Friday, July 16, 2010

Interlude: Use Google to Find Cool Lovecraft Factoids

If you've followed the blog for any length of time, you know that Ebay is a trove of seredipitous finds. You can pick up a cheap copy of Lovecraft stories, or ancient (and sometimes expensive) icons of Lovecraft. For instance a postcard for $3000.00.

But one neglected source of data is Google Books. Each day, Google - through it's shear power - coerces musty old documents off library shelves and adds those scans. The dynamism of their search engines is awe inspiring. Every word in every sentence, advertisement, footnote, appendix, table of contents, and so forth is searchable and within seconds your request appears.

You do it precisely like any other search, except you search under the "Book" or "Scholar" format. I usually choose "book".

Then you have four events.

(1) nothing. nada. *tilt* so yo sigh and choose another combination of words.
(2) it comes up, but sadly you do not have access - probably due to Google slogging it out in court with copyright attorneys.
(3) it comes up but you get a limited preview. Don't despair. My friend, J, coerced most of an entire story out of an Eleanor Blaisdell book by working tirelessly for three hours getting about 300 characters at a time out of the search.
(4) YOU WIN! The entire text is "Full View" and that then gives you yet more options.

Once you have the document or book you want with jsut the right search word(s), you then can have a second choice of searching within that document in a variety of ways. It's better to try it, experiment, trial and error, than have me tell you these options. It's easy.

Then if you're very lucky, you can download the pdf to your computer files. However, doing so may lose searchability, as the document reverts back to image mode.

OK, say you want to find Susan Lovecraft's tax bill from some year. Just type in something like "Susan Lovecraft" -Howard" Providence Tax City, which eliminates the clutter of her famous son. With a little change in choices like removing the quote marks or making is S Lovecraft or whatever, you may find your gold at the end of Da Google's rainbow.

Some treasures occur when you have anyone associated with Brown University, anyone impacted by significant lawsuits, those who might be in an extant city directory, someone who has filed a patent or started a company, or has published an article or letter in a book or magazine, a genealogy, or is buried in a cemetery of prominence.

Then like young Howard and his Providence Detective Agency cohorts, start fitting the jigsaw puzzle pieces together. Grab up your reference books and then determine how your new data fits in with the scholastic legacy that those giants of the 20th century left us.

The greatest thing of all is that it's absolutely free. All you need is time, patience, and perseverence.

Good searching.

(And if you find something cool for the blog, drop me a note!)

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