23/02/2010

Re-Kindle your love of forgotten 19th century classics

Historic new deal by the British Library and Amazon to make 65,000 largely out-of-print 19th Century titles available on Amazon via CreateSpace's Print on-Demand service and as free downloads for Amazon Kindle owners.

Originally digitised in partnership with Microsoft Livesearch, the British Library’s new deal with Amazon will unlock 65,000 editions of 19th century philosophy, history, poetry and literature – over 25 million pages of content. Covering Amazon's sites in US, the UK, France and Germany, and Amazon's revolutionary wireless portable reading device Kindle, this landmark agreement will enable a whole new global generation of readers to rediscover countless forgotten literary gems.

Estimates suggest that roughly 35% to 40% of the British Library's 19th century British printed collections are either unique, or at least inaccessible through other major libraries in the UK and abroad. This deal is a prime example of how the British Library is continuing to explore new technologies and innovative business models to improve access to its historic collections.

Covering the likes of Dickens, Austen, and Conan Doyle, the 65,000 titles also include a range of lesser know Victorian classics such as, A Strange Story by Edward Lytton, one of the period's most popular novelists - now largely neglected, and The Story of a Modern Woman by Ella Hepworth Dixon, described as 'the greatest unread novel of female struggle'. Through print on-demand with CreateSpace, part of the Amazon group of companies, readers will be able to have their very own copies of these previously rare and inaccessible titles now in the public domain, including some classic first editions, re-printed at an affordable price. Print-on-demand is both a convenient and economically viable way of making these collections available. In addition, Kindle owners will be able to download these titles for free.

Chief Executive of the British Library, Dame Lynne Brindley, said:

"The British Library's deal with Amazon to make literary gems available through print-on-demand and the Kindle e-book reader is a landmark agreement in more ways than one. Unlocking 65,000 titles of 19th century material for new generations to discover, the deal also shows how innovative public sector institutions can keep moving ahead, even in a tough economic climate.

"Re-imagining our relationships with both private and public sector partners is absolutely essential for extending our ability to connect with our users. The British Library has much to offer major commercial organisations such as Amazon, giving us an opportunity to leverage the high value of our collections to ensure doors that might have been closed for lack of funding remain open."

Notes to Editors:

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation. It includes: books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Further information is available on the Library's website at www.bl.uk.

Titles that will be made available over the coming months include: Lesser Known Victorian Classics

Although the archive contains numerous works by the likes of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle and Thomas Hardy, the agreement with Amazon will also breathe new life in to the creations of forgotten popular authors of the day, unlocking their work for new generations to enjoy.

  • A Strange Story, by Edward Lytton (1862)
    An epic work of fantasy and romance, this supernatural story is filled with the captivating gothic style of one of the most popular of all Victorian novelists, now largely neglected.
  • The Story of a Modern Woman, by Ella Hepworth Dixon (1894)
    Packed with moving scenes and vibrant characters, this work is fine example of the 'New Woman' genre of late Victorian England and has been described by John Sutherland as 'the greatest unread novel of female struggle'.
Cheap Popular Victorian Fiction known as penny dreadfuls

Released in mini series over a number of weeks, these lurid works, known as Penny Dreadfuls because of their low price and sensational plots, were primarily aimed at the working class masses. Originally produced on cheap pulp paper, and therefore not particularly durable, many of the titles are now extremely rare. Home to the UK's best archive of penny dreadfuls, the agreement with Amazon will open up the British Library's collection to a mass market once more.

  • The Blue Dwarf, by Lady Esther Hope, pseudo. (1860)
    A rival series to Edward Viles' 'Black Bess', this series depicts the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin as the faithful tool of the Blue Dwarf, a deformed heir to ancient estates who had been denied his inheritance, and their escapades with Scottish clansmen, Irish banditti and even Red Indians.
  • The Dark Woman, by J.M. Rymer (1861-2)
    From one of the most prolific and successful penny dreadful authors, this series never runs short of the thrilling deeds - dastardly, dare devil and gruesome that characterise Rymer's work. Largely inaccessible to the general public, an original copy of this incredibly rare series is currently available on eBay for £299!
19th century material unique to the British Library

The British Library estimates that between 35% and 40% of the British Library's 19th century British printed materials are either unique, or at least inaccessible though other public libraries in the UK. The deal with Amazon will therefore make widely accessible a significant number of titles largely unavailable anywhere in the world other than the Library's own reading rooms.

  • The Amorous Knight and the Belle Widow, (1809)
    Written in three acts, this original comedy was produced in dedication of Valentine's Day.
  • A Useful Compendium of Many Important and Curious Branches of Science and General Knowledge, by Rev. Thomas Watson (1812)
  • The Bishop and the Parson's Beard, a tale in verse (1810)

For more information contact:


BoilerPlate

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.  

 

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