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eBooks available: Dr. Courtney’s Guide to Happy Marriage / Book of Parlor Tricks

June continues to be an extremely productive month for the Distributed Proofreaders project, which has just released two new Project Gutenberg eBooks based on images from our Digital Library. Both are entries from the Multum in Parvo Library of miniature books.

The first title, Dr. Courtney’s Guide to Happy Marriage, an advice book for couples which contains a blend of practical advice and nineteenth-century sexism. The second title, Book of Parlor Tricks, contains instructions for tricks to amuse friends at parties, though some tricks require the reader to send money for further details, and others haven’t aged well — for example, now that the health risks of mercury are known, it is probably not a good idea to paint it onto your feet just to impress your friends with a fire-walking trick.

Both titles can be read in full (or downloaded in common eBook formats) by following the links above. While neither serves its original intended purpose very well, each is a bite-sized time capsule that sheds a little light on past attitudes and commercial practices.


eBook available: Under Blanco’s Eye

The Distributed Proofreaders project has continued adding eBooks to Project Gutenberg using images from our Digital Library. The latest release is the first issue of Starry Flag Weekly, a weekly series about the adventures of a young American boy during the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Under Blanco’s Eye; or, Hal Maynard among the Cuban Insurgents sets up the story to come, with Hal Maynard, the series’ young protagonist, being trapped in a hostile Cuba while trying to look after his employer’s interests. After being rescued from corrupt Spanish officials by a young Cuban, he decides to join the resistance and proves himself an effective strategist on the battlefield.

Dime novels had a long history of exploiting current events to sell novels, and this series is a striking example of that strategy. Claiming to be written by an author observing the conflict from the front lines, these stories were clearly designed to stoke American patriotism and advance the narrative of an unambiguous scenario in which the Spanish were uniformly evil, the Cubans long-suffering but noble and heroic, and the Americans ready to ride in and save the day. Needless to say, the real historical scenario was significantly more complex. In any case, new adventures incorporating the latest headlines about the war appeared on a weekly basis until the conflict ended and the market consequently dried up.

If you want to check this one out for yourself, you can read it online or download it in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg, and you can find most of the sequels in our Digital Library.


eBook available: Book of Brief Narratives

Our latest Project Gutenberg release, formatted with the help of the Distributed Proofreaders project, is another issue from the Multum in Parvo Library, a collection of tiny chapbooks covering a variety of subjects and billing itself as the “smallest magazine in the world.” This volume, from December, 1894, is the Book of Brief Narratives, another collection of mini-mysteries similar to the previous Book of Detective Stories.

This time around, there are five mysteries and one brief anecdote packed into the book’s sixteen pages. The stories are a bit more diverse than those in the previous collection, and while they are unlikely to astound the modern reader, they at least provide a bit of variety.

If you want to take a look for yourself, you can read the entire book online, or download it in popular eBook formats, through Project Gutenberg.


Christoforos Sassaris Joins Falvey as Distinctive Collections Coordinator

My name is Christoforos Sassaris, and I recently joined Falvey Memorial Library as a Distinctive Collections Coordinator. In this position, I take part in the Distinctive Collections and Digital collections, lovecraft, joyce, Engagement department’s efforts at preserving rare books, archives, and artifacts. This position is a perfect fit for me, as it nicely combines my interests in cultural heritage and digital technologies. I am particularly excited to digitize sources in the Scan Lab and make them accessible to students, researchers, and the public through Falvey’s website.

I was born in Athens, Greece (where I still visit as often as possible) and moved to the US in 2011. I got my BA in English literature at West Chester University (WCU), where I was both an intern and a research fellow at Francis Harvey Green Library’s Special Collections. These experiences imbued me with a passion for heritage librarianship, which I pursued through additional internships at the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Brandywine River Museum of Art.

Just before joining Falvey, I was a Graduate Assistant in Villanova’s Writing Center and English department while I completed my MA. I also volunteered in two digital projects at Falvey, the Edward T. LeBlanc Memorial Dime Novel Bibliography and Honoring the Fallen: An Interactive Memorial Map. During the past two years, I developed a deep appreciation of Falvey’s collections, which I consulted during my studies.

When I was introduced to these collections, one item that immediately drew my attention was a journal of astronomical observations belonging to horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, whose fiction I examined in my MA thesis. Interestingly, the journal possibly contains the real-world inspiration for the short story “The Colour Out of Space.” I was also drawn to Falvey’s extensive holdings in Irish and Irish-American literature, such as an original copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses. This 1922 modernist novel was the focus of my final capstone paper at WCU, titled “‘A Last Attempt to Retrieve the Fortunes of Greece’: Joyce, Hellenism, and Addressing Arnoldian Attitudes in Ulysses.” I am enthusiastic about preserving and facilitating access to treasures such as Lovecraft’s journal and Joyce’s novel through my work at Falvey.

I look forward to working with the Falvey team and continuing my involvement in the Villanova community in the coming years. Feel free to visit me at my desk in Access Services on the first floor of Falvey, or contact me at!


New digitized items from The Museum of Nursing History

We are pleased to share that we have recently added new items from The Museum of Nursing History to their digital partner collection in the Digital Library. The latest additions include photographs, newspaper clippings, ephemera, letters, and documents relating to the nursing careers of several women spanning from a WWI U.S. Army nurse, a WWII U.S. Navy nurse, and a career school nurse who worked thirty-three years from 1952-1986.

The items were scanned during the fall semester by one of our student workers, Mikiahya Black ’21 B.S.N., pursuing her own career in nursing through Villanova University’s M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing.


eBook available: In the Volcano’s Mouth

The latest Project Gutenberg produced by the Distributed Proofreaders project from images in our Digital Library is In the Volcano’s Mouth; or, A Boy Against an Army, by Frank Sheridan.

The novel, first serialized as Madcap Max; or, The Man, the Mahdi and the Mamaluke during 1890 in the Golden Hours story paper, tells of the adventures of “Madcap Max,” a young American prankster whose trip to Egypt turns tragic when his father is murdered by bandits. He is rescued by a mysterious young woman, makes some new friends, then has a series of adventures, including deadly encounters with strange creatures in a subterranean river, and eventually becomes deeply involved in the Mahdist War.

Like many works of its time, the book requires a content warning. In addition to containing a startling amount of graphic violence and gore for a book marketed to children, it also includes racist and sexist language and ideas, and its “hero” frequently behaves in appalling ways — such as when one of his pranks ends in the gruesome death of an innocent bystander. However, in spite of these things, the book does contain more nuance than many of its contemporaries — some of its characters directly challenge various prejudices of its time, and its depictions of Muslim characters are more sympathetic than some found in much more recent entertainment media.

It seems unlikely that the author of this book set out to advance any particular social agenda; it is much more likely that his goal was simply to entertain with a series of “thrilling incidents” partially inspired by then-current events — the 19th century equivalent of an action movie. Whatever the motivation behind it, the book’s mixed messages and puzzling creative decisions make it an unexpectedly interesting read, perhaps raising more questions than are answered, but shedding some light on the complexity of the cultural landscape in which it was produced.

If you would like to see it for yourself (and can stomach some of the less tasteful aspects of the text), the entire book can be read online, or downloaded in popular eBook formats, through Project Gutenberg.


Distinctive Summer Reading

Here are the books that top the reading piles of the Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement staff this summer. Most if not all of these titles can be found via stocked online booksellers while some are also available in digital and audio formats for interested readers. And for even more reading recommendations, here are links to the 2019, 2020, and 2021 lists.

From Beaudry Allen, Preservation and Digital Archivist:

All Boys Aren’t Blue, George M. Johnson. A series of essays about Johnson growing up as a young queer men of color.

From Michael Foight, Director Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement:

Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind / Alexandra Ripley. In this first sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship continues the page-turning-drama of the original.

The Roman Republic of Letters: Scholarship, Philosophy, and Politics in the Age of Cicero and Caesar / Katharina Volk. This deep dive into Roman Republican “senator scholars” checks many of my ancient world interests.

Watergate: A New History / Garrett M. Graff. A compelling and page-turning big picture revisionist read on the scandal that caused Nixon to resign.

In Pursuit of Civility: Manners and Civilization in Early Modern England / Keith Thomas. An ethnographic study showcasing the conflicting early European standards of polite behavior through a lens of voices from 1600-1789.

From Rebecca Oviedo,Distinctive Collections Archivist:

Archival Virtue: Relationship, Obligation, and the Just Archives by Scott Cline.

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray.


eBook available: Book of Detective Stories

Our latest Project Gutenberg release, courtesy of the Distributed Proofreaders project, is another entry in the Multum in Parvo Library, a set of tiny chapbooks covering a variety of subjects. This volume, from November, 1894, is the Book of Detective Stories, one of the series’ collections of extremely brief fiction. The book’s 16 small pages contain four (or five, depending on how you count them) miniature mystery tales. A contemporary mystery reader probably won’t find a lot of surprises here, but the stories are certainly compact.

If you want to sample these for yourself, you can read the entire book online, or download it in popular eBook formats, through Project Gutenberg.


From the Archives: Robert Langran papers

Robert Langran with Women's tennis team

                               Robert Langran with VU Women’s Tennis, undated

The University Archives is excited to announce a newly available collection of papers from former faculty and tennis coach Robert Langran. Langran spent his entire career at Villanova University, where he taught and researched in Political Science from 1959 to 2015. Langran taught civil rights, the study of the Supreme Court, constitutional law, women’s studies, and peace studies. While at Villanova University, Langran chaired the Political Science Department from 1968 to 1978 and from 2008 to 2009. He chaired the committee that devised the University Senate and was the first chair of the Faculty Congress. He was awarded the Best Advisor Award (2001), Faculty Service Award (1997), several Political Science Department Best Teacher Award, and Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching (1972). In 1967, Langran revitalized Men’s Tennis, which had be absent from Villanova for twenty-five years. A year later he was approached by a group of young women wanting to create a tennis team and Langran helped form the first Villanova women’s tennis team and be their head coach for the next twenty-five years.


Robert Langran with VU athletics

                                        Robert Langran with VU Athletics

Langran’s family recently donated his tennis files to the University Archives, which includes scorecards and rosters from the Men’s and Women’s tennis teams from 1969 to 2013. As a lifelong VU Wildcats fan, the collection also includes a scrapbook of basketball and football tickets, programs, and season schedules. Langran left a indelible mark on the Villanova community and excited to have early tennis history available in the archives. Contact the University Archives at to view the collection.


Green Voices of the Past: Final Reflections

Posted for: Emily Alesia Poteat

The act of transcribing manuscripts can transport you back in history and allow you to rediscover voices lost or ignored in the historical record. My graduate assistantship with Villanova University’s Irish Studies Department and Falvey Library’s Distinctive Collections has done just that. Throughout my time transcribing Irish American historical manuscripts in Villanova’s collection, I was confronted with a diverse set of experiences and distant voices from unique figures of the past.

Stark and defiant voices emerged in manuscripts from figures like Joseph McGarrity, who sought to make real change in their own time. McGarrity was born on March 28, 1874, and died on September 04, 1940. It is through his distinctive scrawling penmanship, McGarrity’s voice rose from the pages, and he detailed his hopes, his organizing for the Irish republican cause, and his personal opinions about the happenings of the world on the eve of World War II. Most riveting, however, was the discovery that McGarrity directly sought to partner with Nazi Germany to find support for the Irish republican cause. As Joseph McGarrity’s 1939 diary demonstrated the reach of Irish American organizing in the twentieth century. As, the purpose of aligning with Germany was to force the United Kingdom to remove its forces from Northern Ireland, and to allow a united and independent Ireland. Brute force was seen as the best way to do this by McGarrity, as he he sought, from an alliance with Nazi Germany, “technicians…particularly chemical experts,” to “ask for submarine experts to be trained,” and most tellingly with his intentions “that sufficient war stuffs be supplied in the line of war material for a major engagement in England.” From McGarrity’s rhetoric, he and he Irish republican allies sought to plan a major military effort and armed engagements with England during the onset of World War II.

Photograph, Joseph McGarrity, standing with gloves, n.d.

Also deepening the Irish American and German connection, The Irish American Club’s connection to the Clan-na-Gael was most revelatory, as this connection was largely undiscovered. The Clan-na-Gael formed in 1867 in New York as the successor of the Fenian Brotherhood, and was a secret Irish Republican society. As the American sister organization to the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Clan-na-Gael was dedicated to supporting the formation of an independent and democratic republic in Ireland through the use of force. With Irish republican beliefs deeply embedded into the organization, the Clan-na-Gael was active in assisting the Irish Republican Brotherhood in achieving an independent Ireland. Because of this deep support of Irish independence, the Clan-na-Gael was the single largest financial support of the Easter rising, as well as the Irish War of Independence. In the Minute Book of the Board of Officers for the Irish American Club, the way in which Irish Americans, in the Irish American Club, actively engaged in support of the German war effort came to light, and offered new insight into ways Irish Americans engaged in Irish republicanism during the early twentieth century. Through advocacy work and monetary support, the Irish American Club attempted to support the German war effort in World War I. Most distinguishing, however, was not this fact alone, it was the fact that the Irish American Club consistently referred to themselves as the Clan-na-Gael.

Advertisement, “Grosse Massen-Demonstration unter den Asupicien des Irish-American Club,” 1916.

By delving into the archive forgotten connections that largely reorient our understandings of history are possible. For instance, just by connecting Irish Americans to Germans during the world wars, these sources offer new opportunities for research into transatlantic history, as well as into understanding the reach of Irish American organizing. If we continue to ask new questions of archival sources, we can continue to diversify the historical record with underrepresented voices from the past. While these sources can not tell us everything about certain individuals, they offer a chance to preserve the voice and experiences in the historical record.

Emily Poteat is a graduate assistant in Irish Studies and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Department, and a graduate student in the History Department.


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Last Modified: May 4, 2022