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Friday, November 21, 2008

The World's Great Literary Masterpieces — Freely Available at your Fingertips

Last week I asked about Readers. This week I’m curious to learn how many of you are using Project Gutenberg, which currently has over 25,000 free books online and over 3million downloads a month.

It’s absolutely brilliant for a historical novelist. I’ve used it to read Victorian housekeeping books, diaries, and research topics of interest. A quick search of my eBooks folder shows me some of the various subjects and books I’ve downloaded:

AN ENGLISH GRAMMAR, by W. M. Baskervill and J. W. Sewell

1811 DICTIONARY OF THE VULGAR TONGUE, by Captain Grose et al.


And I quote, "Practical Handbook Of Pertinent Expressions, Striking Similes, Literary, Commercial, Conversational, And Oratorical Terms, For The Embellishment Of Speech And Literature, And The Improvement Of The Vocabulary Of Those Persons Who Read, Write, And Speak English.”

LETTERS FROM ENGAND 1846-1849, by Elizabeth Davis Bancroft

THE CENTURY VOCABULARY BUILDER, By Garland Greever and Joseph M. Bachelor.

THE HOUSE OF THE VAMPIRE, by George Sylvester Viereck


THE LOSS OF THE SS. TITANIC, by Lawrence Beesley (a firsthand account that kept me as riveted as the movie)

et cetera, et cetera . . .

I suppose any non-writer would think I was grabbing all the boring ones. But it's a gold mine for writers and researchers, not to mention a place to read the classics for free. They also have illustrated books, children's botany, etc.

So do any of you guys visit Project Gutenberg? And if so, I'm curious what you've down loaded.


  1. I do. So far I've downloaded the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. Pretty sure that's all, though.

  2. I have been downloading classics. Frankenstein, Dracula, Huckleberry Finn...etc.

    I also downloaded a free "reader." If anyone uses yWriter to organize their writing, it is made by the same guy. What it does is it makes it easier to read electronic work by rendering the background into an off white shade. It really is a useful tool that works great will all Project Gutenberg works.

  3. Yeah, Jess, I could tell you've been reading the vulgar tongue.


    I use online literature dot com when I need to search for a phrase in a novel ... but I just saw that Gutenberg has St. Nick archives ... great, now I'm going to spend the rest of my day reading.

  4. Thank you so much, Jessica. I wasn't aware of this site. I know it will be useful to me. Thanks again.

  5. Now that's a cool site. Thanks, Jess.

  6. I use Project Gutenberg so much I sometimes feel I should kick back some volunteer work for them. I definitely recommend such activities for typing teachers as double-edged worthwhile projects for their students.

    Personally, I could write an entire article on the gems I've discovered there, and I have thousands of pages of downloads in my ebook library. I like best the personal accounts of common people who have lived through history-making times. As a writer, I find it a form of time travel that brings detailed impressions of places that can no longer be visited (because they have changed), where you can discover facts and incidents that modern historians have skipped over.

    To know the formula used for converting a gasoline engine to wood-burning brings more life to a WW II novel(not as efficient, but when there was no gasoline available at all at certain times in occupied countries, efficiency was not as important as simply getting somewhere). What's more, the plot twists that come to mind after discovering some of these obscure facts can send you on some great creative rides, which is wonderful tonic for writer's block.

    Then there's the gold you can bring back with you from your time travels. Things like, how to bake perfect bread with the simplest ingredients, old-fashioned cures for iron deficiency that works better than what you can buy over-the-counter today, how to get rid of bugs in your house without poison, or how to build a boat in your backyard that can take you anywhere in the world.

    But nothing can hold a candle to the amazing people I've met, who are so willing to share their wisdom and life experiences. People like Mary Kingsley, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, David Livingston, Charlotte Mason, etc...

    Yes, I am a Gutenberg fan!

  7. Thanks to every one who commented.

    And about the Vulgar Tongue--LOL, can I help it if my working class characters need to speak too?

    Where else am I going to learn that an Ale Draper is a ale house keeper?

    Or that a Toad Eater, is a reduced gentlewoman?


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