Ten random public domain freebies #2
This is the second in a series. In this one, I’ve expanded the listings by including the opening of the book, to replicate that feeling of opening a book and reading it a bit to see if you like it. If my random search returns a title from the previous post, I’ll randomize again.
One of the things people say they miss when shopping online is that sense of random discovery you get in a physical store.
When you go online, you tend to search for something specific.
When you walk in a store, you never know what you’ll find. Heck, they might even have changed where the sections are.
That was especially true of used bookstores. I loved finding some obscure old title…the kind you couldn’t figure out how it ever got published in the first place.
Alternatively, maybe it was something that was clearly popular at one time.
The point is, you never quite knew what you’d see.
So, I decided to replicate that experience.
When you do a search at Amazon, you can only see 400 results.
to limit my search to free public domain titles, and to rank the results by popularity.
Next, I used
to find me ten random numbers from 1 to 400.
The books below are the results of that search…have fun wandering down the aisle!
#15. Great Expectations
by Charles Dickens
original publication: 1861
“My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.”
#32. The Chessmen of Mars
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
original publication: 1922
This is the fifth book in the Barsoom series (the basis for the current John Carter movie).
“Shea had just beaten me at chess, as usual, and, also as usual, I had gleaned what questionable satisfaction I might by twitting him with this indication of failing mentality by calling his attention to the nth time to that theory, propounded by certain scientists, which is based upon the assertion that phenomenal chess players are always found to be from the ranks of children under twelve, adults over seventy-two or the mentally defective—a theory that is lightly ignored upon those rare occasions that I win. Shea had gone to bed and I should have followed suit, for we are always in the saddle here before sunrise; but instead I sat there before the chess table in the library, idly blowing smoke at the dishonored head of my defeated king.”
#39: White Fang
by Jack London
original publication: 1906
London tells the story of a wolf-dog hybrid…partially from the point of view of the dog.
“Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway. The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they seemed to lean towards each other, black and ominous, in the fading light. A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness–a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild.”
#43: A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
original publication: 1843
One of the greats! I’ve parodied it in A Kindle Carol.
“I HAVE endeavoured in this Ghostly little book,
to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my
readers out of humour with themselves, with each other,
with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses
pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”
#176: Legends of the Gods The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations
by E. A. Wallis Budge
original publication: 1912
“THE LEGEND OF THE GOD NEB-ER-TCHER, AND THE HISTORY OF CREATION. The text of the remarkable Legend of the Creation which forms the first section of this volume is preserved in a well-written papyrus in the British Museum, where it bears the number 10,188. This papyrus was acquired by the late Mr. A. H. Rhind in 1861 or 1862, when he was excavating some tombs on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes. He did not himself find it in a tomb, but he received it from the British Consul at Luxor, Mustafa Agha, during an interchange of gifts when Mr. Rhind was leaving the country. Mustafa Agha obtained the papyrus from the famous hiding-place of the Royal Mummies at Der-al-Bahari, with the situation of which he was well acquainted for many years before it became known to the Egyptian Service of Antiquities. When Mr. Rhind came to England, the results of his excavations were examined by Dr. Birch, who, recognising the great value of the papyrus, arranged to publish it in a companion volume to Facsimiles of Two Papyri, but the death of Mr. Rhind in 1865 caused the project to fall through. Mr. Rhind’s collection passed into the hands of Mr. David Bremner, and the papyrus, together with many other antiquities, was purchased by the Trustees of the British Museum. In 1880 Dr. Birch suggested the publication of the papyrus to Dr. Pleyte, the Director of the Egyptian Museum at Leyden. This savant transcribed and translated some passages from the Festival Songs of Isis and Nephthys, which is the first text in it, and these he published in Recueil de Travaux, Paris, tom. iii., pp. 57-64. In 1886 by Dr. Birch’s kindness I was allowed to work at the papyrus, and I published transcripts of some important passages and the account of the Creation in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, 1886-7, pp. 11-26. The Legend of the Creation was considered by Dr. H. Brugsch to be of considerable value for the study of the Egyptian Religion, and encouraged by him[FN#1] I made a full transcript of the papyrus, which was published in Archaeologia, (vol. lii., London, 1891), with transliterations and translations. In 1910 I edited for the Trustees of the British Museum the complete hieratic text with a revised translation.”
#217: The Awakening and Selected Short Stories
by Kate Chopin
original publication: 1899
This one was pretty controversial in its day…
“A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door, kept repeating over and over: “Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That’s all right!”"
#223: The Symbolism of Freemasonry
by Albert G. Mackey
original publication: 1882
“Preliminary. The Origin and Progress of Freemasonry. Any inquiry into the symbolism and philosophy of Freemasonry must necessarily be preceded by a brief investigation of the origin and history of the institution. Ancient and universal as it is, whence did it arise? What were the accidents connected with its birth? From what kindred or similar association did it spring? Or was it original and autochthonic, independent, in its inception, of any external influences, and unconnected with any other institution? These are questions which an intelligent investigator will be disposed to propound in the very commencement of the inquiry; and they are questions which must be distinctly answered before he can be expected to comprehend its true character as a symbolic institution. He must know something of its antecedents, before he can appreciate its character.”
#225: Welsh Fairy Tales
by William Elliot Griffis
original publication: 1921
“Long, long ago, there was a good saint named David, who taught the early Cymric or Welsh people better manners and many good things to eat and ways of enjoying themselves. Now the Welsh folks in speaking of their good teacher pronounced his name Tafid and affectionately Taffy, and this came to be the usual name for a person born in Wales.”
#335: Silas Marner
by George Elliott
original publication: 1861
“In the days when the spinning-wheels hummed busily in the farmhouses—and even great ladies, clothed in silk and thread-lace, had their toy spinning-wheels of polished oak—there might be seen in districts far away among the lanes, or deep in the bosom of the hills, certain pallid undersized men, who, by the side of the brawny country-folk, looked like the remnants of a disinherited race. The shepherd’s dog barked fiercely when one of these alien-looking men appeared on the upland, dark against the early winter sunset; for what dog likes a figure bent under a heavy bag?—and these pale men rarely stirred abroad without that mysterious burden. The shepherd himself, though he had good reason to believe that the bag held nothing but flaxen thread, or else the long rolls of strong linen spun from that thread, was not quite sure that this trade of weaving, indispensable though it was, could be carried on entirely without the help of the Evil One. In that far-off time superstition clung easily round every person or thing that was at all unwonted, or even intermittent and occasional merely, like the visits of the pedlar or the knife-grinder. No one knew where wandering men had their homes or their origin; and how was a man to be explained unless you at least knew somebody who knew his father and mother? To the peasants of old times, the world outside their own direct experience was a region of vagueness and mystery: to their untravelled thought a state of wandering was a conception as dim as the winter life of the swallows that came back with the spring; and even a settler, if he came from distant parts, hardly ever ceased to be viewed with a remnant of distrust, which would have prevented any surprise if a long course of inoffensive conduct on his part had ended in the commission of a crime; especially if he had any reputation for knowledge, or showed any skill in handicraft.”
#370: The Way We Live Now
by Anthony Trollope
original publication: 1875
“Let the reader be introduced to Lady Carbury, upon whose character and doings much will depend of whatever interest these pages may have, as she sits at her writing-table in her own room in her own house in Welbeck Street. Lady Carbury spent many hours at her desk, and wrote many letters wrote also very much beside letters. She spoke of herself in these days as a woman devoted to Literature, always spelling the word with a big L. Something of the nature of her devotion may be learned by the perusal of three letters which on this morning she had written with a quickly running hand. Lady Carbury was rapid in everything, and in nothing more rapid than in the writing of letters.”
I have to say, I can completely imagine walking through a used bookstore and coming across these books! Maybe in the dollar bin, beaten up without dust covers…and a wild cover on a paperback of Chessmen!
The ability to get books like this free? One of the things I like best about e-books…
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.