As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m currently reading Judith Flanders’ book on the Victorian creation of crime and crime fiction, and I came across a reference to a sprawling nineteenth century three volume novel, Not Proven, by Christina Broun Cameron, which combines elements of the Madeleine Smith case and another equally infamous case where the wife was accused of murdering one of her children, and was shut away by reason of insanity, and where the nursery maid become the husband’s lover (and possibly was before the murder) and eventually his wife after his first distraught wife dies in the asylum.
Like the much better know Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, it combines the elements current crimes to create a new confection, and at the same time reflects concerns of the times – in this case philandering husbands and female serving staff.
So I thought it night be fun to track down a copy to read.
Well there are no copies of the original 1864 three volume set available on Abe Books, either listed under the author’s name or under the title, but a search turned up a version digitised and reprinted by the British Library back in 2011.
And this led to a game of chasing rabbits down holes. The reprints are indeed available through the usual suspects (Amazon, BookDepository) as print on demand, but confusingly both only list by title and don’t tell you which volume is which. They’re also quite expensive for print on demand – something like A$75 for all three volumes. (Each volume is around 300 pages making the page cost around $0.09 a page when the actual print cost would be more like $0.01 a page, plus the cost of binding – let’s be generous and say $0.02 a page giving a production cost of $18 –which is around the same cost proportionately of the Penguin edition of the Woman in White, although you can get that and other classics from the time more cheaply by buying other editions by other publishers who specialize in out of copyright works)
But if they’re digitised, the scanned source documents should be available – that is after all how print on demand works.
Not a bit of it. The BL will tell you it’s stored on a filesystem somewhere but unlike the internet archive there appears to be no portal to access and download them, making the content effectively useless. So it’s inaccessible …