The British Library is to make more than 65,000 rare first editions of 19th Century fiction available for the public to download for free from the spring.

Owners of the Amazon Kindle e-book device will be able to view the books, including their original typeface and illustrations, of famous works by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy, as well as thousands of more obscure authors.

As well as classic titles by famous 19th Century authors, many of the downmarket books known as “penny dreadfuls” will also be made available to the public, including Black Bess by Edward Viles and The Dark Woman by J M Rymer.

Around 40 per cent of the British Library’s 19th-century printed books are unavailable in other public libraries and bookshops.

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