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eBook available: The Shoemaker

Once again, scans from our Digital Library have been converted into a new Project Gutenberg eBook by the Distributed Proofreaders project. The latest release is another dime novel based on a popular play, taken from J. S. Ogilvie’s Play Book Series: Olive Harper’s adaptation of Hal Reid’s The Shoemaker.

The novel follows Morris Goldberg, a Jewish immigrant who works as a shoemaker in New York until his daughter is kidnapped, forcing him to travel west in search of her. Along the way, he survives some “fish out of water” situations, and his kindness and persistence inspire those around him.

This book marks a striking contrast to the previous book released from the same series, The Shadows of a Great City. While that book featured a one-dimensional villain in the form of the familiar antisemitic stereotype of the evil Jewish pawnbroker, this story features a cast of sympathetic Jewish characters who are portrayed in an almost entirely positive light (particularly by the standards of turn-of-the-20th century melodrama).

You can read the entire book online, or download it in popular eBook formats, through Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: Bolo the Cave Boy

The Distributed Proofreaders project continues to have a very productive November, with yet another Project Gutenberg release today derived from our Digital Library images.

Today’s release is an issue of the Instructor Literature Series, a set of thin booklets used as “graded readers” for educational purposes in the early 20th century. This volume, no. 256 in the series, is Katherine Atherton GrimesBolo the Cave Boy, which describes life in prehistoric times, imagining how cave people hunted mammoths, dealt with natural disasters, shared fire, and began to develop agriculture.

If you’d like to read the whole book, you can find it freely available for online reading or download in popular eBook formats at Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: Gay Life in Paris

The Distributed Proofreaders Project has continued to adapt issues from the Multum in Parvo Library, the “smallest magazine in the world,” into Project Gutenberg eBooks. The latest release is the June, 1895 issue: Gay Life in Paris.

While the title might suggest a light travel guide or a cheery celebration of a beloved city, the 16-page book is more of a sensational exposé, focusing in large part on the hardships faced by ballet dancers and also describing (in mostly vague terms) some locales and activities that were shocking to the sensibilities of the time.

The entire text can be read online or downloaded for free in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


Two eBooks available: Story of the Sawdust / Motion Picture Comrades

The Distributed Proofreaders project has been very busy, releasing two new Project Gutenberg eBooks this week built using images from our Digital Library.

The first release is The Story of the Sawdust, another tiny chapbook from the Multum in Parvo Library. This volume is devoted primarily to the tragic story of the life and death of a circus performer, but it also contains a series of (somewhat incongruous) jokes and advertisements at the end.

The second release is The Motion Picture Comrades Aboard a Submarine; or, Searching for Treasure Under the Sea, by Elmer Tracey Barnes. This is a volume from one of several silent-film-era juvenile series about young filmmakers. In this particular adventure, the titular Comrades take their camera equipment onto a submarine that is searching for sunken treasure during the dangerous years of the first World War. The book is perhaps most noteworthy for its unusual pacing — most of the action is delivered in the early part of the story, and several remaining plot threads feature more build-up than actual incident. It’s hard to imagine a young audience being pleased by this, though it may be a more realistic representation of the realities of treasure hunting!

Both of these books can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats free of cost through Project Gutenberg.


Corfu Through the Ages

A French souvenir photo album recently added to the Villanova Digital Library offers views of the Greek island of Corfu (or Kerkyra) from the early twentieth century.

A particularly significant landmark depicted on the album is the Achilleion (Αχίλλειον), a palace named after the hero of Homer’s Iliad. It was built in the nineteenth century for Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837-1898). Since then, the palace has served as a military hospital for WWI troops, an orphanage for Armenian children leaving Turkey, an Axis-held military base, a conference hall, a museum, and even a casino, featured in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (1981) starring Roger Moore (1927-2017).

Achilleion patio in the 1910/1920s. Page [27]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.


A 1907 issue of the Saturday Globe, published not long before the souvenir album, features a photograph of the palace patio and announces the building’s conversion into “a hotel and sanitorium” by a “German-Swiss syndicate.” In the early twentieth century, Corfu also received attention in Italian publications, which is not surprising, as the island was under Venetian rule for centuries and the Italian influence is evident in much of the island’s architecture. The fourth issue of the Italian dime novel series Petrosino (the “Italian Sherlock Holmes”), originally published in 1909, features a story titled “Un covo di delinquenti a Corfù” (“A den of criminals in Corfu”).

Achilleion patio. Page 6. Saturday Globe, v. 26, no. 50, Saturday, April 27, 1907.

Cover. Un covo di delinquenti a Corfù. 1948 Reprint.














The souvenir photo album makes for some nice comparisons to photographs from more recent decades. The following photographs of my grandparents on the Achilleion grounds were taken in the late 1970s, while the palace was both a casino and a museum.

Pigi Giannea-Filiou at Achilleion in the late 1970s.

Pigi Giannea-Filiou and Miltiades Filios at Achilleion in the late 1970s.











The following three photographs, two of them pulled from personal/family collections, depict the same statue of the dying Achilles in the early twentieth century, in 1994-1995, and in 2021. Note the deterioration of the color on the statue over time.

“Dying Achilles” statue (marble, Ernst Herter, 1884) at Achilleion in the 1910s/1920s. Page [31]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

My dad, Yiannis Sassaris, with “Dying Achilles” statue (marble, Ernst Herter, 1884) at Achilleion in the early 1990s.

My girlfriend, Samantha Walsh, with “Dying Achilles” statue (marble, Ernst Herter, 1884) at Achilleion in 2021.


Similarly, the following three photographs depict the front of the palace during the same three periods.

Achilleion entrance in the 1910s/1920s. Page [31]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

Achilleion entrance in the early 1990s.

Achilleion entrance in 2020.


Another significant landmark whose history may be charted throughout the past century is the Old Fortress, which was built by Venetians on top of an earlier Byzantine structure.

Old Fortress of Corfu in the 1910/1920s. Page [5]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

My mom, Dimitra Filiou, at the Old Fortress of Corfu in the early 1990s.

Old Fortress of Corfu in 2021.


The following 2020 photograph of Arseniou Street in the city of Corfu, compared to a similar shot in the French album, demonstrates that some of the same buildings still stand a century later.

Arseniou Street in the city of Corfu. Page [3]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

Arseniou Street in Corfu in 2020.


Corfu is an island rich with history, where various cultures have intersected across many centuries. These layers of history are evident in structures all throughout the island. Corfu has inspired the likes of Jules Verne, who used the island as a prominent setting in his 1884 novel about the Greek War of Independence, The Archipelago on Fire (L’Archipel en feu). The Villanova Digital Library initiative preserves the unique histories of places like Corfu by digitizing rare publications such as the French souvenir album. As the above comparison of historical materials and personal/family archives indicates, the Digital Library also allows users to historically contextualize their own lives.


eBook available: Volume of Anecdotes

This week’s Project Gutenberg release (assembled by the Distributed Proofreaders team from images found in our Digital Library) is Volume of Anecdotes, a tiny, 16-page chapbook from A. B. Courtney’s Multum in Parvo Library series.

This book is a companion to the earlier Unique Story Book; like that volume, it collects brief anecdotes about the American Civil War, reprinted from other (unattributed) sources. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it relates to the typographical error discussed in our blog post about the earlier book. That volume contains a story which is missing its final sentence. Amazingly, this volume includes the missing sentence from the other book, printed entirely out of context! It seems possible that a mix-up during typesetting caused the final few pages of the two books to be accidentally swapped, and since the formatting and subject matter are very similar, nobody noticed until it was too late! The error is retained even in later reprints of both books.

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


eBook available: Shadows of a Great City

The Distributed Proofreaders project has just released another book from our Digital Library into Project Gutenberg: Grace Miller White‘s Shadows of a Great City, an entry in J. S. Ogilvie‘s Play Book Series of novelizations of plays.

The novel is an adaptation of an 1884 play which also saw later silent film adaptations. The plot revolves around the cruel (and sometimes murderous) schemes of a greedy nephew to inherit his uncle’s fortune, in spite of the fact that it rightfully belongs to his cousin. The melodramatic tone would not be out of place in a dime novel or story paper serial of the period, though in comparison, the story and characters here seem quite simplistic, perhaps due to the time limitations of the theatrical format. Unlike many dime novels, the book includes several illustrations, though most of these are outdoor scenes that do not seem to be reflective in any way of a theatrical production.

If you would like to learn more, you can find the entire book available for free download or online reading through Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: Loved You Better Than You Knew

At the very beginning of Loved You Better than You Knew, our latest Project Gutenberg release produced through the Distributed Proofreaders project, protagonist Cinthia Dawn exclaims:

“I wish something would happen to break up the dreadful monotony of my life.”

These are dangerous words to utter at the beginning of a novel written by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller, and Cinthia’s life becomes considerably less than monotonous shortly thereafter.

First serialized in the New York Fireside Companion from April through June of 1897, and later reprinted by Arthur Westbrook in the Hart Series, this is not one of Mrs. Miller’s most outlandish or unusual melodramas, but it still demonstrates some of her usual signatures, including a plot revolving around a terrible secret, a resolution prompted by a very abrupt tragedy, and a considerable amount of poetry woven into the narrative.

You can find the entire novel available for free to read online or download in popular eBook formats courtesy of Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: Beautiful but Poor

Our latest Project Gutenberg release (courtesy of Distributed Proofreaders, using images from our Digital Library) is the novel Beautiful but Poor, by “Julia Edwards” (a pseudonym shared by several of publisher Street & Smith’s male writers).

This “working girl” romance tells of a young woman who sews folios for low wages in a bindery but who draws attention due to her unusual talent, beauty and kindness. This being a dime novel, she of course has a secret identity, and she survives several dangers (and disappoints multiple suitors) before all is revealed.

The book stands out due to its occasionally humorous and conversational tone, which periodically diverts from the narrative to rant about political matters or make dry comments. It is also somewhat self-referential, being about the publishing industry and featuring characters who are themselves aware of dime novels, as demonstrated by this exchange:

“Frank says he don’t know hardly how to begin, but he means to write a romance about it. He is going to call it ‘The Angel of the Storm; or, The Pilot’s Timely Warning.’”

“That will sound very grand,” said Mr. W——, with a smile. “It seems to me I saw a dime novel, published by one of our city small fry, called ‘The Angel of the Washtub—a Romance of Soap-Suds and Starch.’ It must have sold hugely.”

One authorial aside demonstrates both of the book’s distinctive traits by mentioning the prolific author of story paper sea tales (often for Street & Smith), Roger Starbuck:

That “old barnacle” (I got that idea from Roger Starbuck) couldn’t love anything but money and—her wretched old self.

If you’d like the experience the full text for yourself, you can find the novel in its entirety on Project Gutenberg, where it can also be downloaded in popular eBook formats.


eBook available: The Unique Story Book

Our latest Project Gutenberg release (created by the Distributed Proofreaders team using scans from our Digital Library) is The Unique Story Book, a chapbook from the Multum in Parvo Library series.

This tiny, 16-page volume, published in 1895, contains six brief anecdotes relating to the American Civil War. Like many other Multum in Parvo Library volumes, the text appears to have been borrowed from other sources. In at least one case, the borrowing was rather poorly done, as an anecdote is entirely missing its punchline. (The transcriber’s notes at the end of the document list another source for the same story and provide the missing text).

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


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Last Modified: September 1, 2022

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