Update: You can find the most current version of these resources in The Occultist Library.
Last week I was experimenting with converting out-of-copyright physical books about the occult and magic to text files. The idea is to use them for source material for articles, courses, and special reports. Some of which will be free others for sale.
To get an idea of what I was getting myself into I used my physical copy of “A Mirror of Palms” by A.B. Stoddard. Published in 1898 the book is about palm reading. The copy I have is an original printed in 1898. Definitely in the public domain. Apparently, the book isn’t very common as I only found one reprint on Amazon and someone on Ebay was selling a copy. That was it.
Converting Books to Text Files
After scanning, organizing, and running my OCR process I did get a nice set of texts that only need modest editing. Surprisingly, accuracy of the OCR software was much higher than I expected! As far as time commitment I was able to process the the scanned images in about 15 minutes. The actual conversion process only took a few seconds per page image. I have a computer with pretty strong specifications which may have helped get things done fast.
The OCR software I am using is called Tesseract. Seriously, impressive. I run it on my Linux system in the shell. Source code and documentation are here if you want to learn more: https://github.com/tesseract-ocr/tesseract
Where I had the biggest time investment besides actually finding a physical book was in scanning each page. I didn’t want to harm the book so kept the spine on and used my iPad a page at a time. It took long enough that my back started to ache a little from standing at my work table. At least an hour maybe two is my guess and this was a small book at about 115 pages. There are classic occult texts I want to process which weigh in at 600 or more pages! Never mind I have a dozen titles I want to process right off the bat.
Luckily, there isn’t much need to spend that much time on scanning! Listed below are archives of scans of many great occult and magic books. Some, the Google sites, cover other topics as well. Some of the archives have books printed as far back as the 1400s!
Online Occult Archives
Hope you find this list interesting. Digging into the archives I couldn’t believe how many books were available. From what I have been told what’s available in English pales in comparison to books in pretty much any other language.
Do you have any sources you like for downloading public domain books? Please share in the comments!