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eBook available: A Bitter Reckoning

Our latest Digital Library item to see new life on Project Gutenberg courtesy of the Distributed Proofreaders project is another Mrs. E. Burke Collins melodrama: A Bitter Reckoning; or, Violet Arleigh.

Like our earlier Collins release, Her Dark Inheritance, much of the plot revolves around a buried secret from the past. In this case, the titular heroine’s mother is a victim of blackmail by a villain who wishes to marry her (or her daughter) in order to gain access to the family’s considerable wealth. This setup leads to many of the familiar story paper tropes: jealousy and misunderstandings between lovers, apparent deaths and subsequent resurrections, abuse of insane asylums, a clever detective hot on the trail, etc., etc.

If you’d like to check it out for yourself, the entire book can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: The Safety First Club Fights Fire

The third and final book in W. T. Nichols’ Safety First Club series has been added to Project Gutenberg by the Distributed Proofreaders project, using scans from our Digital Library.

The Safety First Club Fights Fire follows the continuing adventures of high school student Sam Parker, his mentor Lon Gates, and his friends in the “Safety First Club.” The book’s title rather gives away its finale, but along the way, the boys also find themselves on the wrong end of school politics, and take some time to work on a rather ambitious project involving a high-powered motor. Readers who enjoyed the first two books will find more of the same here, though some parts of this book feel a bit more episodic and disjointed than the previous volumes.

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


eBook available: The Shadow Between Them

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Distributed Proofreaders project has released a new romance by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller to Project Gutenberg, built from images in our Digital Library.

The Shadow Between Them; or, A Blighted Name was first serialized in The New York Family Story Paper as A Blighted Name; or, The Tragedy of Hallowe’en, but was later retitled for its 1910 and 1923 appearances in Street & Smith’s Eagle/New Eagle Series; the new digital edition is derived from the latter of those two reprints.

The novel follows the misadventures of Eva Somerville, a young, orphaned West Virginia girl who lives with her grandfather, who needs constant attention due to a wound received during the Civil War, and several other family members he has taken under his roof. One Halloween night, a prank incited by her selfish older cousins leads to a tragedy, turning her family against her and driving her temporarily insane. From here, twists and turns in Mrs. Miller’s usual style proceed.

In addition to being a good example of its author’s style and the period’s standards for over-the-top entertainment-oriented reading, the book is interesting for several reasons. Like many of Mrs. Miller’s novels, much of the story is set in West Virginia, where the author spent much of her life, and it occasionally offers glimpses of the region’s places, traditions and politics. The book also contains an interesting portrayal of mental health care, which is very much “of the period” and certainly not realistic, but which depicts a workplace populated by human beings and troubled by real-life problems (including sexual harassment) rather than the usual stereotypical house of horrors. On a note less flattering to the author’s legacy, the novel’s eventual happy ending casually relies on the period’s anti-Irish prejudices in a way likely to startle the modern reader.

If you would like to see this all for yourself, the entire book can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: The Safety First Club

A couple of years ago, the Distributed Proofreaders project released a Project Gutenberg eBook of The Safety First Club and the Flood, using images from our Digital Library. That book was the middle part of a trilogy of early 20th-century juvenile novels by William Theophilus Nichols, and since that time, we have tracked down and digitized the other two volumes. The debut volume, called simply The Safety First Club, has now joined its sequel as a free online eBook. The final book is coming soon.

In this first novel, Sam Parker, the leader of a club of high-school age boys devotes himself to the cause of “safety first” after a potentially fatal hunting accident. He tries to apply this philosophy (with varying degrees of success) to his rivalry with fellow student Tom Orkney, a series of mysterious acts of vandalism, and a dangerous forest expedition during a blizzard.

Like its sequel, the book is fairly transparent in its efforts to teach positive lessons to young readers, but it also contains enough character and incident to avoid falling into the blandest category of didactic literature.

If you want to try the whole book for yourself, you can read it online (or download it in popular eBook formats) through Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: Kwasa the Cliff Dweller

The latest Project Gutenberg release created by the Distributed Proofreaders project from scans in our Digital Library is another entry from the Instructor Literature Series of primary school readers: Kwasa the Cliff Dweller by Katherine Atherton Grimes. Like the author’s earlier Bolo the Cave Boy, this is a story imagining life long-ago, though this time, the subject is the Ancestral Puebloans.

The book is a coming of age story, following the titular Kwasa as he must leave behind childhood games to take on difficult challenges for the sake of his people. One might expect a book from this era to present either a condescending or romanticized view of Native American life, but Grimes takes the approach of depicting her characters as regular, identifiable people who happen to be living in a different historical context. She also manages to balance the jobs of conveying historical information and telling a story about as well as could be hoped for in this type of book. Of course, the text is unlikely to fully live up to 21st century standards, if only because historical understanding has moved on in the century since it was written, but it is an interesting effort for its time, and it is certainly possible to imagine its original intended audience enjoying it.

You can find the full text of the book at Project Gutenberg, where it can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats.


eBook available: The Wooing of Leola

The latest Project Gutenberg release courtesy of Distributed Proofreaders and our Digital Library is another novel by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller: The Wooing of Leola, a turn-of-the-20th-century romantic melodrama. Written later in the author’s career and harder to find than some of her more successful and widely read works, it nonetheless displays many of her signature interests.

To an even greater extent than the earlier Pretty Geraldine, the novel is set in and around Alderson, West Virginia, Mrs. Miller’s home town for the majority of her writing career. Another personal touch is the way in which the narrative reflects its author’s love of poetry: much of the story here is structured around poems by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, including “Youth’s Antiphony” and “Chimes” (though none of the quoted poetry is attributed).

The book also serves as another example of its author’s interest in incorporating contemporary scientific developments into her fiction (such as x-rays in Dainty’s Cruel Rivals or blood transfusions in Kathleen’s Diamonds). One of the novel’s characters is interested in alchemical pursuits such as the transmutation of lead into gold, and his cruelty is driven by a single-minded desire to acquire enough money “to purchase the smallest specimen of a newly discovered mineral called radium, to which was ascribed the most remarkable properties ever heard of.” The fact that he works in a stone tower with the help of a hunchbacked assistant also anticipates mad scientist clichés that would persist throughout the 20th century.

If you’re interested in learning more, the entire book is available for free online reading, or download in popular eBook formats, through Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: Nuts to Crack

Our latest Project Gutenberg release (assembled by the Distributed Proofreaders team from images found in our Digital Library) is Nuts to Crack, a tiny, 16-page chapbook from A. B. Courtney’s Multum in Parvo Library series.

This book is a collection of jokes (such as: “Why is a dog biting his own tail like a good manager? Because he makes both ends meet.”) and puzzles (including both word games and math problems). As is typical for this series, a variety of advertisements are woven in with the other content. Given that a lot of assumptions and conventions have changed since 1895, the modern reader is unlikely to find most of the jokes funny, or to understand all of the puzzles; however, a certain amount of the content still seems to work as originally intended. In any case, it offers a glimpse into 19th-century diversions.

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


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.


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Last Modified: November 21, 2022

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