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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.


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eBook available: Love Conquers Pride

Another novel by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller has been added to Project Gutenberg using scans from our Digital Library and the volunteer labor of the Distributed Proofreaders project. The story, Love Conquers Pride; or, Where Peace Dwelt, was first serialized as Pansy Laurens, the Belle of Richmond in the New York Fireside Companion from 1888 to 1889. It tells the tale of a young tobacco factory worker who falls in love while visiting her aunt and uncle on a summer break and suffers many of the usual story paper tragedies as a consequence.

These story paper melodramas tend to be fairly predictable based upon the societal expectations of their time — their plots are generally designed to reinforce cultural norms and demonstrate dire punishment for “bad” behaviors. This one is a little bit different — some of the situations Pansy finds herself in are more morally ambiguous than usual, and while the plot ultimately resolves itself in a fairly “safe” way, it takes some extra twists and turns to get there. The book also distinguishes itself by having several characters who are rather more tolerant and forgiving than is typical of the genre — it almost reads like a “what if?” exercise in how one of these plots might unfold if the plot didn’t hinge primarily on a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings.

If you want to give it a try, the entire book can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


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eBook available: Art of Love-Making

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 particular volume, published in March, 1894, is entitled “Art of Love-Making” (which, of course, refers to the 19th century definition of “love-making,” which is to say courtship).

The book contains a seemingly random assortment of advice on romance and marriage, most of it built around ideas that seem quite foreign to the modern reader (ranging from predictably sexist assumptions about gender roles to entirely bizarre supposed correlations between physical characteristics and personality traits).

Needless to say, this book is unlikely to help you with your love life, but it does provide an interesting window into a very different time. You can read the whole thing (or download it in popular eBook formats) through Project Gutenberg.


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eBook available: All for Love; or, Her Heart’s Sacrifice

Our latest Project Gutenberg release, drawn from our Digital Library and processed through the Distributed Proofreaders project, is another novel by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller: All for Love; or, Her Heart’s Sacrifice, which had previously been serialized in the New York Family Story Paper under the title Berenice Vining’s Romance; or, Love Levels All.

The book chronicles the romance between Berry Vining, a poor and inexperienced girl who eventually becomes a successful actress and playwright, and Charley Bonair, a rich and irresponsibly flirtatious animal lover. It would not be a Mrs. Miller novel without complications, so there is a love triangle with a bloodthirsty heiress, a bear attack, a smallpox outbreak, and plenty of other twists and turns. Other interesting features of the book include a “story-in-the-story” in which Berry’s autobiographical hit play is described in great detail, and occasional hints of conscious humor (such as a recurring joke about Charley’s efforts to give up profanity) that give this a little bit of a “romantic comedy” flavor.

Like many romances of its time, the novel is very interested in class distinctions, and the theme of a romance between rich and poor is hardly a new idea. However, while many books of this type end with the revelation that the “poor” heroine was actually secretly or unknowingly rich all along, this one goes in a different direction, perhaps in an effort to differentiate this as a story in the American rather than the British mold.

If you’re interested in trying this one out for yourself, the entire book can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


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eBook available: Cavalry Curt; or, The Wizard Scout of the Army

George Waldo Browne’s Cavalry Curt; or, The Wizard Scout of the Army is the latest book from our collection to be transformed into a Project Gutenberg eBook by the Distributed Proofreaders project.

This juvenile dime novel, first published in 1892, tells the story of “Cavalry Curt,” a Union scout trying to survive in Confederate territory during Sherman’s March to the Sea, and Mara Morland, a young woman whose brother is both a Confederate soldier and an old school friend of Curt. Much of the narrative focuses on Mara’s efforts to save Curt’s life at great risk to herself and her family.

Written less than thirty years after the events framing the narrative, the book serves as an interesting example of how the Civil War was portrayed to a young audience while it was still quite fresh in the national memory. Some of the complexities of the situation — particularly the conflicts between personal and political allegiances — are important to the narrative, though the causes and politics of the war are barely discussed, and the book’s portrayal of slavery and enslaved people is the sanitized version common to literature of this period. The book is also noteworthy for its portrayal of Mara Morland, who is an unusually brave and competent female protagonist for a “boys’ story” (though her motivations still largely align with predictable gender stereotypes).

If you would like to read the book for yourself, you can find it for online reading or download in common eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


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TBT: Valentine’s Day

By Anna Jankowski

front cover of "The art of kissing: curiously, historically, humorously, poetically considered"back cover of "The art of kissing: curiously, historically, humorously, poetically considered"

In preparation for Valentine’s Day, this week’s TBT focuses on this quirky miscellaneous satirical dime novel. The art of kissing: curiously, historically, humorously, poetically considered was published and sold in 1902. The 120-year-old book is still relevant today as it is “Dedicated to all who love”. Check out this cheeky resource available online through Falvey’s Digital collection!

Below are some additional photos captured of students sharing some smooches in the 1969 Belle Air Yearbook!

Belle Air photo 1969 of couple on stage 1969 Belle Air photo of couple kissing

Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Valentine’s Day!


Anna Jankowski ’23 CLAS is a Junior Communication Major from just outside Baltimore who ​​works as a Communication & Marketing Assistant in Falvey.

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eBook available: Nimble Ike, the Trick Ventriloquist

Decades before the invention of the modern comic book and other contemporary forms of entertainment, dime novels were pioneering some of the conventions that would later become commonplace. For example, in the growing field of detective fiction, Old Sleuth (the pseudonym of Harlan Page Halsey) created an array of colorful and quirky detective characters, and even experimented with having their paths cross from time to time. One might dare call it the “Old Sleuth Bibliographic Universe.” A few years ago, we shared one of these “crossover events” as a Project Gutenberg eBook: The Twin Ventriloquists. Our latest release, produced with help from the Distributed Proofreaders project, is an earlier story from the same series: the origin story of Nimble Ike, the Trick Ventriloquist, a self-described “rousing tale of fun and frolic.”

The book tells of the early career of Nimble Ike, a young orphan boy raised by a globetrotting magician, who is left to fend for himself and decides to use his incredible powers of ventriloquism to fight crime (and play the occasional prank). Along the way, he befriends a more experienced detective and uncovers a plot against a young banker. It is written in Old Sleuth’s signature style, with the narrative frequently broken up by repetitive, staccato dialog (the better to fill pages with, when you’re churning out dime novels at a frantic pace). While not a literary masterpiece, the book delivers what its audience likely expected from it: a bit of mystery, a bit of action, and a bit of humor (though the prank sequences are unlikely to elicit much laughter from a modern reader).

Nimble Ike would go on to star or co-star in another six adventures written by Old Sleuth, so apparently there was a market for ventriloquism-based detective fiction.

If you want to experience this story for yourself, you can find the full text available for online reading (or download in popular eBook formats) at Project Gutenberg, or you can view the original scanned book in our Digital Library.


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eBook available: Let Us Kiss and Part

Another novel by prolific story paper author Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller has been added to Project Gutenberg thanks to content from our Digital Library and volunteer labor from the Distributed Proofreaders Project.

Let Us Kiss and Part; or, A Shattered Tie features many of the author’s favorite themes: accidental live burials, terrible family secrets, and jealousy-driven violence. In spite of a lot of familiar content, it also cracks the mold here and there. One character, a fortune teller who would rather be reading mystery novels, offers a bit of self-reflection about popular fiction. The book’s structure seems fairly conventional until the story is completely resolved at the end of chapter 41, and the next nineteen chapters tell an almost entirely unrelated second story.

If you want to take a look for yourself, you can find the full text of the book available for online reading and download in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


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eBook available: Cliquot

The latest Project Gutenberg release from our collections (courtesy of the Distributed Proofreaders project) is Kate Lee Ferguson‘s Cliquot, a novel focusing on the romantic life of a Southern man whose future depends on the success of a dangerous race horse in his possession.

The book was published by T. B. Peterson & Brothers, a Philadelphia publisher with a long history of producing paper-covered books. By 1889, when this particular title was published, thick and inexpensive paper-covered books were becoming more widespread, and Peterson’s offerings were expensive by comparison to those of many of their competitors.

Cliquot sold for 25 cents, making it one of the Peterson firm’s least expensive titles, yet it still cost more than twice as much as the dime novels coming from firms like Street & Smith. This particular book doesn’t compare favorably to the competition in terms of value for money, either — the novel is quite short and is made to appear longer through the use of wide margins and tall line heights, and a substantial portion of the page count is taken up with extensive advertising from the publisher.

As an arguably overpriced title in the catalog of a waning publisher, it is not surprising that this story has been largely forgotten since its publication more than a century ago. However, it would likely not have fared much better even under more favorable circumstances. In addition to being short enough to barely qualify as a novel, the tale’s disorganized narrative and underdeveloped characters suggest that they author may not have invested a great deal of time and effort into the work.

While the novel itself is unlikely to make a strong impression, its author seems to have lived an eventful and sometimes challenging life, as evidenced by the biography at the Mississippi Writers & Musicians, and this work may be more interesting when viewed as part of that larger story. If you wish to see for yourself, the full text is available for online reading or download in commonly used eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


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eBook available: On Time; or, Bound to Get There

Once again, a book from our Digital Library has been released as a Project Gutenberg eBook with the help of the Distributed Proofreaders project. The latest release is On Time; or, Bound to Get There, by Oliver Optic.

Oliver Optic was a popular and prolific author of juvenile fiction during the second half of the 20th century, who was often published alongside his slightly better-remembered contemporary, Horatio Alger, Jr. Both Alger and Optic wrote stories about ethical behavior and the rewards of hard work, and their output influenced generations of young readers and helped to define the idealized view of “American values.”

On Time is the third volume of Optic’s “Lake Shore Series,” which focuses on the fictitious Lake Ucayga and surrounding towns like the also-fictitious Ruoara. In this particular adventure, a competition has heated up between a rail service (run by a Captain Toppleton) and a ferry service (belonging to a Colonel Wimpleton), both of which are trying to deliver passengers to their destinations as efficiently (and profitably) as possible. The book’s young protagonist, Wolf Penniman, joins the fray on the side of the ferry, determined to win out through fair play and honesty.

The book is certainly not subtle about its moral lessons, but its very deliberate preaching is accompanied by some colorful (or at very least colorfully-named) characters and places, and a plot that portrays a reasonably engaging (if not particularly dramatic) battle of wits between rival 19th-century capitalists.

You can read the whole book (or download it in popular eBook formats) through Project Gutenberg.


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Last Modified: June 8, 2021