The Public Domain Review

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Luigi Russolo’s Cacophonous Futures

Thursday 24 March 2022 at 12:32

What does the future sound like? In the early 20th century, one answer rang out from Luigi Russolo’s intonarumori — lever-operated machines designed to pop, sough, shriek, and shock. Peter Tracy explores the ambitions behind Italian Futurism’s experiments with noise and the sensory, spiritual, and political affinities of this radical new music.


Ferdinand van Kessel’s Four Parts of the World (ca. 1689)

Wednesday 23 March 2022 at 12:35

These landscapes depict worlds populated by animals, where the built environment of humans is relegated to the distant background.


Philipp Hainhofer’s Große Stammbuch (1596–1633)

Thursday 17 March 2022 at 10:23

This 227-page volume collects, in wonderfully elaborate style, the signatures of over 75 of Europe’s most illustrious seventeenth-century nobles.


A Hall of Mirrors: Cabala, Spiegel Der Kunst Und Natur, In Alchymia (1615)

Tuesday 15 March 2022 at 11:40

A cryptic, Rosicrucian-inspired text of disputed authorship, featuring engravings rich in alchemical symbolism.


Love and Longing in the Seaweed Album

Wednesday 9 March 2022 at 12:27

Combing across 19th-century shores, seaweed collectors would wander for hours, tucking specimens into pouches and jars, before pasting their finds into artful albums. Sasha Archibald explores the eros contained in the pressed and illustrated pages of notable algologists, including “the most ambitious album of all” by Charles F. Durant.


Cycling Art, Energy, and Locomotion (1889)

Wednesday 9 March 2022 at 12:26

Inventor Robert Pittis Scott's Cycling Art offers a whimsical and illustrated tour through the previous century of “man-motor locomotion”.


James Sowerby’s British Mineralogy (1802–17)

Thursday 3 March 2022 at 14:59

Five-part mineralogical handbook containing more than four hundred vividly hand-colored engravings of various rocks, minerals, and compounds.


Bruegel the Elder’s Big Fish Eat Little Fish (1556)

Tuesday 1 March 2022 at 09:40

Bruegel's drawing, based on a proverb and subject to numerous adaptations, relates the natural world to injustice: the feeling that human predation is innately born and instinctive.


“Pajamas from Spirit Land”: Searching for William James

Wednesday 23 February 2022 at 09:18

After the passing of William James — philosopher, early psychologist, and investigator of psychic phenomena — mediums across the US began receiving messages from the late Harvard professor. Channelling these fragmentary voices, Alicia Puglionesi considers the relationship between communication, reputation, and survival after death.


Albrecht Dürer’s Pillow Studies (1493)

Tuesday 22 February 2022 at 11:46

Completed in his early twenties, Dürer's pillow studies seem to slip between the waking world and the stuff of dreams.