Vintage Book Covers from the British Library

"Seth Slocum, Railroad Surveyor, or The Secret of Sitting Bull", book cover from the British Library "The Skipper of the Seagull", book cover from the British Library "Lance and Lasso! or Adventures on the Pampas!", book cover from the British Library "Buffalo Bill - The Buckskin King, or the Amazon of the West", book cover from the British Library "Tiger Dick the Faro King, or The Cashier's Crime" from the British Library on Flickr Commons "Her Bitter Awakening", book cover from the British Library
"Seth Slocum, Railroad Surveyor, or The Secret of Sitting Bull", book cover from the British Library

On my journeys through the amazing Flickr Commons, one of the more exciting finds is a collection of late 19th century book covers from the British Library. The nearly 900 covers are primarily what we today call “pulp novels” written for the mass market, but there are also travel books, text books, and other miscellany.  In the image gallery in this post, I’ve included some of my favorites, covers with interesting art or a lurid title — Her Bitter Awakening is a favorite right now.  (Click any one of the images to expand the image and navigate through the collection.)

I’d love to read Seth Slocum, Railroad Surveyor, or the Secret of Sitting Bull — how often do you see an adventure story about a surveyor, an important but not glamorous job? I suspect that the story is about a surveyor working in the western territories who gets mixed up in conflicts between settlers and Native Americans.  (Update, 7/20/19: I watched the first few episodes of AMC’s Hell on Wheels, and one of the most important characters in the first episode is a railroad surveyor, part of a crew mapping the route of the intercontinental railroad through the Great Plains.)

Unfortunately, the book is available as a PDF download and the text quality is rather poor, as the screenshot of two pages from the digitization below show.  It would not be easy to read this book on a computer or mobile device.  (But here’s something worth trying: use Acrobat Pro to extract the Seth Slocum part of the PDF as images, then use an image editor to sharpen the text.)

Pages from Seth Slocum, Railroad Surveyor, digitized by the British Library
Pages from Seth Slocum, Railroad Surveyor

Image Credits
All book covers from the British Library’s Flickr Commons collection, in the Book Covers found by the community from the Mechanical Curator Collection. No known copyright restrictions.

Her Bitter Awakening, Thrilling Stories Committee
Buffalo Bill – The Buckskin King, or the Amazon of the West, Aldine Publishing Company
Lance and Lasso! or Adventures on the Pampas!, Aldine Publishing Company
Seth Slocum, Railroad Surveyor, or The Secret of Sitting Bull, Aldine Publishing Company
The Skipper of the Seagull, Aldine Publishing Company
Tiger Dick the Faro King, or The Cashier’s Crime, Aldine Publishing Company

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