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eBook available: How to Get Married, Although a Woman

Our latest Digital Library item to be made available in Project Gutenberg through the Distributed Proofreaders project is a late-19th-century relationship advice book: How to Get Married, Although a Woman, by “A Young Widow.”

As the title suggests, the book attempts to address the difficulties women faced during a time when they were often dependent on marriage for survival, but also were socially discouraged from explicitly expressing interest in the subject. While one might hope for a book critical of the restrictive social systems of its time, what this actually provides is a set of rules for conforming to those systems, largely founded upon stereotypical views of both men and women. It is also heavily padded with poetry and quotations, some of limited relevance to the topic at hand.

Like many non-fiction works from this period, its usefulness for its intended purpose has long-since expired; however, as a primary source document, it offers a window into a very different time, and could prove useful in various fields of historical research.

If you are interested in learning more, the whole book is available for free at Project Gutenberg to read online or download in popular eBook formats.

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eBook available: Boy Scouts at Sea

Another book from our Digital Library has been added to Project Gutenberg thanks to the efforts of the Distributed Proofreaders project: Boy Scouts at Sea, written by Arthur A. Carey and published in 1918.

The book, written by the founder of the real-life Sea Scouts, tells of the adventures of a crew of scouts who go to sea on a ship called the Bright Wing. They not only have some of the expected maritime adventures, like rescuing shipwreck survivors, but they also make some stops for land-based incidents, including fire-fighting and a baseball game.

Much of the text is devoted not just to the external struggles of the boys, but also to their inner lives; early in the story, the protagonists are impressed by the story of Tunis Craven‘s self-sacrifice, and significant space is devoted to describing how their personal perspectives change based on this tale and their subsequent experiences. This book is clearly intended to demonstrate the benefits of scouting, and the development of the characters is designed almost exclusively to underscore that point.

There are many novels about Boy Scouts of various types from this period of juvenile literature, and this one follows many of the subgenre’s conventions; however, due to its historically significant author and somewhat atypical maritime setting, this one holds a unique place in the literature.

If you would like to read the whole book, you can find it online (and available for download) at 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.


eBook available: How to Become a Lightning Calculator

Our latest project to pass through Distributed Proofreaders into Project Gutenberg is How to Become a Lightning Calculator, part of a series of tiny chapbooks — around the size of playing cards — which were marketed as the “Smallest Magazine in the World:” the Multum in Parvo Library.

This particular issue, as the title suggests, is a collection of tips and tricks for performing mathematical operations more quickly, with the first half mostly concerned with basic arithmetic and the second half focused on financial matters, particularly interest calculations. Because of the text’s brevity and age, these tips may not be especially helpful to modern readers, but they serve as an interesting document of how math was presented to the general readership in the late 19th century.

If you want to dive deeper, you can read the entire book online, or download it in popular eBook formats, through Project Gutenberg.

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eBook available: The Safety First Club and the Flood

Our latest Project Gutenberg release, produced through the Distributed Proofreaders project, is The Safety First Club and the Flood by W. T. Nichols, the second book of a three-volume series about a group of teenagers whose club motto is “safety first.” While this was fairly transparently written with the intent of encouraging young readers to behave more responsibly, it also serves as a document of the slang, school life and pastimes of early 20th-century youth.

This particular volume focuses on the friendship between the titular club and an older boy from out of town. The boys experience fun, adventure and mishaps during snowy winter weather, and the title rather gives away what happens when all that snow starts to thaw….

If you’re interested in reading the book for yourself, it can be accessed online (or downloaded in popular eBook formats) through Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: The Mystery of Cleverly

Our latest Digital Library item to make its way through the Distributed Proofreaders project into Project Gutenberg is George Barton’s The Mystery of Cleverly, a juvenile novel from 1907.

While the title contains the word “mystery,” and there is indeed a mysterious event which drives part of the plot, this is much more of a “success story” than a mystery. The plot revolves around Herbert Harkins, a youth from the small town of Cleverly who grows up to pursue a career in newspaper reporting, motivated in part by a desire to clear his father’s tarnished reputation.

If you would like to learn more about Herbert and his adventures, you can read the complete novel online (or download it in popular eBook formats) through 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!


eBook available: The Airship Boys in the Great War

Another of our Distributed Proofreaders projects has been completed and added to the Project Gutenberg collection of free eBooks.

The Airship Boys in the Great War, published in 1915, is the eighth and final book in the “Airship Boys” series of aerial adventures. In this installment, the Airship Boys learn that a reporter friend has been held as a suspected spy in Germany at the outbreak of the first World War. They decide to use their high-speed aircraft, The Ocean Flyer, to rescue him, since the United States itself will not intervene due to its neutral position in the conflict.

This is a book of high adventure, without much regard to logic or plotting. The boys go from one incident to another as they explore the war zone, rescue their friend, and try to get home. As with many of the other juvenile war stories of the period, this book offers a glimpse into the way the conflict was represented to children.

While official American neutrality was still in full effect when the book was published, the author’s opinions certainly seem to show through in a few places. Paranoia about a German spy network operating in America is on full display here, and the book seems at least a little scornful of the neutral position, given that the plot involves the boys defying the American government to fulfill their mission. At the same time, the book glorifies the soldiers and emperor of Austria during its latter half.

If you are interested in taking a closer look at this small piece of history, the full text of the book can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


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Last Modified: January 1, 2021