The Public Domain Review

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The Voice of Florence Nightingale

Tuesday 13 December 2011 at 14:02



The recording was made on 30th July 1890 to raise money for the impoverished veterans of the Charge of the Light Brigade. The full transcript of the recording says: ‘When I am no longer even a memory, just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life. God bless my dear old comrades of Balaclava and bring them safe to shore. Florence Nightingale.’ In fact, there are two recitations; this second one having slightly altered wording to the first, which was presumably a practice session.

MP3 Download
Internet Archive Link



Beela Boola by the Electric City 4 (1920)

Hungarian Rag - Pietro Deiro (1913)

As a Porcupine Pines for its Pork - Billy Jones & Ernest Hare
(1925)

Popeye, the Sailor Man - Al Dollar & His Ten Cent Band with Billy Murray (1931)

Chopins Funeral March - The Edison Concert Band (1906)

Houdini on his Water Torture Cell (1914)

Lomax Collection Recording of English, Sample 8

Enrico Caruso - A Dream (1920)

La Paloma (1903)

Orson Welles Show (1941)

Tokyo Rose (1944)

Fats Waller and His Orchestra live at The Yacht Club (1938)

Very early recording of George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue (1924)

Rudolph Valentino singing (1923)

Aiaihea - The Hawaiian Quintette (1913)

Antony's Address Over The Body of Caesar (1914)

Charlie and His Orchestra

Excerpt from Handel's Israel in Egypt (1888)

Gurdjieff's Harmonium Improvisations (1949)

General Pershing March - Imperial Marimba Band (1918)

Apollo 11 Onboard Recordings (1969)

The Voice of Florence Nightingale (1890)

Santa Claus Proves There is a Santa Claus (1925)

Whitney Brothers Quartet - The Little Red Drum (1908)

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/12/13/the-voice-of-florence-nightingale/


The Daddy Long Legs of Brighton

Thursday 8 December 2011 at 16:39

The Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway was a unique coastline railway in Brighton, England that ran through the shallow waters of the English Channel between 1896 and 1901. Magnus Volk, its owner, designer and engineer, had already been successful with the more conventional Volk’s Electric Railway, which had then not been extended east of Paston Place. Facing unfavourable geography, Volk decided to construct a line through the surf from a pier at Paston Place to one at Rottingdean. The tracks were laid on concrete sleepers mortised into the bedrock, and the single car used on the railway, a huge pier-like building which stood on four 23 ft (7.0 m)-long legs, was propelled by electric motor. It was officially named Pioneer, but many called it Daddy Long-Legs. Construction took two years from 1894 to 1896. The railway officially opened 28 November 1896, but was nearly destroyed by a storm the night of 4 December. Volk immediately set to rebuilding the railway including the Pioneer, which had been knocked on its side, and it reopened in July 1897. In 1900 the council decided to build a beach protection barrier, which unfortunately required Volk to divert his line around the barrier. Without funds to do so, Volk closed the railway. A model of the railway car is on display (along with a poster for the railway) in the foyer of the Brighton Toy and Model Museum. (Text from Wikipedia, images from Wikimedia Commons)












Operation Doorstep

The Spirit Photographs of William Hope

The Maps of Piri Reis

Dr Julius Neubronner's Miniature Pigeon Camera

Art in Art

Huexotzinco Codex


Sessions for the Blind at Sunderland Museum

Eugène von Guérard's Australian Landscapes

Landscape and Marine Views of Norway

The Mechanism of Human Physiognomy

Space Colony Art from the 1970s

Men in Wigs


De humana physiognomonia libri IIII (1586)

Field Columbian Museum

Maps from Geographicus

Arnoldus Montanus' New and Unknown World (1671)

World War II from the Air

Halloween Postcards

Engravings by Dominicus Custos

Kodak No.1 Circular Snapshots

Kitab al-Bulhan or Book of Wonders (late 14thC.)

The Daddy Long Legs of Brighton

Amundsen's South Pole Expedition (1912)

A Catalogue of Polish Bishops

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/12/08/the-daddy-long-legs-of-brighton/


Robert Southey’s Dreams Revisited

Monday 5 December 2011 at 16:29

As well as being poet laureate for 30 years and a prolific writer of letters, Robert Southey was an avid recorder of his dreams. W.A. Speck, author of Robert Southey: Entire Man of Letters, explores the poet’s dream diary and the importance of dreams in his work.

Detail of a portrait of Southey painted by John James Masquerier in 1800.

Robert Southey (1774 – 1843), the poet laureate, biographer, historian and, in Byron’s words, ‘entire man of letters’ used a note book to record many of his dreams. A celebrated line in his verse was ‘my days among the dead are past’, referring to the works by authors who had died, many of them centuries ago, which lined the walls of Greta Hall, Southey’s home in Keswick. An analysis of his dreams demonstrates that his nights were passed among them too, since a disproportionate number of those which he recorded dealt with the dead. Deceased relatives and friends frequently visited him in them. He also encountered dead authors, as in the dream he had on 7 January 1805. ‘I was supping at Garrick’s house, and seated at his left hand, at the top of the table; my memory had made up his face accurately; he got upon the table, and spoke an epilogue of his own writing in the character of a cook –maid, and promised, at Mrs Garrick’s desire, to recite a serious poem afterwards, that I might hear him’. In another dream he was ‘at Swift’s house in Dublin, where he was living with two sisters’. And in another he met Matthew Lewis, the author of a sensational Gothic novel, The Monk. ‘Monk Lewis’ had been a contemporary of Southey’s at Westminster school, though he confessed that he never ‘had any affection for the man.’ This, however, did not prevent him contributing to a volume edited by Lewis, Tales of Wonder. Southey’s contribution consisted of six poems, all of which contained Gothic elements, including dreams. Thus ‘Bishop Bruno’ wakes from a recurrent dream that he had rung his own death knell, only to discover that it was prophetic. ‘Lord William’ drowns young Edmund, his deceased elder brother’s son, to claim the house of Erlingford, only to find that

In vain at midnight’s silent hour
Sleep closed the murderer’s eyes
In every dream the murderer saw
Young Edmund’s form arise.

‘The Pious Painter’ was renowned for his realistic portrayals of the Devil

What the Painter so earnestly thought on by day
He sometimes would dream of by night.

Southey himself strongly believed that waking thoughts led on to dreams. It led him to organise his days so that he did not work on one topic all day but switched from one to another, from composing poems to reviewing books to writing letters. This routine was not only economical in its use of time but was ‘also essential to the preservation of my health; for, by long experience, I know that whenever my attention is devoted to one object my sleep is disturbed by perplexing dreams concerning it. The remedy is easy; I do one thing in the morning, another in the evening – I never dream of either’.

This routine was not foolproof, however, for his dream book records that what had occupied his mind during the day often inspired dreams that same night. The entry for 4 December 1821, for instance, describes a dream in which ‘Palmerin of England gave me Arcalaus, the enchanter, in the shape of an egg, the enchanter having taken that form, and bade me deliver it to Urganda. Urganda took the egg, and said her husband should eat it for his supper’. Southey then added to his account that his daughter ‘Isabel had been reading Amadis and Palmerin, and talking to me a great deal about both; hence this jumbled dream.’

Detail from The Knight's Dream (1655) by Antonio de Pereda (1611–1678)

Southey did not record all his dreams in the book by any means, he selected only those which he considered to be significant. As we have seen his poetry also alluded to dreamers and dreaming. The best source, however, for his reflections on his dreams is his 7000 or so extant letters. Unfortunately few of these have been published in reliable scholarly editions, most being scattered throughout repositories in Britain and North America. However, under the general editorship of Lynda Pratt, Tim Fulford and Ian Packer these are now being published electronically as The Collected Letters of Robert Southey. When the edition is complete it will be possible to trawl through it, for being on line the letters can be searched, for example for dreams. A search for ‘dream’, ‘dreamer’ and ‘dreaming’ brought up several passages in Southey’s correspondence in which dreams are mentioned. Some show the same morbid interest in death and ghosts that his dream book documents. Thus on 20 October 1793 he wrote to Horace Walpole Bedford:

I’ll betake me to bed & look sharp for a dream.

      God of dreams hear my prayer
      To my pillow repair
Indulge my petition tonight
      Around my wild brain
      Send thy fanciful train
And give me a dream I may write

And later:

… bid thy sprightly phantoms rare
Round my sleeping head repair.
Let me see in church yard gloom
The ghost slow rising from the tomb
Slow & stern his pale hand wave
And bid me follow to the grave.

Three weeks later, in mid November, he wrote to Horace’s brother, his old school friend Grosvenor Charles Bedford: ‘I am going to bed … to dream of you & heaven & happiness unless the demon of dismal dreams pops up under my pillow & harrows up my heart with some of his chimeras – oh if life were all one agreeable dream – or rather if death were – would there be a crime in taking laudanum as an opiate? Good night.’



W. A. Speck is author of Robert Southey: Entire Man of Letters (Yale University Press, 2006) and ‘His nights amont the dead were passed: Robert Southey’s dreams’ in Robert Southey and the Contexts of English Romanticism edited by Lynda Pratt (Ashgate, 2006).


Links to Works


See also Robert Southey on Wikisource

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/12/05/robert-southey%e2%80%99s-dreams-revisited/


Stella Maris (1918)

Sunday 4 December 2011 at 19:26



A 1918 silent film staring Mary Pickford, directed by Marshall Neilan, written by Frances Marion and based on William J. Locke’s novel. Stella Maris, a beautiful, crippled girl, who is cared for by a rich family, and the orphan Unity Blake, fall in love with same man, John, who is still married to (though separated from) a cruel wife.

Download from Internet Archive

Note this film is in the public domain in the US, but may not be in other jurisdictions. Please check its status in your jurisdiction before re-using.



CLIPSSHORTFULL LENGTH SILENTFULL LENGTH TALKIE
Princess Nicotine (1909) 6min

Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) 12min

Last of the Mohicans (1920) 1hr11min

Meet John Doe (1941) 2hr3min

The Unappreciated Joke (1903) 1min

Frankenstein (1910) 13min

The General (1926) 1hr19min

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) 1hr19mins


The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895) 21sec

The Great Train Robbery (1903) 10min

Wolf Blood (1925) 1hr7min

Reefer Madness (1938) 1hr8min

The Kiss (1896) 25secs

Experiments in the Revival of Organisms (1940) 20min

Battleship Potemkin (1925) 1hr13min

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) 1hr57min

Trapeze Disrobing Act (1901) 2min

Are You Popular (1947) 10min

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) 1hr11min

Scarlet Street (1945) 1hr43min

Annie Oakley Fires Her Gun (1894) 20secs

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910) 13min

For The Term of His Natural Life (1927) 1hr33min

The Last Man on Earth (1964) 1hr27min

Operation Cue (1955) 52sec

Never Weaken (1921) 28min

Intolerance (1916) 2hr57min

Quicksand (1950) 1hr18min

Dutch Fashion Reel (1969) 1min50sec

Betty Boop: Minnie The Moocher (1932) 7min46sec

The Phantom of the Opera (1925) 1hr46min

Suddenly (1954) 1hr16mins


Buffalo Dance (1894) 14sec

The Cook (1918) 18min

The Thief of Bagdad (1924) 2hr20min

Five Minutes to Live (1961) 1hr14min

VD is for Everybody (1969) 1min

American Day in Tripoli, Libya (1962) 14min

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) 1hr11min

Cyrano De Bergerac (1950) 1hr53min

The Enchanted Drawing (1900) 1min29sec

Your Name Here (1960) 10min10sec

Stella Maris (1918) 1hr13min

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936) 1hr40min

The Night Before Christmas (1905) 8min44sec

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/12/04/stella-maris-1918/


Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936)

Sunday 4 December 2011 at 19:02



Considered by many to be the best film adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1886 novel of the same name, said by Polly Hovarth to be “the Harry Potter of his time”- starring Freddie Bartholomew, Dolores Costello, and C. Aubrey Smith. A nine-year-old Brooklyn boy living in poverty, moves to England to live with an aristocratic grandfather he’s never known after he is told he’s heir to a British earldom.

Download from Internet Archive

Note this film is in the public domain in the US, but may not be in other jurisdictions. Please check its status in your jurisdiction before re-using.



CLIPSSHORTFULL LENGTH SILENTFULL LENGTH TALKIE
Princess Nicotine (1909) 6min

Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) 12min

Last of the Mohicans (1920) 1hr11min

Meet John Doe (1941) 2hr3min

The Unappreciated Joke (1903) 1min

Frankenstein (1910) 13min

The General (1926) 1hr19min

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) 1hr19mins


The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895) 21sec

The Great Train Robbery (1903) 10min

Wolf Blood (1925) 1hr7min

Reefer Madness (1938) 1hr8min

The Kiss (1896) 25secs

Experiments in the Revival of Organisms (1940) 20min

Battleship Potemkin (1925) 1hr13min

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) 1hr57min

Trapeze Disrobing Act (1901) 2min

Are You Popular (1947) 10min

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) 1hr11min

Scarlet Street (1945) 1hr43min

Annie Oakley Fires Her Gun (1894) 20secs

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910) 13min

For The Term of His Natural Life (1927) 1hr33min

The Last Man on Earth (1964) 1hr27min

Operation Cue (1955) 52sec

Never Weaken (1921) 28min

Intolerance (1916) 2hr57min

Quicksand (1950) 1hr18min

Dutch Fashion Reel (1969) 1min50sec

Betty Boop: Minnie The Moocher (1932) 7min46sec

The Phantom of the Opera (1925) 1hr46min

Suddenly (1954) 1hr16mins


Buffalo Dance (1894) 14sec

The Cook (1918) 18min

The Thief of Bagdad (1924) 2hr20min

Five Minutes to Live (1961) 1hr14min

VD is for Everybody (1969) 1min

American Day in Tripoli, Libya (1962) 14min

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) 1hr11min

Cyrano De Bergerac (1950) 1hr53min

The Enchanted Drawing (1900) 1min29sec

Your Name Here (1960) 10min10sec

Stella Maris (1918) 1hr13min

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936) 1hr40min

The Night Before Christmas (1905) 8min44sec

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/12/04/little-lord-fauntleroy-1936/


Uriah Jewett and the Sea Serpent of Lake Memphemagog (1917)

Thursday 1 December 2011 at 20:59


Uriah Jewett and the sea serpent of Lake Memphemagog, by George C. Merrill; 1917; Newport, Vermont.

A very curious little book concerning a poet named Uriah Jewett, a sea serpent, the disappearance of a cheat named Hoyt, and the possible illegitimate child of Prince Arthur born in the forests of Canada.

Open Library link



Letters From a Cat (1879)

Castaway on the Auckland Isles: A Narrative of the Wreck of the "Grafton," (1865)


Infant's Cabinet of Birds and Beasts (1820)

Old French Fairytales (1920)

Armata: a fragment (1817)

An Account of the Late Improvements in Galvanism (1803)

The Medical Aspects of Death, and the Medical Aspects of the Human Mind (1852)

Quarles' Emblems (1886)

Cat and bird stories from the "Spectator" (1896)

Wonderful Balloon Ascents (1870)

The Book of Topiary (1904)

The Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (1899)

English as She is Spoke (1884)

The Danger of Premature Interment (1816)

The Last American (1889)

Pirates (1922)

Napoleon's Oraculum (1839)

Horse Laughs (1891)

Hydriotaphia/Urn-Burial and The Garden of Cyrus (1658)

Across the Zodiac: the Story of a Wrecked Record (1880)

Superstitions About Animals (1904)

The Diary of a Nobody (1919 edition)

The Attitudes of Animals in Motion, Illustrated with the Zoopraxiscope (1882)

The Eccentric Mirror: Reflecting a Faithful and Interesting Delineation of Male and Female Characters, Ancient and Modern (1807)

Uriah Jewett and the Sea Serpent of Lake Memphemagog (1917)

Yuletide Entertainments (1910)

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/12/01/uriah-jewett-and-the-sea-serpent-of-lake-memphemagog/


The Enchanted Drawing (1900)

Wednesday 30 November 2011 at 13:22



From Edison films catalog: “Upon a large sheet of white paper a cartoonist is seen at work rapidly sketching the portrait of an elderly gentleman of most comical feature and expression. After completing the likeness the artist rapidly draws on the paper a clever sketch of a bottle of wine and a goblet, and then, to the surprise of all, actually removes them from the paper on which they were drawn and pours actual wine out of the bottle into a real glass. Surprising effects quickly follow after this; and the numerous changes of expression which flit over the face in the sketch cause a vast amount of amusement and at the same time give a splendid illustration of the caricaturist’s art.” Musical accompaniment by Philip Carli.

Download from Internet Archive

Note this film is in the public domain in the US, but may not be in other jurisdictions. Please check its status in your jurisdiction before re-using.



CLIPSSHORTFULL LENGTH SILENTFULL LENGTH TALKIE
Princess Nicotine (1909) 6min

Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) 12min

Last of the Mohicans (1920) 1hr11min

Meet John Doe (1941) 2hr3min

The Unappreciated Joke (1903) 1min

Frankenstein (1910) 13min

The General (1926) 1hr19min

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) 1hr19mins


The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895) 21sec

The Great Train Robbery (1903) 10min

Wolf Blood (1925) 1hr7min

Reefer Madness (1938) 1hr8min

The Kiss (1896) 25secs

Experiments in the Revival of Organisms (1940) 20min

Battleship Potemkin (1925) 1hr13min

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) 1hr57min

Trapeze Disrobing Act (1901) 2min

Are You Popular (1947) 10min

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) 1hr11min

Scarlet Street (1945) 1hr43min

Annie Oakley Fires Her Gun (1894) 20secs

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910) 13min

For The Term of His Natural Life (1927) 1hr33min

The Last Man on Earth (1964) 1hr27min

Operation Cue (1955) 52sec

Never Weaken (1921) 28min

Intolerance (1916) 2hr57min

Quicksand (1950) 1hr18min

Dutch Fashion Reel (1969) 1min50sec

Betty Boop: Minnie The Moocher (1932) 7min46sec

The Phantom of the Opera (1925) 1hr46min

Suddenly (1954) 1hr16mins


Buffalo Dance (1894) 14sec

The Cook (1918) 18min

The Thief of Bagdad (1924) 2hr20min

Five Minutes to Live (1961) 1hr14min

VD is for Everybody (1969) 1min

American Day in Tripoli, Libya (1962) 14min

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) 1hr11min

Cyrano De Bergerac (1950) 1hr53min

The Enchanted Drawing (1900) 1min29sec

Your Name Here (1960) 10min10sec

Stella Maris (1918) 1hr13min

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936) 1hr40min

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/11/30/the-enchanted-drawing-1900/


The Mysteries of Nature and Art

Monday 28 November 2011 at 21:27

Julie Gardham, Senior Assistant Librarian at University of Glasgow’s Special Collections Department, takes a look at the book that was said to have spurred a young Isaac Newton onto the scientific path, The Mysteries of Nature and Art by John Bate.



Courteous reader, this ensuing treatise hath lien by mee a long time, penned, but in a confused and undigested manner, as I gathered it, practised, or found it out by industry and experience.

So begins the preface to The Mysteries of Nature and Art by John Bate, one of the most charming of 17th century illustrated technical compendiums.

Describing mechanical contrivances that are a mix of the useful and bizarre, this work tackles the subjects of water works, fire works, drawing and painting, and miscellaneous experiments – the last of which Bate terms ‘extravagants’ because they are ‘confusedly intermixed’.

Technical manuals were produced prolifically in the 17th century, reflecting progress in technological growth. This was a time of fundamental transition, with a spirit of initiative and invention that resulted in significant advances in science. Innovations and developments in areas such as mechanics, astronomy and chemistry were to pave the way for the industrial revolution. Dissemination of new ideas via printed treatises was crucial to the efforts of inventors and technicians.

Bate’s work is resolutely practical in nature. Originally printed in 1634, according to the title-page its ‘treatises’ were ‘partly collected, and partly of the authors peculiar practice and invention’; as stated in the preface, Bate wrote it based on ‘industry and experience’. A small, economical and easily portable book, it was popular enough to warrant the publication of an expanded second edition only a year after the first. A further augmented edition was produced in 1654. While containing more illustrations, this last edition is poorly printed and is not nearly so attractive as its predecessors.

'Another manner of forcing water, whereby water from any spring may be forced unto the top of a hill'

The first section on water-works describes various ingenious machines that convey and force water. There is, for example, an engine ‘to force water up to a high place’; this pump, we are informed, is ‘very usefull for to quench fire amongst buildings’. Other devices include weather glasses, water clocks, fountains, siphons, pumps, waterwheels, and watermills. Of the various water clocks described, my favourite has to be the one which utilizes a rather jolly grinning skeleton who marks the hours from a moving platform, reminding us all of our eventual doom.

'Another fashioned (water clock.. shewing the hour of the day)'

Bate was evidently always on the look out for new ideas. The expanded second edition of his book contains many additions to the water-works section, including the description of the model of a water mill that he copied after seeing it at London bridge in 1633. He explains that it utilizes the ebb and flow of the River Thames, thereby conveying the water ‘above two miles in compasse, for the use and service of that city’ and praises it as ‘seeming very good’. These waterworks were well known; they were only demolished when London bridge was rebuilt in 1822.

Top: 'Hercules shooting at a dragon, who as soon as hath shot, hisseth at him'. Bottom: 'A device whereby the figure of a man standing on a basis shall be made to sound a trumpet'


But while many of Bate’s examples are undoubtedly practical, there are also several rather more outlandish machines designed solely for ‘recreation and delight’. Thus, we find ‘experiments’ for ‘producing sounds by ayre and water’. These rather delightful devices include one ‘whereby severall voyces of birds cherping may be heard’ and another ‘whereby the figure of a man standing on a basis shall be made to sound a trumpet’. A further elaborate machine is a depiction of Hercules ‘shooting at a dragon, who as soon as he hath shot, hisseth at him’. Many of these were designed expressly to decorate and enhance gardens, perhaps demonstrating that an obsession for complicated water features is not as modern a phenomenon as we think.

Title page of the second section

The second part treats of fireworks ‘for tryumph and recreation’. Its title-page is illustrated with a woodcut depicting a ‘green man’ wielding a fire club. With obscure and mythical origins, green men dressed in foliage and garlands traditionally led processions of fireworkers from medieval times. The customary greeting amongst the firework fraternity is still ‘stay green’.

'How to make Gironells, or fire wheeles'

Originally developed in China, fireworks have been used to mark celebrations and spectacles for hundreds of years. Bate begins with an introduction to the basic principles of the nature of elements and instructions in choosing ingredients, such as saltpetre, brimstone, coals and gunpowder. Detailed directions and guidance on the composition of various kinds of fireworks follow. It is surprising to see how many devices still in use today were familiar to Bate, including crackers, rockets and ‘fire wheels’. Some, however, can only be described as ambitious; even Bate admits that his flying dragon is ‘somewhat troublesome to compose’.

'How to make flying dragons'

Bate next discusses art. He covers drawing in general, as well as techniques for ‘washing’ maps and other pictures with water colour, limning, painting in oil, painting on glass, and engraving. There is much interesting advice on choosing the correct equipment, with recipes for mixing and creating colours. Several pages are devoted to wood engraving; in the second edition, Bate comments that engraving is ‘farre more tedious and difficult than the working in brasse’. The artist who actually produced the woodcuts for the Mysteries – which add so much to the book’s charm, no matter how troublesome the job – is not named.

The final part of Bate’s work is a miscellany of recipes and ‘secrets’, both technical and medical. These ‘extravagants’ incorporate ‘severall Experiments, as well serviceable as delightfull’. A mixture of odd information is found here. There are several methods of catching fish, including a technique for burning a light under water so that apparently ‘all the fishes neere unto it will resort about it, as amazed at so glorious a sight, and so you may take them with a cast net or other’.

‘How to make a light burne under the water, being a very pretty conceypt to take fish'

Bizarre ways of catching birds are also given, amongst them one ‘to make birds drunk, so that you may take them with your hands’. Additionally, there is instruction in how to melt metal, how to make ice that will melt in fire but not dissolve in water, how to make cement and marble, and how to make invisible ink. Finally, there are some recipes for treating a wide range of ailments, from balms for sciatica and ointments for burns and toothaches, to medicine for ‘the biting of a mad dogge’. It is reassuring to note that Bate endorses his treatment ‘for to heale a red face that hath many pimples’ as being ‘proved’.

Frustratingly, nothing is known about the author of this highly entertaining compendium. His portrait (which appears only in the second edition) is supplied, but he offers no biographical information about himself.

Frontispiece portrait of John Bate from the second edition (courtesy of University of Glasgow Library)

The three editions I have had the pleasure of examining all come from the collection of John Ferguson, who was Professor of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow from 1874 to 1915. He tartly remarks that this portrait ‘represents Bate, who, doubtless, was a decent law-abiding citizen, as a person for whom no villainy would be too great to perpetrate’.

Predominantly a collector of alchemical works, Ferguson was also very interested in books relating to the history of inventions and ‘books of secrets’. Such texts are not studied as part of the modern science curriculum, but Professor Ferguson staunchly defended his belief in their importance, explaining that ‘the history of practical invention and of technical progress is one which might well engage the attention of students of anthropology and antiquities, as it throws light on many points connected with the growth of social life and civilization’. He also succinctly defines the arcane terminology for such works as books of ‘secrets’, saying: ‘the arts must be acquired by practice, and they are extended and improved by practice. Every one who exercises them comes to have special power and certain ways of doing things, which may enable him to surpass others who are similarly engaged. These are his “secrets”, which very often he cannot, or will not, reveal to others’.

'Experiments of motions by rarifying water with fire'

While some of the knowledge imparted in Bate’s Mysteries may seem to us crude, if not downright eccentric, it is important to remember that manuals such as these did play an important role in the dissemination of scientific information. Ferguson actually recommends this text as a ‘book of genuine receipts’, its contents being ‘quite sensible and practical’. He praises Bate for describing apparatus that he had actually tried and found would work – unlike some of his contemporaries ‘who often gathered nothing else but mere nonsense’.



Julie Gardham is Senior Assistant Librarian at Special Collections in the University of Glasgow Library. She regularly blogs on her work with rare books and manuscripts: see the Special Collections website.


Links to Works


Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/11/28/the-mysteries-of-nature-and-art/


Presidents and Turkeys

Thursday 24 November 2011 at 10:57

Happy Thanksgiving!

The pictures below are from the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation, a ceremony that takes place at the White House every year at which The President of the United States is presented with a live turkey, usually of the Broad Breasted White variety. Since 1989, the first Thanksgiving of President George H. W. Bush, it has been official policy for the president to grant the turkey a “presidential pardon” and thus spare the bird from ending up on the dining table. On Nov. 19, 1963, just days before his assassination, John F Kennedy spontaneously spared a turkey but did not grant an official “pardon”.

(Images via Wikimedia Commons, and being works of the U.S. federal government are public domain in the U.S.)











Operation Doorstep

The Spirit Photographs of William Hope

The Maps of Piri Reis

Dr Julius Neubronner's Miniature Pigeon Camera

Art in Art

Huexotzinco Codex


Sessions for the Blind at Sunderland Museum

Eugène von Guérard's Australian Landscapes

Landscape and Marine Views of Norway

The Mechanism of Human Physiognomy

Space Colony Art from the 1970s

Men in Wigs


De humana physiognomonia libri IIII (1586)

Field Columbian Museum

Maps from Geographicus

Arnoldus Montanus' New and Unknown World (1671)

World War II from the Air

Halloween Postcards

Engravings by Dominicus Custos

Kodak No.1 Circular Snapshots

Kitab al-Bulhan or Book of Wonders (late 14thC.)

The Daddy Long Legs of Brighton

Amundsen's South Pole Expedition (1912)

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/11/24/presidents-and-turkeys/


The Tragedy of Fate and the Tragedy of Culture: Heinrich von Kleist’s The Schroffenstein Family

Monday 21 November 2011 at 14:04

On 21st November 1811, on a lake’s edge near Potsdam, a 34 year old Kleist shot himself dead in a suicide pact with his terminally ill lover. He left behind him just under a decade of intense literary output which has established him as one of the most important writers of the German romantic period. On the bicentenary of his death, Kleist scholar Steven Howe explores the importance of his first dramatic work and how in it can be seen the themes of his later masterpieces.

Chalk-drawing reproduction of a now lost miniature which Peter Friedel made in 1801 to be presented to Kleist's fiancée at the time Wilhelmine von Zenge

Heinrich von Kleist is without doubt one of the most challenging figures in German literary history. In a career lasting a little under a decade, from 1802 through to his premature death in 1811, he produced a remarkable body of creative work that radically called into question the prevailing intellectual, aesthetic and ethical orthodoxies of the age. Today, Kleist is perhaps most familiar, certainly to British audiences, as the dramatist behind the violently tragic Penthesilea and the brilliantly enigmatic The Prince of Homburg, and as the author of a series of daring and dramatic short stories, including Michael Kohlhaas, The Marquise of O…, and The Earthquake in Chile. Altogether less well-known, however (notwithstanding Eric Bentley’s adaptation in German Requiem), is his first major literary production, the five act play The Schroffenstein Family, published in 1803. Aside from a brief premiere at the National Theatre in Graz in January 1804, the drama found little immediate resonance, and it has traditionally been regarded as belonging to the second class of the author’s imaginative work. Kleist, for his part, also seems to have attached little value to the piece, referring to it in a letter to his sister, Ulrike, as a ‘wretched botched job’. That the drama suffers from the defects one might expect of the first work of a young poet is a point that few would demur: the language is overwrought, the plot convoluted, and the entire exposition lacks the refined touch which Kleist was later to perfect. That being said, the play nonetheless contains a number of scenes and episodes which provide an early glimpse of the author’s promise and genius, and introduces several of the most significant themes and features which were to subsequently become a hallmark of his poetics.

The action of the drama revolves around the conflict between the rival houses of Rossitz and Warwand, and the fate of two star-crossed lovers, Ottokar and Agnes. The imaginative debt to Romeo and Juliet is plain to see, and Kleist hews closely to the model of Shakespeare’s tragedy, though with one significant variation – the two feuding houses are here different branches of the same family. The origins of the conflict extend from a testamentary contract, according to which the property of either house should fall to the other branch if the line of descent is broken. This breeds an atmosphere of mistrust, as both houses suspect one another of pursuing its demise, and particularly that of its heirs. When the younger son of Count Rupert, head of the Rossitz branch of the family, dies in unexplained circumstances, his suspicions thus fall directly on his counterpart, Count Sylvester, and the drama opens with him compelling his immediate family to swear an oath of bloody and absolute vengeance against the entire house of Warwand.

The cast of characters of Die Familie Schroffenstein as featured in a 1922 collection of Kleist's works for the stage.

The tragic trajectory of the play is set by the issue that Ottokar, the elder son of Rupert, partakes in this oath-swearing, unaware that the girl with whom he has fallen in love, Agnes, is the daughter of Sylvester. Once alerted to the fact, he is convinced by Agnes of her father’s innocence in the matter of the child’s death and attempts to negotiate a reconciliation between the warring counts. His efforts are thwarted, however, by Rupert’s burning hatred for Sylvester and his untameable lust for revenge. Upon learning of his son’s clandestine affair, Rupert resolves to murder Agnes, and when the two lovers secretly meet at a mountain cave, he and his vassal, Santing, accost them. In an attempt to deceive his father and protect his beloved, Ottokar exchanges clothes with Agnes; failing to note the switch in the darkness, Rupert stabs his own son to death, whereupon the presently arriving Sylvester follows suit by murdering Agnes in the mistaken belief that she is Ottokar. Ironically – or perhaps appropriately – it falls to the blind grandfather, Sylvius, to recognise the true identities of the two victims and reveal the double filicide. At the play’s end, an old widow, Ursula, discloses the true state of affairs, namely that Rupert’s son’s death was accidental – he drowned in a forest brook. With the misunderstanding resolved, a despairing reconciliation follows, and the drama closes with the mad-driven bastard son of the Rossitz house, Johann, addressing Ursula as master and personification of fate.

That the mechanisms of fate and chance do serve as an important motor for the action of the drama is very much an accepted commonplace in interpretive criticism. In his personal letters, Kleist reveals a fascination with the unknowable powers of contingency and coincidence that intrude upon and shape the life of the individual, and such concerns penetrate to the core of many of his literary works: time and again, he confronts his characters with situations over which they have no control and to which they must then react. In Schroffenstein, chance happenings are heaped upon one another in such a way as to both blunt much of the originality of the constellation, and to strain reader credulity after the fashion of the Gothic tale – it is not without reason that Matthew G. Lewis’s The Monk has been cited as a possible source of inspiration. The outcome is a demonstration of the operations of fate and contingency which, viewed in a narrow sense, seems at times laboured and contrived. The design of the inquiry is, however – in a further parallel to Romeo and Juliet – overlaid with a deeper disquisition on the limitations of human awareness. Ursula’s laconic words to Rupert and Sylvester, ‘If you kill one another, it is an error’, acquire, in this context, special relevance, pointing as they do towards the movement of error and the instances of misunderstanding that drive the action to its tragic close. Here one can detect the influence of Kleist’s encounter with Kantian philosophy, which appears to have shattered his faith in the possibilities of absolute truth and knowledge. The fallibility of perception emerges, as a consequence, as a dominant theme and subject of reflection in Kleist’s work, and remains so across his entire literary corpus. In Schroffenstein, this manifests itself through the frequent recurrence of error and confusion, bred by the characters’ inability to communicate and their attendant susceptibility to misreading reality. Typically, Kleist drives the issue towards aesthetic extremes, crafting an enveloping atmosphere of illusion, deceit and suspicion within the extended family which, in turn, calls forth gruesome acts of vengeance and retributive violence. In this regard, the drama can perhaps be seen as the most Jacobean and Sturm und Drang-like of Kleist’s works – as a grizzly, though at times darkly comedic, exploration of the workings of fate and the human capacity for misunderstanding, and of their effects in unleashing man’s violent potentialities.

Kleist's grave alongside that of Henrietta Vogel, his terminally ill lover whom he shot before shooting himself in a suicide pact on the banks of Kleiner Wannsee near Potsdam. The inscription on Kleist's grave reads 'Now, oh immortality, you are all mine'.
(Photo by Jochen Jansen, published under a CC-BY-SA license).

It would be misleading, however, to suggest that the tragedy be approached solely through the lens of metaphysical and epistemological concerns. For the very issue of error that stands at the heart of the drama raises the question of interpretation, and with it that of the extent to which cultural and social codes give shape to the individual’s understandings and perceptions. In particular, the text displays how the nature of the conflict between the two houses fosters a socially-conditioned prejudice that colours and impairs judgement, and which speaks to a deeper cultural critique embedded within the drama. The major point of reference and orientation here is Jean-Jacques Rousseau who, in his Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, both put into question the Enlightenment faith in human progress and delivered a searing assault on the conditions of modernity. The opening scene of the play already bears the mark of Rousseau’s sway: when Rupert’s wife, Eustache, refers to her natural feminine tenderness in response to his calls for her to swear the oath of vengeance, he objects, ‘Nothing more of nature. It is but a sweet, delightful fairytale from childhood’. What follows does so under the sign of Rousseau’s condemnation of man’s fall from natural goodness into socio-moral decay: the terms of the inheritance contract, for instance, as both agent and symbol of the conflict between Rupert and Sylvester, casts into relief the lure of wealth and property, the original idée fixe, which Rousseau identifies as a root cause of modern inequality and conditions of violence. In its presentation of the trials of the lovers, meanwhile, the text also plays on the anthropology of identity laid down in the Discourse, in which the dilemma of man’s ruinous modernity is diagnosed in terms of the tensions between subject and world. In this instance, that dilemma is telescoped through the relationship between love and society, with Ottokar in particular forced to struggle with the contrast between the demands of his father and his feelings for Agnes. In such a way, the text also points to a modern view of identity as an active positioning of the self in relation to cultural discourses – a theme to which Kleist was to frequently return, perhaps most notably in his portrayal of the cross-cultural relationships between Gustav and Toni in The Betrothal in St. Domingo, and between Achilles and Penthesilea in the drama of the latter name.

These fundamental tensions between nature and culture, between individual and society, serve as a central axis for the greater part of Kleist’s literary oeuvre, and it is perhaps in this sense, above all, that Schroffenstein can be seen to point the way towards his later – and greater – dramatic achievements. On the one hand, his works dwell on the onslaught of fate that upsets the secure ideals of enlightenment rationalism; on the other, however, this aspect is only ever a corollary to a deeper sense of the cultural rift between subject and world, and the attendant instabilities of agency and identity. Behind this lies the experience of the French Revolution and the turmoil it left in its wake, as existing hierarchies of power and status collapsed, and Europe was plunged into a period of instability and conflict. Against this backdrop, Kleist, like so many of his Romantic contemporaries, critically explores the paradigms of eighteenth-century humanist discourse, taking up the tensions and paradoxes embedded therein and exhibiting them in the full light of his imagination. In particular, it is the complex relationship between nature and culture to which he time and again returns, with most of his texts turning upon an exploration of the psychological and moral conflicts between the individual and his or her environment. Frequently, such struggles escalate to a sudden unleashing of the self, to acts of violent rebellion or assimilation. It is this readiness to plumb the extreme depths of human psychology and conduct under conditions of stress that lends Kleist’s work its peculiar modernism, and which ensures that even now, some two hundred years on from his death, he retains the ability to excite, engage and trouble his readers.



Steven Howe is Associate Research Fellow in the College of Humanities at the University of Exeter. He is currently working, together with Ricarda Schmidt (Exeter) and Sean Allan (Warwick), on a large-scale, AHRC-funded project – timed to coincide with the bicentenary of the author’s death – exploring discourses of education and violence in the works of Heinrich von Kleist (Kleist, Education and Violence: The Transformation of Ethics and Aesthetics). He has previously written a full-length study on Kleist’s engagement with the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and published further articles regarding the representation of violence in Kleist’s texts, and on aspects of their popular and critical reception.


Links to Works


Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/11/21/the-tragedy-of-fate-and-the-tragedy-of-culture-heinrich-von-kleist%e2%80%99s-the-schroffenstein-family/