Lately I’ve been obsessed with browsing online libraries, and discovering some buried treasures of old illustrated books and magazines. For the most part, that has been the result of my just stumbling onto them by accident, so I thought I’d share a recent success story with you so you would have an easier time of it than I did, should you be interested in such things.
The big surprise I discovered recently is the EBSCO system, which is an online service provided to libraries and businesses to access books, journals and periodicals. In order for the general public to gain access, they need to be a member of those institutions, such as a local library that has an eBook service. At that point, all you need is a library card.
EBSCO has hundreds of different databases and thousands of books and magazines online. The way I stumbled upon all of this was trying to find information about a 1951 Saturday Evening Post story written by Michael Fessier to go with a picture I had by the illustrator Edwin Georgi called “The Prying Professor.” A Google search gave me a link to that actual story, but I could only access it through a library system. On the right side of this link you should see a list of libraries in your area that are part of the EBSCO system. Click on “Read the article” to bring up a screen that allows you to modify that search. You’ll next be asked to enter your library’s online information.
I found it even easier to access this directly through my local library’s website, so I’d recommend first looking on the above link to see if your library is on their system, and then use your library site to get you into the EBSCO databases. You should then get to a screen with the search link below. At first, when I entered “saturday evening post” the result was only a few links that my local library itself had online, but when I selected “Choose Databases” and selected all of them, it blew my mind!
I got access to ALL Saturday Evening Post magazine scans in their database going back as far as January 1931. Not just the covers, mind you, but every page of the magazine. While the resolution of the scans could be higher, they’re better than I expected. The scan of the 1931 magazine cover (below) is dark, but that might be due to the condition of the magazine itself, or there may be other scans in their system that are better. Some other issues I’ve seen are scanned very clearly, such as the Bill Fleming interior illustration below. The Post didn’t use the best quality of paper stock to begin with, so you can’t blame the scanner. All the files are in PDF format with each individual article listed as an unique PDF file that can be read online or downloaded. I’ll have to play around in their system a bit more to see if I can go back even further to older Post issues, since they started publication in 1897, as well as seeing what other books and magazines they have. Their online PDF viewer is cumbersome to navigate, and manipulating the search results is a bit awkward, but the results are worth the effort. As with most library searches, it helps to know what you’re looking for before you begin.
These files are locked out of regular search results that you would use otherwise, such as Google, so have at it and enjoy! Get yourself a library card, if you don’t have one already, and start digging. If you’re like me, you’ll wonder where the day went.