View My Stats

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like shopping

The year is 1913, and Christmas is rolling around once again, and I, an avid reader, am flipping through the Eaton's Catalogue, as I am wont to do, looking at the books section and compiling my wish list. Wishing to be well read in the upcoming year I think I will ask Santa for a book from several of the different categories. Why not, I am worth it.

I have actually been known to do this, though typically it is with the Sears Catalogue in our modern times, not because I actually expected to get anything off that list, but because it was fun. On a slightly related note, here is an interesting website I found archiving old Sears Catalogues.

This time, instead of waiting for Santa to bring me the books that might have interested me in 1913 and 1914 I have decided to take matters into my own hands, and see which I might get for free as digitized copies off of the internet. Take that commercialism of Christmas.

The catalogue itself can be found on the Internet Archive, which proved to be an interesting and reliable source for many of these early books. The first section of books was entitled "A Page of Big Values in Bibles, Prayers and Hymn Books," but since my 1913 family (who inexplicably has access to the internet) already has a great deal of those I didn't investigate too much further. In fact, for interests sake, in this exercise I mostly stuck to titles that I did not already know, and did not think would be ubiquitous, first because those with really popular or general titles will no doubt give you an edition of the text, but it may not be the edition that was offered in the 1913 Eaton's Catalogue. That is not to say that they might not be the same, or that all of what I found were the actual editions as listed in the catalogue, but I did want to try for titles that were unfamiliar to me.

In the section "A Page of Books at Money-Saving Prices" there was a collection of medical books. I was unable to find a copy of Dr. Gunns Family Physician and Home Book of Health, though there are many antique booksellers that do possess a copy. There seem to be both earlier and later editions of this text. Nor was I able to find The Horse's Friend and Veterinary Advisor by Jas. Law, mostly because 'the horse's friend' is too broadly used a term. However, I was able to find Maternity without Suffering by Emma F. Angell Drake. This book was published in 1902, and it is listed in the catalogue for 60 cents.

In the section "The Best Cookbooks: Endorsed by High Authorities," I was not able to find Mrs. Beeton's Cookery Book, mostly because she wrote other books which were apparently on a similar subject and took precedence over this book. I was, however able to find The Whitehouse Cookbook, written in 1887 by F.L. Gillette and Hugo Zieman. This book talks about cooking, toilet and household, recipes, menus etc. and is listed in the catalogue for 75 cents. The full text can be found on Project Gutenberg.

For "Good Books on Manners and Letter Writing" I actually had a lot of trouble finding a text, mostly, as with The Horse's Friend, this seemed to be because the terms for searching were just too broad. Manners and Rules of Good Society could be found on the Internet Archive , but only in incarnations that were published after the date of this catalogue.

In the "Mechanical Books for Home Study" section I searched for the Train Rules Catechism and could not find it, I expect once again because of the very general title. Instead I was able to find Light and Heavy Timber Framing made easy which was published in 1909, and is currently hosted by the Internet Archive. It was written by Frederick Thomas Hodgson, and the catalogue indicated it is one of Hodgson's better works, though they are trying to make a sale. It happens to be going for $1.75.

In the section " A List of Miscellaneous Books and Dictionaries" I was not able to find one of those titles, including Robinson's Book of Conundrums, Hands: How to Read Them, Mystic Dream Book (though I did find a 1937 version of this), Maple Leaf Reciter or Toasts (which was much too broad to be a valid search term).

Instead I found a series of books from the "A Page of Popular Books" section. On Wikipedia they have an excellent list of the Elsie Books, which are mentioned in the Catalogue, and also show you which of the books are freely available online. These books were published between 1867 and 1905. Most of the copies are hosted by Project Gutenberg. Each Elsie book is listed in the catalogue for 17 cents.

I was unable to locate the two titles I did not know from the section "Books for Young People," that is Animal Stories for Little People (again because the search terms were broad) and Wood's Natural History (which was for sale, but I could not find a digitized copy). Most titles in this section I was quite familiar with, so I stayed away from them.

In the "High Class Recent Fiction" section I came across The Money Moon by Jeffrey Farnol from 1911. The Catalogue prices it at 50 cents. I was able to find the text in Google books.

From the "Well Known Novels Very Low Prices" section of the Catalogue I was able to find The Missing Bride by Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth on Project Gutenberg. I was able to find it on Project Gutenberg and it is priced in the Catalogue at 25 cents.

Finally, from the "Big Value in Annuals and Children's Picture Books" section I was not able to find the Roosevelt Bear Books. However, I was able to find a copy of Little Lord Fauntelroy, though it is a modern reproduction of the text. I was able to find it on Google Books. The story was written by Frances Hodgson Burnett in 1886. In the catalogue it was 75 cents.

For this experiment my texts were all found on Google Books, the Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg. However, the most interesting thing I found out was how effective the search engine of Google is at finding books online. One thing that the search engines were not good at however was getting a title that was similar in any way to everyday phrases, common websites, or was used in many different kinds of books. All my finds had very specific titles, which could only signify themselves and nothing else. Therefore, this is a lesson for future book and internet writing. be specific in your title.

Overall I was impressed with how many I could actually find, and in such a breadth of categories. So, Santa, looks like I am going to have to make you a new list, maybe with toys or from the extensive underwear collection in the catalogue, because so far Google has been doing your work for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment