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Dime novels digitization collaboration launches

This month Stanford Libraries is launching a collaborative project to expand access to our extensive holdings of American dime novels from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Dime novels, which flourished in the United States in the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century, featured an ever-evolving array of popular fiction genres: frontier stories modeled on the work of James Fenimore Cooper, detective stories, westerns, romances, sports stories. Widely read in their day, dime novels provided cheap fiction for an expanding reading public. Today, many dime novels are in particularly fragile condition due to the cheap nature of the paper used in their production, and collections are spread across the country with few institutions holding complete runs of major dime novel series. 

Stanford Libraries will digitize 720 dime novels from its collection of over 8,000 dime novels as part of a larger project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and led by Northern Illinois and Villanova Universities. The project aims to digitize more than 4,400 dime novels published by Street & Smith, one of the major American dime novel publishers of the late 19th and early 20th century.  Among the titles to be digitized by Stanford are over 400 issues of the popular story paper, The New York Weekly, and over 150 issues of Brave & Bold. NIU will provide additional metadata work on the individual stories appearing in each issue, in order to augment the Edward T. LeBlanc Memorial Dime Novel Bibliography hosted and maintained by the Falvey Memorial Library at Villanova at For the project, each participating institution will host digital images of the works from their collections on their website, as well as being aggregated at

The Digital Production Group (DPG) at Stanford Libraries will perform all digitization in-house with guidance from Conservation Services on handling the fragile materials. In addition, Conservation Services will perform conservation work on particularly fragile issues of dime novels in order to stabilize materials for digitization. The digitized materials will be accessioned to the Stanford Digital Repository and indexed for discovery in SearchWorks in addition to being linked to from the site. The project, with a start delayed by 4 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will run for two years. 

Stanford Libraries’ Dime Novels and Penny Dreadfuls collection holds over 8,000 dime novels, including significant runs of several of the major Street & Smith dime novel series, including The New York Weekly, The Nick Carter Stories, and Brave and Bold.

– By Rebecca Wingfield and Hannah Frost on behalf of the whole project team

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