Become an EngineerAnother 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.

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eBook available: The Ocean Wireless Boys on the Pacific

The Ocean Wireless Boys on the PacificOne 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.

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Now in proofreading: The Liberty Girl

The Liberty GirlOur 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.

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eBook available: How to Make Electrical Machines

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

How to Make Electrical MachinesThe latest of our proofreading projects to reach completion is How to Make Electrical Machines, volume 64 in Frank Tousey’s Ten Cent Hand Book series. This series claims to teach its readers about “almost every subject” in 64-page installments sold for a dime each.

As with many of its series mates, How to Make Electrical Machines seems to have been cobbled together from multiple sources, having a rather uneven tone, and it is questionable exactly how many of its youthful readers actually managed to assemble their own working dynamos or other devices using the dense instructions provided within. In spite of many shortcomings as an instructional manual, however, this is a fascinating look at the early days of electricity, when simple electrical mechanisms could be used as wondrous magic tricks, and a publisher didn’t think twice about providing children with instructions on how to shock themselves (or, for that matter, encouraging them to do so).

The entire book can be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.

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Now in proofreading: Little Golden’s Daughter

Little Golden's DaughterContinuing 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.

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Now in proofreading: The Ocean Wireless Boys on the Pacific

  • Posted by: Demian Katz
  • Posted Date: December 4, 2013
  • Filed Under: Project Gutenberg

The Ocean Wireless Boys on the PacificIn the early days of children’s series fiction, authors tried to build characters around all sorts of contemporary activities and technologies. One lesser-known example is Capt. Wilbur Lawton’s Ocean Wireless Boys series, which deals with communications at sea. The fifth volume of this series, The Ocean Wireless Boys on the Pacific, represents our second contribution to Project Not Quite Nancy Drew, a subset of the Distributed Proofreaders effort which focuses on preserving vintage children’s books.

If you would like to help us turn our Digital Library scans of this text into a modern e-book, please read our earlier blog post on the subject to learn how the process works and then join in at the project page.

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Now in proofreading: The Wonder of War on Land

WonderA few months ago, we released an eBook of The Brighton Boys in the Trenches, a children’s novel of World War I written at the time of the conflict. Our latest proofreading project is along similar lines. The Wonder of War on Land was released just after the close of the conflict, and it offered its young readers a tale of heroic young fighters, machine-gun dogs, and “the Battle of Demon Faces.”

As with the previous project, this one is likely to raise some eyebrows, but it should also provide another interesting look at the way war was portrayed in popular fiction during a very different era.

If you are interested in helping produce a modern eBook edition of this vintage text, you can join in our proofreading by visiting the Wonder of War on Land project page, and you can learn more about the proofreading project from our earlier blog post on the subject.

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eBook available: How to Solve Conundrums

  • Posted by: Demian Katz
  • Posted Date: November 4, 2013
  • Filed Under: Project Gutenberg

conundrumsThe proofreading project started in late September has just completed, so Frank Tousey’s handbook, How to Solve Conundrums, is now available for the world as a Project Gutenberg eBook.

As mentioned when the project went into proofreading, this book doesn’t actually tell you how to do anything at all; it just consists of a series of puns and riddles, which once were popularly known as conundrums.

Some representative examples:

What is the difference between homicide and pig-sticking? One is assault with intent to kill, the other a kill with intent to salt.

When is a wall like a fish? When it is scaled.

What is the height of folly? Spending your last dollar on a purse!

While these sorts of jokes are unlikely to change your life, the book does shed some interesting light on the practices of publisher Frank Tousey, who produced inexpensive handbooks on a wide range of topics. The frequent duplication of jokes (and the occasional omission of punchlines) suggests a less-than-careful editorial process. The presence of many jokes about British politics suggests that at least some of the text was pirated from the other side of the Atlantic. It might be quite interesting to try to determine the paths these jokes followed from publication to publication; as more content comes online, this may eventually become an achievable project.

For now, if you want to start by reading Tousey’s offering, you can find it at Project Gutenberg for online reading and download to a variety of popular devices.

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eBook available: With the Ulster Division in France

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

UlsterThe latest of our proofreading projects to be completed is With the Ulster Division in France, a narrative of the first World War from the perspective of an Irish soldier.

While many war narratives follow a certain arc — from training and routine, to struggle and loss of innocence, to eventual survival and a return home — this one is a bit different. Constructed from the diaries of a soldier who did not survive the war and whose division suffered substantial losses, it starts in the traditional mode, with some engaging prose about travel through France and the eventual experience of trench warfare, but then it is cut short, the story replaced by a long series of formal statements honoring the sacrifice of countless Ulster Division soldiers to German machine guns. The result is a narrative that, while inherently unsatisfying as a story, effectively conveys the tragedy of the conflict through its own incompleteness.

If you care to experience this sobering book for yourself, it can now be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.

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Last Modified: October 17, 2013