Clews already mentioned some very old, free true crime books now available from Google's new book site, and the folks at Google really liked that post a lot.
Google's nod to Clews inspired your correspondent to go poking around some more to see what else is now online that I paid 85 clams to lay hands on only a few years ago. I'm sure -- I hope, for the sake of my private library -- that there will always be a value to the paper-and-ink version of books.
Art: Madeline Smith on trial for poisoning her lover.
And what I found! Not only is Google's crime collection continuing to expand, it includes some of the best, the most sought, the most highly recommended true crime books of all time. And not only that, but the exact copies digitized by Google include books that were once on the shelves of Pearson, the greatest crime writer of all time. They bear his stamp and his notes and more.
While searching for free true crime books, I discovered a crime committed against Edmund L. Pearson. Google's online library includes a copy of The Trial of Madeline Smith, which is the Notable Scottish Trials report of the trial of the infamously beautiful poisoner, edited by one of the attorneys involved in the case, A. Duncan Smith. The flyleaf of this book is stamped: FROM THE LIBRARY OF EDMUND LESTER PEARSON. A note typed by Pearson summarizing the case of Madeline Smith is glued into the book. Another page has a New York Public Library stamp (where ELP once worked). Now here's the crime: the next page says "1.50" in the upper right in pencil -- a bookseller's mark. To think that Edmund L. Pearson's personal crime library was sold off to a bookseller who junked his books for a buck fifty!
Now I would very much like to know how Edmund Pearson's copy of The Trial of Madeline Smith came to be digitized for Google. It is not the only book in the Google collection that bears his private library stamp. I found the same was true of Google's copy of Celebrated Trials of All Countries, and Remarkable Cases of Criminal Jurisprudence, written in 1847 by J. Harding. With the real Edmund Pearson stamp of approval, this is a book worth downloading and reading. The table of contents of Celebrated Trials of All Countries includes several famous cases I've read of before, including Eliza Fenning, Sir Walter Raleigh's trial, Lucretia Chapman, Jenny Diver, Robert and Daniel Perreau, John Bellingham, Earl of Strafford, Rob Roy Macgregor, Ann Broadric, William Corder/Maria Marten, plus many cases that are new to me. The ones I've never heard of before and can't wait to read include --
- Anna Schonleben (Germany), for Poisoning, 1808
- Martha Alden, for Murder, 1807
- Castaing, the Physician, for Murder, at Paris, November, 1817
- Sarah Malcolm, for the Murder of Ann Price, 1733
- Abraham Thornton, for the Murder of Mary Ashford, 1817
- Alexis Petrowitz Czarowitz, presumptive Heir to the Crown of Russia, condemned to Death by his Father, 1715
There are many more stories from all across the world in this book. What a find. Well, I know what I'll do with the rest of my free time today.