Archive for Books

The “National Emergency Library” – Recent Free Online Books to Aid Students

The Internet Archive presents the National Emergency Library that is comprised of approximately 1.5 million volumes of primarily U.S. imprints of the 20th century. Previously access to these materials was dependent on a waitlist that could be quite lengthy; however, for the extent of this crisis, these materials are now readily accessible to all without the need to sign up on a list. All one needs to do is set up a simple account.

An informative FAQ has been drafted.

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Christmas Stories

Here you will find a collection of hundreds of volumes of stories pertaining to Christmas, some as far back as the 1840s.

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The 100 Best English-Language Novels

Divided into several categories, these novels were judged by a literary panel as to be the tomes that have shaped our world. I am gratified to see that the Jack Aubrey novels authored by Patrick O’Brian made the cut; here is an interview with this author from The Paris Review.

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Dime Novels

Calamity Jane, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill, heroines, detectives, highwaymen, sailors – all strutted through the pages of these ephemeral publications, called dime novels because of their cost. Thousands of these luridly-covered titles were produced starting in 1860, the first novel being Malaeska, the Indian wife of the white hunter, written by Mrs. Stephens. A brief but informative history of this type of work, which was a catchall phrase to describe several variants, is online; a timeline of its development is also available. A major examination of this type of publication can be found at House of Beadle & Adams Online, an electronic version of the 1950 multi-volume examination of this important publishing house for dime novels.

The largest single online collection of dime novels, over 7000 titles, is housed at Northern Illinois University – Nickels and Dimes; the site contains practically every number of Beadle’s Dime Library, totaling 1099 issues. You can search  by genre, series, or author. My particular favorite is the “sea stories” section with works authored by such luminaries as Ned Buntline and Victor Hugo.

Another large collection reposes at Villanova University – Dime Novel and Popular Literature – that also includes the precursors to dime novels. Numerous series are represented here as well as titles translated into foreign languages. It also hosts the Edward T. LeBlanc Memorial Dime Novel Bibliography an ongoing project that aims to comprehensively list all dime novels ever published. Using the menu’s full text option, you can call up more than 9,000 full text issues culled from the various online collections.

Almost 1,300 issues are digitally reproduced at the University of South Florida. What caught my eye here is the March 3, 1885 edition of the Old Sleuth Library entitled The Bay Ridge Mystery“; Bay Ridge being that part of Brooklyn where I grew up.

Over 1700 dime novel covers are found at Syracuse University.

Many of these novels are labeled romances featuring women in all sorts of guises. While many people associate these works with just the exploits of frontiersman or cowboys, nothing could be further from the truth. Women and the World of Dime Novels from the American Antiquarian Society seeks to correct this misconception and presents pertinent essays along with selected novels to buttress its argument that dime novels are not solely a male reserve. American Women’s Dime Novel Project is also a must stop, though at the time of this writing some features are not functional.

The British analog is called “penny dreadfuls“. While some of these are found in the above collections, it is but a very small sample. And I have yet to find an equivalent repository of these unique items. A few can be read here and you can find the original Sweeney Todd appearing in The String of Pearls that was serially issued in 1846/47.


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Book Lovers Discuss Their Collections

A point of transparency here – I label myself a book lover; my collection is north of 8,000 volumes. This delightful piece in The Washington Post interviews several people, including the Librarian of Congress, on their collections and their attitudes to the tomes they possess.

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The Book of Kells Is Now Online

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The Top 100 Novels of All Time

Of course this list is bound to cause arguments or disagreements, but this enumeration is based on how many libraries (as tabulated by WorldCat) have these volumes on their shelves. Overwhelmingly, the volumes are American or English, and few are what you would label contemporary (with the exception of a couple of Harry Potter titles). Each novel is placed in a genre and the number of translations of the books is also given. How many have you read? (If my math is accurate, I have read 92 of them.) A fuller list of the top 500 novels is available and can be divided by genres; see how many science fiction novels made the grade.

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