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Last month I received a Christmas present from an avid reader of Christian Victorian Literature: a couple dozen rare and out-of-print Christian Victorian novels. Thanks to this generous contribution, I will not be wanting for material for my blog for quite some time, that’s for certain.

I’ve been intending for a while to make a post about how to acquire rare or out-of-print classic literature (if you aren’t fortunate enough to have people sending you them for free in the mail!). Several options present themselves for those readers seeking novels…

…that are a little more intellectually stimulating and theologically complex than many Christian novels of today;

…that actually speak from a time in history, rather than try to imagine or recreate it;

…that present grand, meaningful narratives that impart truth and wisdom, rather than disparate snapshots of the “messiness” that we call modern life;

…and that demonstrate a general competency in the English language that astonishingly exceeds contemporary fiction writing (ironically many of these were written by women who supposedly received an inferior education to women today).

If those criteria seem attractive, then literature from another century might be for you.

Many great Victorian novels, unfortunately, are no longer printed, and many that are do not draw enough popular interest for your local Indigo to stock them. So how does one acquire and read rare or out-of-print books? The good news is that all Victorian novels are in the public domain, which means their copyright no longer stands, making them cheap and, in some instances, free to access.

Online Bookstores

Of course Amazon is a great source for finding a wide selection of books. The Book Depository, based in Britain, carries many European books and offers free shipping.

The Advanced Book Exchange

Abe.com is the go-to source for rare and out-of-print books. Used bookstores around the world list their titles here, making it possible to find just about any book imaginable, including very old editions from the early 1900s (maybe even some from the Victorian era itself). Pay attention to the rating of the book’s physical condition; I no longer buy anything described as less than “good.” Select from the dropdown menu to sort by “lowest total price.”

E-books

If you don’t mind reading off of a computer screen, you can read most any Victorian novel for free at Project Gutenberg. If you have an e-reader, Amazon offers entire collections of authors’ works for only a few dollars. The Bronte collection is only 80 cents.

Audiobooks

You can listen to Victorian novels read aloud for free at Librivox. Because the readers are volunteers, the quality varies, but some are equal to professional audio recordings.

Reprints

A word about reprints. On Amazon and Abe you will come across brand-new printings of out-of-print books by publishers from India or other unusual countries. They will have some disclaimer saying that the book is a direct copy of the original, and so any publishing mistakes are from the original and such. Typically the books have a generic picture on the front that has nothing to with the story, such as a tree. I generally don’t recommend these because they are so aesthetically displeasing. The book is oversized, the margins are large, the font microscopic and uneasy on the eyes, and the formatting looks like amateur Microsoft Word. You may chance upon a better edition than I’ve described, but that has been my experience. The books I received from a reader pictured above are reprints published through Lulu, and look like they will offer a more pleasurable reading experience.

What rare books have you read and where did you acquire them? Have you ever read an out-of-print book, or is there one on your list?

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