Forgotten Books

Laurent Saurerwein, a new media artist who has recently moved from Paris to Berlin, calls our attention to Forgotten Books publisher of books in the public domain. Books are available as pdf and in paperback. It’s an interesting idea.

The execution appears to leave something to be desired. The very first title in the fiction catalog’s “Classical” section, for example, is John Oxenham’s 1914. Here’s the excerpt:

"1914" I T HE ~1.rly morning of July 25th, I9I 4, was not at all such 'as the date might reasonably have led onc to expect. It was gray and overcast, with heavy dev lying white on the grass and a quite unseasonable rawness in the air. The clock on the mantelpiece of the morning-room in The Red Housej ,Vi11stead, was striking six, in the sonorous Westqnnster chimes, which were so startlingly inconsistent with its size, as Mr John Dare drew the bolts of the French ,vindowand stepped out on to his back lawn.

Now, this seems indeed an obscure book, one that isn’t listed at all in (presumptive) author’s wikipedia bibliography. Assuming it is indeed the work of William Arthur Dunkerley, who wrote as John Oxenham, its a minor novel of best-selling writer, just the sort of forgotten book that might be worth a fresh look. (Compare, for example, John Buchan’s wonderful Greenmantle, published the same year).

But the excerpt has clearly not been examined by anyone. It reads as a parody of bad OCR. “Westqnnster chimes?” It’s the first item in a long list; you’d think someone would notice. Some of the other titles seem to be better, but not all: here’s the opening of Can You Forgive Her?

"WHETBER or no, she, whom you arc to forgive, if you can, did or did not belong to the Upper Ten Thousand of this our English world, I am not prepared to say with any strength of affirmation."

And, if you’re going to place a forgotten title in a list beside Dickens and Verne and Trollope, might you spare the reader a word about why it belongs?