I built this tool a year ago but I feel like Mastodon folks would like it

The "Weird Old Book Finder"

Type in a search query, and it'll find one randomly-chosen public-domain book that matches the query -- and present it for immediate reading: weird-old-book-finder.glitch.m

Why only one book? To prevent the paradox of choice! Just *start readin'*

Can't promise every book will be weird, but most are

A longer essay on how/why I developed it:

This was a search for "mastodon"

If anyone finds something cool, screenshot it and share it (with alt-text describing what it is!)

@clive I love this. I am a collector of weird old books.

@DebErupts Super! I have a bunch in hard copy too ... they are just delightful. The illustrations are typically *off* the *hook* amazing

@clive @DebErupts I love super random illustrations in old books. One of the most startling I remember finding was an early-20th century medical textbook from Vienna that inexplicably decided to include an image of a dead patient arising from the grave

@bookgaga I exist to serve

If you find something cool, take a screenshot and share it!!

@chespace Yessss

random is my favorite function in the standard library of literally every computer language

I once wrote an ode to it:

@clive I have over 11,000 #retrogames on my handheld device. I love using the RNG function to randomly select a game. it's the discovery that appeals to me most.

@clive No particular screenshot, but I typed in "telepathy" and it gave me just that! Telepathy - Genuine and Fraudulent by W. W. Baggally. Thank you! :D


That's spectacular. 'Trial' got me a history of 'Trial by Combat' and I am now reading it, fascinated.

@clive was curious if querying "tiger" it would find the classic "Thirteen Years Among the Wild Beasts of India" (1907) but instead found this oddity "The Tiger's Awakening" (1903) by Fred G. Lunge:


That looks cool too!

Searching for all the big game animals would likely turn up wild stuff from the early eras of colonialism for sure

@clive I love this, it's kind of "I'm Feeling Lucky" but for old books

@clive Three searches, three weird books returned. Checks out.

I'm sending this link to a friend of mine who is a rare books librarian. (His standard for "weird" may be higher than mine.)

@clive First search WINNER! I actually searched for "cows" not "cattle" for this result. But I went back a couple books to find this gem for a screenshot.

@Loukas Wooo!

If you find something cool take a screenshot, alt-text it, and post it!

@clive yes I just did! And coincidentally I just wrote a short story hinging on the same events described in this book from 1772 :)

@clive This book is not for left handers (or left eyers) apparently.

@clive Excellent. I'm now learning HUNT TO HUNT AND FISH in a late Victorian manner.

@clive I can't believe I managed to get one of the words wrong in the title there.

I was clearly too obsessed with visualising the author's recommended technique for bringing the shotgun to the shoulder.

@clive Yes, the I first looked it I was all "whoa, big wall of text there, pal", but his descriptions are great; clearly written and succinct, and lots of practical tips thrown in there. Looking forward to see what others gems your WOBF sends my way!

@ilen That is fabulous!

What on earth is that book about??

@clive it’s a report/how-to book from the dept of labor on a coordinated week-long campaign focusing on baby care and health in the US in 1914-1916. Weirdly compelling! I foresee my problem with weird old book finder will be not getting sucked in to random new obsessions…

@ilen That book sounds fascinating!

Yeah, when I first made this thing I lost like a solid week to reading 100 incredibly strange but compelling old books

@clive I got "The WHIGGS Have Lost their SMELL" so yes, this delivered.

@liza @clive I feel sure that “♫♩/♫♩/Whiggs have lost their smell” concludes some stanza of a Beastie Boys song

@jonathan @clive I say
PRAY TELL / Whiggs have lost their / SMELL / This anti-Catholic / TRACT / is sketchy as / HELL

@liza @clive Where is the Mastodon button that shouts this in the voice of Ad Rock, that’s what the people want to know

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