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Friday Five: 5 Goodies from Gutenberg

Were-wolfI'm a Project Gutenberg addict. I mean, I have a real problem. As Anne can testify, I'll spend hours just going through the 'recent uploads' section, admiring the latest text conversions of 19th century French botanical diaries.

I've listed five of my favourite recent finds - some are fun, some are genuinely great, some are flat-out bizarre. Please share your own Gutenberg discoveries in the comments, the more the merrier!

The Were-Wolf by Clemence Housman (1896)

Cleverly titled in a way that, if you were actually searching for werewolf stories, you'd never find it. I searched this out when compiling that list of Lovecraft's recommendations, and it is a treat. A short, Weird fantasy, based in a vaguely Scandinavian setting. The 'were-wolf' isn't quite the figure that you'd expect, and the ultimate conflict: a literal race against time, is genuinely harrowing. Plus, there are foxy (wolfy?) illustrations by Laurence Housman. (Read it here.)

The Whole Family: A Novel By Twelve Authors (1908)

The Whole Family is a bit of an oddity - a 'shared-world' by twelve prominent authors, each focusing on an individual member of an extended New England upper class family. William Dean Howells sets up the framework in the opening chapter, with a clearly outlined sense of the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys' and a hint as to the plot. And then, in the second story, Mary Wilkins Freeman overturns the whole table with a wonderfully feminist reinterpretation of a secondary character. The rest of the book is a scramble to put the apples back in the cart, all the way down to Henry Van Dyke's deus ex machina concluding story. (Henry James also sort of mails something in at the midway point.) The book is fun, but everything around the book is even more delightful. (Full review here.) (Read it here.)

The Conquest of America by Cleveland Moffett (1916)

An early example of the 'invasion literature' made popular by The Battle of Dorking (and, er, timeless by The War of the Worlds), Moffett spells out the dramatic conquest of the United States by the Prussian military machine. It is alternately jingoistic and hectoring, Moffett maintains firmly than an American has the strength and moral rectitude of 10 ordinary men, but he's also unsubtly berating the government for the country's perceived military fragility. It isn't particularly great (I extracted the best scene a few weeks ago), but it does paint a picture of a very different time in the States: one where America is barely a player, much less the only super-power. (Read it here.)

Kitty CarterKitty Carter, Canteen Girl by Ruby Lorraine Radford (1944)

The real Agent Carter! Ok, maybe not. But until someone in the UK picks up the rights, you can get your fix with Ruby Radford's own Nazi-fighting secret agent. Well, not so secret. Kitty is keen on supporting the War Effort, but she has to Care for Her Family so can't fully commit to being a nurse. Instead, she finds that she can balance Home, Work and Patriotism by being a Canteen Girl and helping Cheer the Men and Provide Sandwiches. It is, of course, a legitimately important role, and she's actually really helpful (and foils a Plot), but the book is so heavy-handed, it is hilarious. The illustrations, by the way, are simply fantastic. (Read it here.)

Remarks on a Pamphlet Lately Published by the Rev. Mr Maskelyne by John Harrison (1747)

Given the recent anniversary of the Longitude Act, and John Harrison's successful measurement of longitude at sea, this is a particularly fun little document. Maskelyne, the Royal Astronomer, was not particularly impressed by Harrison's work (preferring a different approach to measurement - the 'lunar method'. This pamphlet, privately printed, is Harrison taking to the court of public opinion in an attempt to pry more money - and credit - out of the Board of Longitude. (This is all a very truncated and inaccurate representation of the history - definitely worth reading the full thing!) (Read it here.) (Obligatory Irregularity plug.)

And one more...

Trinity Site by the National Atomic Museum

Speaking of anniversaries - here's a document produced for the 50th anniversary of the testing of the Atomic Bomb. Sort of a museum pamphlet, I suppose? But despite its lack of 'antiquity', this makes for fascinating reading - both for what it says and what it doesn't, if that makes sense. Plus, a few fairly vintage looking graphics sneak in, which is always nice. (Read it here.)

What amazing treats have you fished out of in the ocean of Project Gutenberg? Please share!