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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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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.


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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.


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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!


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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!


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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.


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Last Modified: November 12, 2020