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eBook available: The Mystery of Suicide Place

The Mystery of Suicide Place (cover)Our latest Distributed Proofreaders project to be published at Project Gutenberg is another Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller melodrama: The Mystery of Suicide Place, first serialized in the Fireside Companion between July 27, 1895 to October 12, 1895 under the longer title of “Fly-Away Floy, the Saucy Little Darling; or, the Mystery of Suicide Place.”

Like most of Mrs. Miller’s novels, the core of the story is a romance, in this case between a cheerful, independently-minded orphan named Floy and a wealthy young man named St. George Beresford. Also like most of Mrs. Miller’s novels, the romance is complicated by a number of factors, in this case including class differences, murderously jealous rivals, and Suicide Place, Floy’s childhood home, where a resident is driven to suicide once every decade. This last element, which provides a significant undertone of supernatural horror to the novel, makes this one of its author’s best works for reading during the Halloween season!

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


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How We Help: Demian Katz Makes Technology Work for Library Patrons

At some point during your time at Villanova you worked with Demian Katz—you probably just did not realize it at the time. Think back to the last time you searched for a book on the homepage, or that day you painstakingly scoured for scholarly connections to your light-bulb-moment intuition, or even when you attended that one event in Speakers’ Corner. If any of these anecdotes sound familiar, you have already interacted with Demian Katz.

Katz is the Director of Library Technologies and has been at Falvey in some capacity since 2009, when he first came on as a Library Technology Development Specialist. His work, and that of the entire tech department, stretches across many responsibilities and operations of the library. His role is an “interfacing” one that he embraces wholeheartedly.

 

Making Sure Everything Works 

“Tech is probably the most interfaced with other departments of the library…” Katz said during my interview with him, a rare opportunity considering the rapid speed of his day-to-day operations and his schedule replete with meetings, training calls, and near-disaster control 

“By ourselves we don’t do anything,” Katz remarked. We’re really here to support the needs of all the other departments, in terms of making sure they have the technologies that they need and that the systems that support their work are operational.” 

If you navigate the alphabetic traverse of the Library’s staff directory and pay attention to the numerous departments listed, a simple fact becomes quite clear. There is a lot going on at the Library, presenting new challenges and changes to address and adapt to. Katz fully embraces this adaptive role when asked about the challenges and opportunities of directing the technological network behind the scenes.  

“In technology, opportunities and challenges are both about the same thing which is constant change, because nothing ever sits still,” he explained. “Everything we do is a moving target, so you can’t solve a problem, and have it stay solved for more than a couple years. Something is changing that needs to be updated, and you have to think of the implications. But there’s also endless opportunities and always new things to learn and to accomplish.”

 

A Better View of VuFind 

It was one of these very opportunities, the ongoing development of VuFind, that brought Katz to Falvey, working on the open-source resource portal started at Villanova. To many, VuFind is just the unassuming search bar that we haphazardly issue queries to, hoping one of our partiallyformed questions pans out with an applicable result, but there is much more going on behind the scenes. The fact that our searches consistently return meaningful and accessible results is the product of tremendous labor. One only needs to look back to what came before VuFind to appreciate it.  

“When a student did a Library search on the web,” Katz recalled, “they were expecting something like Google, and they were getting something like a card catalogue on a screen.” 

Improving the user experience of finding pertinent materials is an important part of bibliography, the systematic description of a book, its author(s), publishing information, and other defining elements of its creation. That bibliographic work has always interested Katz, even before his time at Falvey, starting with his personal efforts to catalogue Choose Your Own Adventure books.  

 

Dime Novel Discovery 

“I maintained a bibliography of Choose Your Own Adventure-type books which I have long collected,” he told me. So, I wrote software to manage that stuff, I have a website people use to inventory their collections and to see which author wrote which books.”  

This long-held fascination found unexpected connections when an off-hand comment during a meeting led to the discovery of forgotten collections. The story of the Dime Novel Collection started with finding of a pile of unsorted turn-of-the-century booklets in the dusty depths of the Falvey West basement. Katz recognized these immediately as dime novels and started an exhaustive search for other collectors and curators.  

After time, they were able to negotiate the rights to publish a portion of the bibliographic work of Eddie LeBlanc, late editor of the journal Dime Novel Roundup. Building off of LeBlanc’s efforts, Katz and his peers were able to secure grant funding to digitize a bibliography of dime novels. These nearly forgotten texts are now a feature of Falvey’s Special Collections, and Katz views that inclusion as an important indicator of a growing appreciation for different cultural artifacts.  

“I am hopeful that through the digitization work we are helping to spearhead, these dime novels will become more visible and maybe will be recognized for the position they hold in popular culture.” 

 

Check in next month for another profile in our ongoing How We Help series! 


Nathaniel Gosweiler is a graduate assistant in the Communication and Marketing Department at Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in Communication at Villanova University.


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eBook available: The Dreadnought Boys’ World Cruise

The latest book from our collection to be converted into a Project Gutenberg text through the Distributed Proofreaders project is The Dreadnought Boys’ World Cruise, the fifth volume of a series of naval adventures. With the release of this title, all six Dreadnought Boys books are available as free eBooks.

In this particular adventure, perhaps the most episodic of the series, Ned and Herc, the titular Navy boys, find their ship taking an extended cruise with stops in Hawaii, Japan and Egypt, among other places. With each stop, like clockwork, the boys get themselves into danger and then find their way out again — often with remarkable cultural insensitivity.

Needless to say, like the rest of the series, this book does not offer much enjoyment for the contemporary reader, but it shows one way in which the United States’ role in the world was being portrayed to young readers more than a century ago, as the first World War was just about to begin.

The full book can be read online or downloaded in commonly-used eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


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Available for proofreading: The Dreadnought Boys’ World Cruise

Our latest Distributed Proofreaders project is The Dreadnought Boys’ World Cruise, the fifth in a six-book series of juvenile naval adventures published between 1911 and 1914. The other five titles in the series have been previously transformed into eBooks from the copies in our digital collection, so the completion of this project will make the entire series freely available online in convenient electronic formats.

Unsurprisingly, these books are not particularly literary in tone, and they reflect attitudes of their time, including several negative stereotypes. However, they offer a significant example of how military matters were being presented to young readers in the years leading up to World War I.

If you are interested in helping to turn this long out-of-print novel into a free eBook, you can read this earlier blog post to learn about the process, then join in the fun at the project page.


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Available for proofreading: The Mystery of Suicide Place

Our latest title to become available on the Distributed Proofreaders project for eventual inclusion in Project Gutenberg is The Mystery of Suicide Place, an 1895 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 The Fireside Companion under the longer title, Fly-Away Floy, the Saucy Little Darling; or, the Mystery of Suicide Place, 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 this earlier blog post to learn how the process works, then sign up at the project page!


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eBook available: Flower and Jewel

Front cover, Flower and Jewel; or, Daisy Forrest’s daughter / by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller

Our latest Project Gutenberg release, produced with the help of the Distributed Proofreaders project, is another romance by the prolific story paper author, Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller.

Flower and Jewel packs a great deal into its first chapter, which details not only the birth of twin sisters but also a pair of tragic deaths. The story then jumps ahead seventeen years, to a time when the twins find themselves both falling in love with the same man. This being a Mrs. Miller novel, the sisterly conflict quickly escalates well beyond the bounds of reason. There are dark secrets, bouts of madness, twists of identity, and several attempted murders (including a bombing) before the plot is all wrapped up.

The story also features several African American characters, who are for the most part represented with the typical broad stereotypes of the time. These portrayals do not make for comfortable reading, though they are not entirely negative, and they effectively highlight some of the contradictions, complexities and limitations of the period’s views on race.

This novel was first serialized in the Fireside Companion from January 28, 1888 to April 7, 1888 and later reprinted in book form; now it is also available as a free electronic book that can be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular formats through Project Gutenberg.


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Party like it’s 1923!

Two young boys playing in a body of water.

These boys are excited to frolic their way into the public domain! (From the cover of Grit (Story Section), August 26, 1923.)

You may have seen a bunch of articles around the beginning of the year eagerly talking about new things that entered the public domain on January 1st, such as this one from The Public Domain Review or this one from Smithsonian Magazine. The Atlantic was so excited about new stuff entering the public domain that they published an article about it all the way back in April 2018.

We joined in the celebrations by scanning a few items published in 1923 over the past couple of weeks. Here they are:

Celtic wonder tales / re-told by Ella Young ; with decorations by Maud Gonne.

Chicago Ledger, v. LI, no. 6, Saturday, February 10, 1923.

Chicago Ledger, v. LI, no. 24, Saturday, June 16, 1923.

Grit (Story Section), v. 41, no. 39, Story Section no. 1493, August 26, 1923.

These are just a few things that we moved to the top of our scanning queue to celebrate their freedom, but of course we have many more titles published in 1923 that can now be digitized when we have time. And we’re already looking forward to scanning titles from 1924 next year!

The first page of the story "The Earth-Shapers" with a decorative illustration of a black dragon and a white dragon at the top.

The opening page of Ella Young’s Celtic Wonder Tales.


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eBook available: The Dreadnought Boys on a Submarine

Our latest Project Gutenberg release, produced through the Distributed Proofreaders project, is another entry in the Dreadnought Boys series of naval adventures. In The Dreadnought Boys on a Submarine, series heroes Ned Strong and Herc Taylor are assigned to assist in government testing of a new experimental submarine. Of course, agents of a foreign power are on hand to complicate matters with a bit of sabotage!

This is a fairly typical series book for its time period, in which the good guys are very good, the bad guys are very bad, and the surprises aren’t overly surprising. The nearly-contemporary Motor Stories dime novels offered more interesting adventures along similar thematic lines. This book is interesting for at least a couple of small reasons, though. First of all, it sells a nationalist, pro-military stance to youthful readers just a few years before the outbreak of World War I; the extremely negative portrayal of a pacifist character is particularly noteworthy. Additionally, it paints a very positive image of journalists, perhaps because journalism was the primary profession of its author, John Henry Goldfrap, who wrote this series pseudonymously as “Captain Wilbur Lawton.”

If you care to take a first-hand look, the full text of the adventure can be read online or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.


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eBook available: How to Do Mechanical Tricks

Our latest Project Gutenberg eBook release, produced with the help of the Distributed Proofreaders project, is another Ten Cent Hand Book published by Frank Tousey: How to Do Mechanical Tricks, published in 1902.

Like most of the books in this inexpensive, paper-covered series, the content appears to have been gathered together from a variety of sources, often without regard to attribution or context. The collected instructions describe how to perform a variety of magic tricks and optical illusions, most relying on simple physics, mathematics, or commonly found household items. A lot has changed in the more-than-a-century that has passed since the publication of this book, and there are definitely some tricks here you really shouldn’t try at home (like simulating volcanoes using a chemical reaction involving lead paint or catapulting flaming matches); however, some of these demonstrations have proven timeless and can still be found in contemporary how-to books on illusions.

The entire book, complete with many diagrams, can be downloaded or read online through Project Gutenberg. Enjoy with care!


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Available for proofreading: Flower and Jewel

Front cover, Flower and Jewel; or, Daisy Forrest’s daughter / by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller

Our latest title to join the Distributed Proofreaders project for inclusion in Project Gutenberg is Flower & Jewel, 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 The Fireside Companion in 1888, 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 this earlier blog post to learn how the process works, then sign up at the project page!


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Last Modified: September 7, 2018