Fifty Words for Snow

Nine Lives frontispiece

that I’ve been involved with

It’s all well and good to talk about curling up with a good book. What if the library is closed, and you can’t reach the bookshelf because the cat is sitting on your lap?

Do not despair. You can do all the reading you want right now in your browser, or on your phone, or on the internet-connected device of your choice. The question is, what will you get? It might be a page image:

partial page image

or it might be raw OCR:

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machaijarpiuiga mir tft baöGVf($irr ^^cr^roc^cir^ (mirfctbftl.
iiiachaijartauvini.aa mir tft t>a0 C^V^[d;trr ^crbrod^cii (i^eii

Those have their uses—at least when nothing else is available. But what you really want is fully proofread, searchable text. That’s what you get here.

Unlike many ebook collections, there is no unifying theme here: books about a particular subject; novels on somebody’s Most Influential list; key reference works; the holdings of a specialized library. The only criterion is that the book caught my interest—and, usually, that there isn’t already a nice version online somewhere else. Unless otherwise noted, each book’s text is based on some specific, identified edition. But if another edition had more or prettier pictures, I’ve added those too.

Titles marked G were originally made (by me) for Project Gutenberg. The version you see here differs in some way—maybe with Added Value in linking and display options, or a wider range of responsive formats. Titles marked dp are the same, except that they came up through Distributed Proof­readers and should therefore be 100% guaranteed error-free. For the ’satiably curtious, here is a complete listing of the 300-odd Project Gutenberg books with my name on them, spanning the period 2004–2014.

For the heavily illustrated books I’ve included the size of the “images” directory so you know what you’re getting into.

The original texts are all out of copyright in the United States. If you live in a different country, it is up to you to check your own laws. Usually it’s the lifespan of the author plus some number of years—which can be tricky when a book is anonymous and undated.

distant light across a lake

A Very Good Year

Two of my favorite genres are 19th-century humor and 19th-century travel books. Sometimes it’s impossible to separate the two—especially when they all seem to have been written in 1888.

Modern Men

By “A Modern Maid”, otherwise known as Charlotte O’Conor Eccles.

The Balsam Groves of the Grandfather Mountain

North Carolina travelogue meets cheesy romance. Nobody emerges victorious—though the book does include some pretty nice photographs. 700k images

B.C. 1887: A Ramble in British Columbia

From the authors of the incomparable Three in Norway—but this time around, there are photo­graphs. More shootin’, more fishin’ . . . and way more parodies and name-dropping. I looked everything up, so you won’t have to. 3MB images

Bits of Travel
Bits of Travel at Home

Meet Helen Hunt not-yet-Jackson, travel writer:

“I thought it very beautiful, and was quite surprised to find it one of the things set down in [the guidebook] as proper to be admired.”

In 1868–1869 the author toured Europe—which is to say Rome, Venice, the south of France and assorted spas—with a rotation of women friends, leading to Bits of Travel. A few years later she was off again, this time visiting California, Colorado and New England; this gave us Bits of Travel at Home. 1MB images
divided among several books

The Diary of a Nobody

Where were you in 1888? George and Weedon Grossmith were pegging away at their own classic, originally serialized in Punch. A few years later it was expanded into a book with new illustrations by Weedon. 1.3MB images

English as She is Spoke

Before there was machine translation there was English as She is Spoke, or, what happens when you use an outdated dictionary to translate a language you don’t know . . . into another language you don’t know. 200k images

Happy Thoughts
More Happy Thoughts
Our Yacht

F. C. Burnand’s Happy Thoughts—originally published in Punch in the late 1860’s—are not technically autobio­graphy. But, like E. M. Delafield’s “Provincial Lady” books a few genera­tions later, they are so full of topical references that you may as well treat them as real life.

The Incompleat Angler

In that year of years 1887, F. C. Burnand returns with a close parody of The Compleat Angler, illustrated by Harry Furniss. It doesn’t get much sillier than this. 1.4MB images

Industrial Explorings

. . . in and Around London, by “R. Andom”. An 1895 travelogue of a dozen very different factories in the London area, copiously illustrated by T. M. R. Whitwell. 2.4MB images

John Bull and His Island

England as seen through the eyes of a Frenchman—translated into English for John Bull’s benefit.

Letters from Sweden

Or, in full: Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark by Mary Wollstonecraft. Written in 1795, edited after the author’s death by William Godwin. The ebook is made from the 1802 second edition, putting us just within the “19th century” rubric.

Midnight Sunbeams: Bits of Travel through the Land of the Norsemen

A random American does Norway . . . in guess what year.

There’s a wee bit of Denmark and Sweden as well. But the title is enough to make everyone’s priorities clear.

Sights and Sensations . . .

. . . in France, Germany, and Switzerland; or, Experiences of an American journalist in Europe. The title pretty well says it all. Written at various times in the 1860s by Edward Gould Buffum; published in 1869.

The Skipper in Arctic Seas

Walter Clutterbuck—by himself—hits the northern seas to shoot seals, birds and anything else he can hit. 1.6MB images

man falling backward off chair

Jerome K. Jerome

When you look around and discover you’ve got half a dozen different books by the same author, it’s time to give him a category of his own.


A careful look at the unique and special version of reality that you find in stage melodramas. 1.7MB images

On the Stage—and Off

Jerome’s 1885 account of his brief career as an actor, republished in 1891 with lots and lots of illustrations. 2.7MB images

Sketches in Lavender, Blue and Green

Assorted stories, some serious and some not, from JKJ’s stint as a magazine editor in the mid-1890s. 1.8MB images

Three Men in a Boat

The comic classic began life in Home Chimes in 1888–89. Here is its 1889 illustrated book version. 1.3MB images

Three Men on the Bummel

The 1900 sequel to Three Men in a Boat. 300k images

Told After Supper

JKJ’s venture into ghost stories. 2.9MB images

array of sauceboats and stoppered bottles

A Day in the Life

Animal Biography

by William Bingley, the 1804 second edition. Popular zoology as it existed at the beginning of the 19th century—which is far, far different than what you might have seen a century earlier. With illustrations culled from Bingley’s various named sources, including Shaw and Bewick. 19.2MB images
divided among 15 files

The Amenities of Book-Collecting

. . . and Kindred Affections, by A. Edward Newton. From the longago days when, as the author tells us, “a faultless first folio could have been had for the trifling sum of twenty-five thousand dollars”. 4.1MB images

Beeton’s Book of Household Management

Otherwise known simply as “Mrs. Beeton”. The 1861 edition, with all illustrations—including more close-ups of Roasted Hares and Stewed Tongues than most people ever want to see. Along with the text, I delved into the book’s donors (as with Alida, “Sources” doesn’t quite fit the bill). 9MB images
divided among 10 files

A Dictionary of the Art of Printing

Everything a printer in 1841 needed to know—and a whole lot more. Along with the how-tos and technical terminology, we get: all laws that affected printers in any way; infor­mation on the non-Roman scripts available to English printers, along with arrangement of their respective cases; rules of punctuation and orthography; aids to decoding your hand-written original, such as the abbreviations of standard reference works; imposition charts for everything from folios to 128-page sheets . . . and that’s just the beginning.

In spite of the dp label, this etext is significantly different from the version you’ll find at Project Gutenberg. 2.9MB images
divided among 15 files

Directions to Servants

From the author of A Modest Proposal and Gulliver’s Travels: everything a good servant needs to know.

A Magnificent Farce

. . . and Other Diversions of a Book-Collector, by A. Edward Newton, who previously gave us The Amenities of Book-Collecting. 4.3MB images

Modern Cookery

Or, in full: Modern Cookery, in all its Branches, Reduced to a System of Easy Practice, for the Use of Private Families, first edition. Eliza Acton’s 1845 cookbook was a major donor to Beeton’s Book of Household Management.

Modern Men

By “A Modern Maid”, otherwise known as Charlotte O’Conor Eccles.

Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not

Florence Nightingale’s seminal book, in its 1860 enlarged edition. If you thought Nightingale Nurses were all about self-effacement and unquestioning obedience to the doctor, this is an eye-opener.

Our House and London out of Our Windows

Elizabeth Robins Pennell’s life on Buckingham Street, The Strand, illustrated by her husband Joseph Pennell. 1.1MB images

The Physiology of Taste

Brillat-Savarin’s 1825 classic in the 1854 translation, filled out with illustrations from the 1848 Paris edition. Admittedly the Fayette Robinson translation can only be described as uneven—but it’s a book that belongs on every shelf. Or in every computer. 2.9MB images

Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character

A mid-19th-century best-seller from Edward Ramsay, Dean of Edinburgh. Text from the third edition, pictures from a later big-budget edition. 1.5MB images


Humphry Davy’s personal tribute to The Compleat Angler, with illustrations from two editions. 1.2MB images

The last two titles in this section have only one thing in common: They are about actual human beings who were alive at the time the respective texts were written. Frederick Hale was originally made for Project Gutenberg; My Mother’s War has not previously been published.

Frederick Hale

Possibly the world’s shortest biography. The cover text makes you think that this splendid work was just one of a series of similar biographies—but as it turns out, it’s all part of the joke.

Frederick Hale (1874–1963) was Senator from Maine for several decades in the early part of the 20th century. If his life story and achieve­ments put you in mind of other well-known political figures before or since . . . well, there’s not a thing I can do about that.

My Mother’s War

My mother was born Brunhilde Maria Urban in 1935 in what was then East Prussia. She wrote this autobio­graphical chapter in 2012, a few years before her death.

illustration of “A Book of Verses Underneath the Bough” from Altemus edition of Rubaiyat

A Book of Verses

Strange but true: I don’t read poetry. This is not about principles or ideology; it simply won’t go down. But I do like working on poetry books—the more massively illustrated, the better.

Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog

Words by Oliver Goldsmith, pictures by Randolph Caldecott. 1.1MB images

The Chase

Or, if you prefer, The Chace. Book-length poem by William Somerville—or, if you prefer, Somervile—with illustrations by the Bewick brothers, John and Thomas. 650k images

The Deserted Village

Oliver Goldsmith again—this time with three megabytes of illus­trations by Hammatt Billings. 2.9MB images

Gray’s Elegy

Text and illustrations from the 1834 John Martin edition, with added illustrations from two other editions. 3.8MB images

The Rubaiyat

Text of the first edition, combined with full-color illustrations from six later editions. 7.3MB images

The Seasons

Thomson’s Seasons, primarily from the lavishly illustrated 1842 Bolton Corney edition, with added illustrations from assorted early editions that caught my fancy. 8.3MB images divided among 8 files

three mice at work in the Gnaw Mills

Picture This

Sometimes the pictures are as important as the words.

Eight Cousins

My personal favorite among Louisa May Alcott’s ever-popular “moral pap for the young”. 1.6MB images

Black Beauty

Text based on the 19th edition, which is essentially the same as the first; illustrations added from half-a-dozen other editions from both sides of the Atlantic. 5.7MB images
divided among Parts I-IV

Castles & Old Mansions of Shropshire

Long before there was such a thing as a coffee table, there were coffee-table books. This is a typical specimen. 4.7MB images

Fairy Tales from the Far North

The companion volume to Round the Yule Log: Asbjørnsen & Moe’s collected tales, translated by H. L. Brækstad, with the original Norwegian illustrations. 4.1MB images

Little Women

Text of first edition—both parts—supplemented with illustrations from two later editions. 9.3MB images
divided between two books

The Mouse’s Wedding

Part of Kobunsha’s Japanese Fairy Tale Series, printed 1892 on beautiful textured paper. No plot worth mentioning, but the pictures are gorgeous. 1.9MB images

Perez the Mouse

In Spanish-speaking countries, Perez the Mouse does the job of the tooth fairy. It’s all thanks to this book, written in 1894 at the request of the real-life mother of the main human character, “King Bubi I”, otherwise known as Alfonso XIII of Spain. English translation by Lady Moreton, who may have taken liberties; illus­trations by G. Howard Vyse.

The Spanish original, Ratón Pérez, with drawings by Mariano Pedrero, is available from Project Gutenberg as ebook 36558.

If you love the Howard Vyse paintings but prefer to read the original Spanish, the hybrid version is just for you. 1.1MB images

Round the Yule Log: Christmas Fireside Stories

The first English translation of Asbjørnsen & Moe’s collected Norwegian fairy tales, with the original illustrations. 5.9MB images

Savoy Operas and more

Eight Gilbert & Sullivan operas with gorgeous illustrations by Russell Flint, originally published in two volumes:
Savoy Operas: The Pirates of Penzance, Patience, Princess Ida, The Yeomen of the Guard
Iolanthe and Other Operas: Iolanthe, The Mikado, Ruddigore, The Gondoliers

To continue the theme, we’ve also got Gilbert’s novelizations The Pinafore Picture Book and The Story of the Mikado, each illustrated by Alice B. Woodward.

And, finally, I threw in the original Bab Ballads and More Bab Ballads collections, with illustrations by . . . drumroll . . . William Schwenck Gilbert. at least 1MB images
per title

Three Blind Mice

Text by John Ivimey, illustrations by Walton Corbould. Around 1909. Your public library may have newer editions of the Ivimey text with a different illustrator; this is the original. The book includes music, in case you have forgotten the melody of Three Blind Mice. Oh, and it has a happy ending. 1.2MB images

The Wind in the Willows

The 1922 Scribner edition with illustrations by Nancy Barnhart. 1.2MB images

signature of Norfolk

Be This Delyverid In Hast

The Compleat Angler

By Izaak Walton (1653 and later) and Charles Cotton (1676). The 1909 Cassell edition includes footnotes and supplementary material from two well-known earlier editions, Hawkins (1760 and later) and “Ephemera” (1853 and later). 2.4MB images

Ælfric’s Grammar and Glossary

Or, if you prefer, Ælfrics Grammatik und Glossar. Zupitza’s 1880 edition—as far as I know, still the only critical edition available. Definitely the only one with critical apparatus in cryptic, heavily abbreviated German.

Does it make your skin crawl when people pronounce “ask” as “ax”? If so, stay far away from Aelfric, because it will shatter all your illusions. Even before embarking on this book, I knew that “ax” was so common in slightly-later English that Early English Text Society publi­cations didn’t even bother to footnote it. But when you find it in material with a three-digit date, you may as well give up.

This is the book that led me to sever my ties with Project Gutenberg. And that’s all you need to know about that.

The Book of Quinte Essence

Or, what happens when alchemists drop their futile lead-into-gold pursuits and turn their attention to distilling hard liquor. Edited by the one, the only Frederick Furnivall, who neatly sums up the book in one headnote:


Chapman’s Iliad

Based on Hooper’s 1888 edition. The spelling and punctuation are Hooper, but the language and poetry are Chapman. This is the text that inspired Keats’s lines

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken

If you haven’t read the Iliad in a while, it may also be time for a reminder that Game of Thrones didn’t invent gore:

it cut the sundry bones

Beneath his brain, betwixt his neck, and foreparts; and so runs,

Shaking his teeth out, through his mouth, his eyes all drown’d in blood,


On his knees the poor prince crying fell,

And gather’d with his tender hands his entrails, that did swell

Quite through the wide wound

King Horn
Floris and Blauncheflur
The Assumption of Our Lady

A three-in-one omnibus text made from the 1901 Early English Text Society edition, which in turn was a re-edit of their earlier 1866 edition.

I’ve included it here because each of the three texts shows three MSS. in parallel. An obvious next step is to let you hide and show the separate MSS. and their respective notes.

The Paston Letters

Really. I’m not kidding. I don’t spend all my time working on fluff, y’know.

E-text based on the six-volume 1904 Gairdner edition. Details and links are on the Paston page.

drawing of caribou with large horns

Northern Lights

The Book of Wisdom for Eskimo

The one, the only, the incomparable and inimitable 1947 masterpiece. English text only. 400k images

Grammatik der Grönländische Sprache

Published in 1851, Kleinschmidt’s Grammatik was the seminal work on the language of Greenland. No pictures or conver­sations, but this is the book everyone refers back to. (auf deutsch)

Grammatik der Eskimo-Sprache

Don’t look at me like that, Canadians. It’s the author’s title, not mine. Theodor Bourquin spent most of his missionary career in Nain, Labrador; the second deity in his pantheon was obviously Klein­schmidt.

Bourquin’s book, dating from 1891, is the source of the images shown at the top of this page. The book itself is excellent; putting it into Roman type should make it more accessible to modern students. (auf deutsch)

Grammatica Grönlandica Danico-Latina

Before Kleinschmidt, there was Poul Egede. Second-generation missionary, spent much of his youth in Greenland—is this starting to sound familiar? Unlike certain later writers one could name, he understood that the language of Greenland is not, and does not want to be, Latin. Not bad for 1760.

Do not be alarmed by the title. I’ve thrown in an English translation as well. (Dansk/Latin/English)

Eskimo Grammar

Read it and weep. While the Germans were breaking new ground, the English had to make do with . . . Peck.

Edmund Peck was yet another missionary to the far North, this time not a Moravian but an Anglican. In the course of a career in what is now Nunavik, he earned himself the epithet uqammaq, “one who speaks well”. Scattered through the Grammar are plenty of hints that he really did know the language. He just didn’t know how to write a book.

The Killer’s Song and more

For variety’s sake: the Music and Poetry section—about ten pages—from an 1884 Franz Boas article published by the Bureau of American Ethnology. This excerpt includes melodies in .midi format, along with lyrics in a wild and wonderful array of trans­criptions. Boas didn’t even try to regularize his sources’ orthography—and I can’t say I blame him.

Oh, about that killer. It’s a killer whale. I hope nobody was disap­pointed. 450k images

What the Well-Dressed Eskimo Is Wearing

Another winner from the Bureau of Ethnology: thirty pages on clothing—including patterns!—from an 1892 article on Point Barrow, Alaska. On paper this is a long way west of Boas’s turf. But once you get past the detailing and decorations, the basic styles are the same everywhere. 500k images

bear hunter from Balsam Groves

I don’t make this stuff up, y’know

. . . but someone did—and the world of literature is the richer for it.

This section includes some not-so-cheesy fiction as well. If you can’t tell the difference, well, so much the better.

Northanger Abbey

I did say there would be some non-cheesy fiction now and then. Jane Austen’s spoof on Gothic novels, from the 1907 Dent and Dutton edition with illustrations by C. E. Brock. 2MB images


This is not Alonzo and Melissa, but— Wait a minute. If it isn’t Alonzo and Melissa, why are huge chunks of the text word-for-word identical, with only the names changed? And how does the eponymous heroine contrive to travel so comfortably up the Erie Canal . . . ten years before its opening? The answer will have to await successful channeling of the author, one Amelia Stratton Comfield, who published this miracle in 1840.

In addition to not being Alonzo and Melissa, this book is not Duke Karl Bernhard’s Travels in North America. It can’t be, what with those extensive descrip­tions of the Erie Canal—and of Sylvanus Thayer, who did not become director of West Point until several years after Alida’s visit. Our author(ess) appar­ently didn’t think it worth the trouble to look up these details. But she must have been vaguely aware that De Witt Clinton was not governor of New York in 1815, because she took care to edit out his name.

Alida is also not The Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Indepen­dence, or Volume II (1796-97) of The New-York Weekly Magazine, or Interesting Events in the History of the United States, nor yet the poetic works of James Thomson or Mary Tighe—to name but a few. Any resem­blances are purely coinci­dental. We know this must be so, because all relevant works were duly copyrighted—in some cases, in the very same office where Alida’s own copyright was filed. Besides, all proceeds were donated to charity. It must have been pure profit, because the list of subscribers is several pages long.

Baby Mine

1911 novelization of the smash hit stage farce from the year before. 500k images

The Balsam Groves of the Grandfather Mountain

Half-baked romance meets North Carolina travelogue. It is hard to say who is the winner. 700k images

The Criminal

I found this slightly amazing crime-and-punishment story while hunting down some of Alida’s donors. The New-York Weekly Magazine, published from mid-1795 to mid-1797, never let a copyright get in the way of a good story. But unlike most, this short serial seems to have been written directly for the magazine. The author is identified only as “L. B.”

And that’s all I know.


. . . otherwise known as The Most Adorable Book ever. The author was a grandniece of Mark Twain, and obviously shared some of his humorist genes. If you have never read this book, what are you waiting for? Includes the author’s illustrations—an integral part of the book. 300k images

Dear Enemy

The sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs, starring Sallie McBride—whose graphic style is amazingly similar to Judy Abbott’s. 550k images

The Dolly Dialogues

Recommended by the narrator of Dear Enemy, so how could I resist? By Anthony Hope, who gave us The Prisoner of Zenda and hence the proud nation of Ruritania. 600k images

The Matrimonial Lottery

From the author of The Rejuvenation of Miss Semaphore.

The Prisoner of Zenda

The one, the only, the best-seller that gave us Ruritania—or, as it were, “Ruritania”. 600k images

The Rejuvenation of Miss Semaphore

An 1897 novel has fun with the Water of Youth.

The Romance of Poisons

Literature’s first forensic toxicologist made his appearance in 1895.

Spanish Castles by the Rhine

Now that the Ruritanian floodgates have been opened . . . 450k images

The Three Sisters

Not by Chekhov. Not even remotely by Chekhov. A true-crime pamphlet from the press of A. R. Orton . . . for a given definition of “true”, that is. 400k images

Alonzo and Melissa frontispiece

Chapter by Chapter

The novels in this group are neither more nor less cheesy than the ones above. They’re just longer and therefore divided into pieces. Sliced Cheese, if you like.

Orley Farm

One of the—to all appearances—hundreds of novels Anthony Trollope cranked out in his lifetime. Illustrated by John Everett Millais, engraved by Dalziel. 20 installments

MiSTing of Alonzo and Melissa

Written and first published in 1804, pirated in 1811 and re-published many, many times afterward. The Great American Novel, with commentary by me and assorted proof­readers who just couldn’t help themselves. If you want the plain, unvarnished text you can find it at Project Gutenberg. But this version is more fun.

If you’re feeling down in the dumps, read any random chapter. It will cheer you right up. 23 chapters

The Children of the Abbey

Where Alonzo and Melissa goes, The Children of the Abbey must follow. Or precede, if you want to split hairs, because this book was published a few years earlier, on the other side of the Atlantic. The heroine, Amanda, does almost as much traveling as Alonzo, and more than Alida; it seems to have been a charac­teristic of people with names beginning in A. 58 chapters

The Female Quixote, or, The Adventures of Arabella

Meet Arabella, who does not know the difference between reality and fiction. When reality is 18th-century England, while fiction is a 17th-century French novelist’s inter­pretation of ancient history . . . this can be a problem. 9 Books

Mona Maclean, Medical Student

It may sound like a mid-20th-century teenage romance, but in fact it was written in 1892 by real-life doctor Margaret Todd, writing as “Graham Travers”. In spite of the title, the main character spends most of the book on break from medical school. There’s a limit to how much action you can fit into the dissecting room. 3 volumes

The Old Manor House

Charlotte Smith novel set in the late 1770s and published in 1793 . . . featuring the least appealing hero and heroine you will ever hope to meet. 52 chapters


Helen Hunt Jackson’s huge best-seller from 1884. It was intended to do for American Indians what Uncle Tom’s Cabin did for another disenfranchised group . . . but it didn’t quite work out that way. 26 chapters

In Preparation

The Honorable Peter Stirling, a surprisingly gripping 1894 best-seller about municipal politics in New York City.

Volume 24b of the abridged edition of Venomous Amphibians of South-Central Queensland.