Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Blasts from the Past: 19th Century Digital Texts

When we began selecting authors to profile in This Goodly Land, there was never any question as to whether we would include authors from Alabama's past. Cultural heritage is precious to all of us, but this is especially true in the South.

There was some question, however, about access to books written by our 19th Century authors. Some of these books have been reprinted, of course. Quite a few are included in the Library of Alabama Classics series from the University of Alabama Press. There was concern, however, that people wouldn't be able to locate copies of non-reprinted books without a close personal relationship with a rare books dealer.

The Internet and the World Wide Web have eased this problem to a considerable extent. It's become a lot easier to find and purchase old or out-of-print books by using the Web to locate dealers with copies for sale. But that's not the only option.

Many groups have digitized 18th, 19th, and early 20th Century books and made them available free to anyone who has access to the Web. Some of these projects allow you to look at images of the actual book pages, while all allow you to read the books in plain text versions.

In This Goodly Land's author profiles, whenever one of an author's "Selected Works" is available online, we provide a link to that text. That way, an interested viewer can check it out immediately instead of having to remember to look for it later. This is one way we hope to increase awareness and appreciation of our historic literature.

Here are some of our favorite digital book projects. If your favorite isn't listed, please share it with us in the Comments section.

Making of America (University of Michigan): 18th/19th/early 20th Century books and some periodicals; paper copies can be purchased

Making of America (Cornell University): 19th Century periodicals such as The Century, Harper's Monthly Magazine, and Scribner's Magazine

Wright American Fiction, 1851-1875 (Indiana University): 19th Century novels

Documenting the American South (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): books, oral histories, legal documents, pamphlets

Women Writers Online (Brown University): books, short stories, poems

Project Gutenberg: books, short stories (includes materials in foreign languages); texts can also be downloaded as zipped files; some available as downloadable audiobooks

LibriVox: downloadable audio versions of books, short stories, poems (includes materials in foreign languages); links to Project Gutenberg texts

Text Archive of the Internet Archive: books, oral histories, legal documents (includes materials in foreign languages); texts can also be downloaded as pdfs; paper copies can be purchased

Google Book Search: books (specify "full view" to select only complete texts); public domain texts can also be downloaded as pdfs

Midge Coates, Project Manager
This Goodly Land: Alabama's Literary Landscape

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