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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.


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.


eBook available: Guide to Fortune-Telling by Dreams

The latest eBook added to Project Gutenberg using scans from our Digital Library (processed by the Distributed Proofreaders project) is Guide to Fortune-Telling by Dreams, another issue of the “Multum in Parvo Library,” a series of chapbooks billed as the “smallest magazine in the world.”

This particular issue provides interpretations of a variety of dream themes and images, organized alphabetically. Since this is a fortune-telling book, the interpretations are not focused on psychological implications, but rather on how these serve as good or bad omens. Some suggested implications are surprising — apparently dreaming of beans is more likely to signal doom than dreaming of beheading — but most of the predictions are fairly similar and fall into a small number of general categories.

Needless to say, the modern reader is not going to find this very useful; for that matter, it’s questionable whether the 19th-century reader would have found it useful either. However, like the other books in this series, it serves as a potentially interesting cultural artifact.

If you want to take a look for yourself, the full text can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats from Project Gutenberg.


Available for proofreading: Nimble Ike, the Trick Ventriloquist

Quite a few years ago, we helped to create a Project Gutenberg edition of a dime novel called The Twin Ventriloquists; or, Nimble Ike and Jack the Juggler: A Tale of Strategy and Jugglery, which told the tale of a team-up between ventriloquist detectives and promised to reveal more about Nimble Ike’s origin story in a future volume. At long last, that future volume is available as our latest Distributed Proofreaders project.

You can learn how you can help turn the scans from our Digital Library into a modern eBook edition by reading our earlier blog post, Proofreading the Digital Library. If you decide to join in the work, you can visit the project page for an assignment until the project is completed.


Available for proofreading: A Lad of Mettle

While many of our past Distributed Proofreaders projects have come from American dime novels, our latest is a distant cousin to those books: a British yellowback edition of Nat Gould’s juvenile novel, A Lad of Mettle. Like dime novels, yellowbacks were cheaply-produced books designed to entertain a mass audience. The main difference is that yellowbacks were hardbacks (named for the distinctive color frequently used on their covers and spines), while dime novels were paper-covered.

While this book was originally intended to be somewhat disposable, you can greatly extend its life by helping to convert scans from our Digital Library into a new electronic edition on Project Gutenberg. To learn how the process works, you can read our Proofreading the Digital Library blog post. When you’re ready to join in the work, you can visit the project page for an assignment!


Available for proofreading: Let Us Kiss and Part

Our latest title to join the Distributed Proofreaders project for inclusion in Project Gutenberg is Let Us Kiss and Part; or, A Shattered Tie, another novel by prolific story paper novelist Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller, author of The Bride of the Tomb (and countless other melodramas). The story was first serialized in Street & Smith’s New York Weekly story paper from November 20, 1897 to February 12, 1898, but we are working with a later paper-covered reprint from the early 20th century.

You can volunteer to help turn our scans of this long-forgotten work into a new electronic edition of the book — just read our Proofreading the Digital Library blog post to learn how the process works, then sign up at the project page!


Available for proofreading: On Time; or, Bound to Get There

Our latest Distributed Proofreaders project is On Time; or, Bound to Get There, a juvenile novel by Oliver Optic (the pen name of William Taylor Adams), from Street & Smith’s paper-covered Alger Series.

While this book has been out of print for a very long time, Distributed Proofreaders makes it possible for volunteers to help turn scans from our Digital Library into a new electronic edition of the text, which will eventually be released for free through Project Gutenberg.

If you would like to help with the process of creating this eBook, you can read about how it works in Proofreading the Digital Library, and then you can join in at the project page.


#TBT: The Dime Novel

cover of Sybil Chase, or, The Valley ranche : a tale of California life from Falvey's digital collection


This week, we’re throwing it back to the late 19th century, early 20th century when dime novels were all the rage. Dime novels are short, published works of fiction that typically center around the dramatic adventures of a single heroic character. The dime novel pictured here is part of the Beadle’s Dime Novel collection and entitled, Sybil Chase, or, The Valley Ranche : a tale of California life. This story is written by Mrs. Ann S. Stephens.

More dime novels can be found in Falvey’s digital collection, Dime Novel and Popular Literature.

Northern Illinois University, in coordination with Villanova University, will be hosting a virtual symposium on the dime novel on Wednesday, Nov. 4, and Thursday, Nov. 5, 7:30-9:30 p.m. This symposium is on the heels of the successful conclusion of the Johannsen Project, an effort to digitize more than 7,000 dime novels published by Beadle & Adams through a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources.

Falvey Director of Library Technologies Demian Katz will present Thursday as part of a panel on opportunities to present and publish original dime novel research.

More information about the event is available here.


Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department. 








eBook available: Midshipman Merrill

Once again, a book from our Digital Library has made its way to Project Gutenberg via the Distributed Proofreaders project. This time, the work is Henry Harrison Lewis’ Midshipman Merrill, the story of a youth’s entry into the United States Navy.

The novel was first serialized in the Good News story paper from October 9 through December 18, 1890, and later reissued in both paper and cloth formats. Its story paper roots show in a simple “talented and determined boy wins at everything” story and a stream-of-consciousness style that suggests the work was completed with minimal pre-planning and few revisions.

It appears that the original story was successful enough to merit a sequel, 1893’s Ensign Merrill; or, The Rovers of the Yellow Sea… but that’s a story for another day! For now, the first adventure is available in full through Project Gutenberg, where it can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats.


Quarantine Cooking with Kallie: Halloween “Prize” Filling

Happy Halloween, Wildcats! The holidays—especially Halloween—are always fun at Falvey; Library staff continually planning new ways to celebrate. Last year, Distinctive Collections staff hosted a Halloween Open House with eerie treasures on display in the Rare Book Room including a seventeenth century exorcism manual. Their featured treat was a Prohibition-era mocktail called the St. Augustine (follow link for recipe.) Costumes weren’t mandatory, however, Falvey staff still commemorated the spooktacular day!

Library staff (left to right): Chris Hallberg, Sarah Wingo, Kallie Stahl, Laura Bang, Rebecca Oviedo, Beaudry Rae Allen, Shawn Proctor.

Reminiscing on Halloweens past and brainstorming ideas for this blog, I decided to alter a recipe I stumbled upon a few weeks ago. The original recipe was a white layer cake featured in the Prize Cook Book, part of the John Regan Five Cent Pamphlets (no. 4) Dime Novel Collection. Listing multiple fillings for the layer cake including caramel, maple sugar, apple, and chocolate, I chose to simplify the recipe and add the maple sugar filling to cinnamon rolls. Mixing a few drops of orange food coloring to the packaged frosting, I crafted a simple and tasty autumnal treat!

Below are a few images of the Prize Cook Book if you’d like to explore the cake fillings. The entire cook book is available for reading in the Villanova University Digital Library.

The recipe I used for this blog is featured in the second image above. Here are the original instructions for the maple sugar filling:

  • Two cups maple sugar (cooked until it strings)
  • Add beaten whites of two eggs and beat until cold

I altered the recipe using cinnamon rolls instead of layer cake:

  • One (or two) cans of packaged cinnamon rolls
  • Orange food coloring
  • One cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. water

Cooking instructions (maple sugar filling):

  • Mix one cup of brown sugar and two tbsp. water in saucepan on stove
  • Stirring constantly on low heat, bring sugar and water to a boil
  • Wisk one egg white and gradually add the heated sugar to the egg white (stirring constantly)
  • Let mixture cool

Cooking instructions (cinnamon rolls):

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Grease round cakepan and place rolls in pan
  • Drizzle a spoonful of maple sugar filling on each roll
  • Bake 15-19 minutes until golden brown
  • Spread icing (add food coloring if desired)
  • Option to add additional maple sugar filling in lieu of icing (or use both!)

Check out the finished product below. View the full cooking tutorial here.

Cinnamon rolls with maple syrup filling and orange icing.

Cinnamon rolls with maple syrup filling and orange icing.

Image of Villanova caramel candies.

Attempted to make Villanova caramel candies with leftover maple sugar filling.

Interested in Dime Novels? Explore Dime Novels and Popular Literature in the Digital Library. Save the date for Papers for the People: Dime Novel Symposium on on Wednesday, Nov, 4, and Thursday, Nov. 5, from 7:30-9:30 p.m. EST. The virtual event, hosted by Northern Illinois University and Villanova University, will feature panel discussions with notable and upcoming dime novel scholars. These conversations will focus on how dime novels can be used in the classroom and will offer regional educators, academics, and students at the graduate and undergraduate level the opportunity to learn about and discuss dime novels directly with experts in the field. Participation is free. Register here.

While this Halloween will be different at Falvey Memorial Library and Villanova University, there will still be plenty of socially distanced activities for this “Halloweekend” on campus! Hopefully the featured recipes will inspire some quarantine cooking for Halloween and the cooler months ahead. Thank you all for your dedication to the Caritas Commitment. Be well, ‘Cats!

Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library.




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Last Modified: October 30, 2020