The Public Domain Review

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Lucy Isabelle Marsh

Thursday 1 March 2012 at 20:10




American singer Lucy Isabelle Marsh (1878 – 1956) made her career as a professional recording artist for the Victor Talking Machine Company. She was an anonymous mainstay of the regular recording program of the company from 1909 into the late 1920s, while at the same time, she quickly won popular and critical recognition under her own name as a major artist on Victor recordings. (Wikipedia)

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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)

The Voice of Florence Nightingale (1890)

General Pershing March - Imperial Marimba Band (1918)

Apollo 11 Onboard Recordings (1969)

Santa Claus Proves There is a Santa Claus (1925)

Whitney Brothers Quartet - The Little Red Drum (1908)

Edison reading Mary Had a Little Lamb (1927)

Lucy Isabelle Marsh

Robert Browning attempting to recite 'How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix' (1889)

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/03/01/lucy-isabelle-marsh/


The selection of Type is just as important as the selection of words (1939?)

Monday 27 February 2012 at 15:36


Alphabetical Index to Type Faces, by G.A. Davis Printing Company; 1939?; Toronto.

An “Alphabetical Index to Type Faces” from the G.A. Davis Printing Company. What it says on the tin, but also generator of bizarre ‘accidental’ sentences such as “Summer-time with outdoor pleasures become flowers with nature”, “Domestic animals are nuisance when a hurry to men”, “Strong type faces used cold north winds” and the occasional poem: “History repeats itself as the years pass / Internal injuries are weakening / Injurious statements make yonder river flows fast”.

NB: The publishing date of 1900 given in the Open Library link appears to be incorrect, with some of the typefaces not being invented until the mid-30s. There is no indication of publishing date on the scanned copy itself, though there is a Library of Toronto stamp dated October 1939.

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)

Mythical Monsters (1886)

Madame Tussaud's Napoleon Relics, Pictures and Other Curiosities (1901)

James Joyce's Chamber Music (1918 American Edition)

Original acrostics on all the U.S. states and presidents, and various other subjects (1861)

Hand book of the carnival, containing Mardi-Gras, its ancient and modern observance (1874)

Selection of Type is just as important as the selection of words (1939?)

Natural History of Shakespeare; Being Selections of Flowers, Fruits, and Animals (1877)

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/02/27/selection-of-type-1900/


Hand book of the carnival, containing Mardi-Gras, its ancient and modern observance (1874)

Tuesday 21 February 2012 at 18:10


Hand book of the carnival, containing Mardi-Gras, its ancient and modern observance, by J. W. Madden; 1874; New Orleans.

Fascinating little book offering a brilliantly detailed insight into the 19th century New Orleans Mardi-Gras tradition, including a history of the Mistick Krewe of Comus, The Twelfth Night Revellers, and The Knights of Momus.

From Wikipedia: In Greek mythology, Comus or Komos (Ancient Greek: Κῶμος) is the god of festivity, revels and nocturnal dalliances. He is a son and a cup-bearer of the god Bacchus. Comus represents anarchy and chaos. His mythology occurs in the later times of antiquity. During his festivals in Ancient Greece, men and women exchanged clothes. He was depicted as a young man on the point of unconsciousness from drink. He had a wreath of flowers on his head and carried a torch that was in the process of being dropped.

"Female Eye", costume design, Krewe of Comus, New Orleans Mardi Gras, 1869


New Orleans Mardi Gras, 1916. Depiction of Comus parade float with art theme.


New Orleans Mardi Gras 1907. Illustration of King's float of Comus parade.



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)

Mythical Monsters (1886)

Madame Tussaud's Napoleon Relics, Pictures and Other Curiosities (1901)

James Joyce's Chamber Music (1918 American Edition)

Original acrostics on all the U.S. states and presidents, and various other subjects (1861)

Hand book of the carnival, containing Mardi-Gras, its ancient and modern observance (1874)

Selection of Type is just as important as the selection of words (1939?)

Natural History of Shakespeare; Being Selections of Flowers, Fruits, and Animals (1877)

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/02/21/hand-book-of-the-carnival/


Original acrostics on all the states and presidents of the United States, and various other subjects (1861)

Tuesday 21 February 2012 at 17:39


Original acrostics on all the states and presidents of the United States, and various other subjects, religious, political, and personal ; illustrated with portraits of all the presidents, and engravings of various other kinds by Robert Blackwell; 1861; Nashville, Tennessee.

As well as acrostics for all the states and presidents, Robert Blackwell provides ones for a host of other topics including the Moon, Whisky and the Ladies of Nashville. And just in case you thought it is was easy work, a little note from the author…

[Gentlemen.] GRANT me one favor, I ask no more, Examine all my writings o'er; Not forgetting all the time Tis hard to make a name to rhyme. Let those who think they can compose Excellent verse as well as prose, Make one effort to be wise, Ere they scoff and criticise Numerous works they would revise.


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)

Mythical Monsters (1886)

Madame Tussaud's Napoleon Relics, Pictures and Other Curiosities (1901)

James Joyce's Chamber Music (1918 American Edition)

Original acrostics on all the U.S. states and presidents, and various other subjects (1861)

Hand book of the carnival, containing Mardi-Gras, its ancient and modern observance (1874)

Selection of Type is just as important as the selection of words (1939?)

Natural History of Shakespeare; Being Selections of Flowers, Fruits, and Animals (1877)

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/02/21/original-acrostics-on-all-the-states-and-presidents-of-the-united-states-and-various-other-subjects-1861/


Lost Libraries

Monday 20 February 2012 at 16:35

In the latter half of the 17th century the English polymath Thomas Browne wrote Musaeum Clausum, an imagined inventory of ‘remarkable books, antiquities, pictures and rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living’. Claire Preston explores Browne’s extraordinary catalogue amid the wider context of a Renaissance preoccupation with lost intellectual treasures.

Thomas Browne as depicted in the frontispiece to his posthously published Certain Miscellany Tracts (1684)

In an age of data retrieval, when just about anything ever printed can be seen online and is eternally preserved there, and when modern anxiety is fuelled by too much information, we would do well to remember that the loss of books and artefacts was catastrophic until very recently in human history. The great library of the Ptolemies at Alexandria was burnt by the Romans in the first century AD, a legendary collection of ancient wisdom whose loss haunted Renaissance scholarship. European savants of the 15th and 16th centuries were, in the midst of their astonishing revival of classical writing, all too aware of what was irrecoverable and even unknown to them.

Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) was such a scholar. His vast expertise in areas as diverse as embryology, anatomy, ornithology, ancient history and literature, etymology, local archaeology, and pharmacy, and his participation in the Baconian programme to rescue learning from the misapprehensions and erasures that had accumulated since the fall of man, made him especially sensitive to such losses. Musaeum Clausum, a small tract both playful and melancholy, seems to coalesce early-modern feelings about the unavailability of precious intellectual treasure.

Engraving from the Dell'Historia Naturale (1599) showing Naples apothecary Ferrante Imperato's cabinet of curiosities, the first pictorial representation of such a collection.

Musaeum Clausum (the hidden library) is a fake catalogue of a collection that contained books, pictures, and artefacts. Such collections (and their elaborate indices) were a common phenomenon from about 1500 to 1700 and after. Gentlemen and the nobility collected as a matter of polite engagement with knowledge and as a way of displaying wealth and learning; savants made arrays of plants, animals, and minerals as museums or ‘thesauruses’ of the natural world to record and organise their findings; imperial and monarchical collections were princely in their glamour, rarity, and sheer expenditure: these might contain natural-historical specimens but also trinkets and souvenirs from far-flung places, curiosities of nature and art, and historically significant items. For example, taxidermically preserved basilisks shared room with a thorn from Christ’s crown and feathered headdresses and weapons belonging to native American tribes. Browne takes these traditions of assemblage and makes a catalogue of marvellous things that have disappeared.

The catalogue of Browne’s lost museum speaks of fragmentation, scattering, and loss, but also of eccentricity and comedy. Among its documents are letters and works by Aristotle, Ovid, and Cicero, and an account of Hannibal’s expedition through Alps ‘far more particular than that of Livy’ that purports to tell what sort of vinegar he used to split the stones in his way. Perhaps the most significant item among these is Seneca’s epistles to St Paul, a correspondence which, if it existed, would answer the yearning of Christian Stoics. The pictures in this collection either display tremendous technical skill or depict remarkable events. One picture is a ‘large submarine piece’ showing the bottom of the Mediterranean and the seagrass growing there; another describes a moonlight battle between the Florentines and the Turks; others are snow or ice ‘pieces’ that show a remarkable and alien landscape populated by exotic arctic animals; still others show the great fire of Constantinople, the siege of Vienna, the sack of Fundi, and the Treaty of Cologne, as well as portraits, caricatures, and even the dogs of Sultan Achmet. The curiosities are probably the most peculiar and random group in the collection, everything from an ostrich’s egg engraved with a scene from the battle of Alcazar, to a moist stone that cures fevers, to a ring found in the belly of a fish (reputed to be the ring of the Doge of Venice with which he annually weds the sea), the mummified body of one Father Crispin of Toulouse, and ‘Batrachomyomachia, or the Homerican battle between frogs and mice, neatly described upon the chizel bone of a large pike’s jaw’.

Cabinet of Curiosities (ca.1695) by Domenico Remps, held in the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence

Browne’s is one of many examples of this form, the fake catalogue. Donne wrote one; Rabelais included one in Gargantua and Pantagruel. More typically such works were outright spoofs of learned curiosity, send-ups of random assemblages that John Evelyn judged to be no more than ‘indigested chaos’. But Browne, although he recognises the absurdity of some of his own items and is obviously trying for comic effect with certain ones, is probably more interested in a philosophy of antiquities, of the past and of existing knowledge as resurrected and preserved from the ravages of time and forgetfulness. Browne’s aim, like that of the early-modern Baconians, was reparation and restoration of truth, and Musaeum Clausum reads like a wistful evocation of what might have existed in a legendary collection like the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Perhaps the most powerful rendition of that wistfulness is not in specific works or memorials of the great, but rather in the pitiful remains of Father Crispin, ‘buried long ago in the vaults of the Cordeliers at Toulouse, where the skins of the dead so dry and parch up without corruption that their persons may be known very long after, with this inscription, Ecce iterum Crispinus [behold Crispin again]’. The otherwise anonymous Father Crispin, an unremarkable monk whose name is his only chronicle, is immortalised by the strange atmosphere of the vault rather than for any accomplishment or quality; his survival as a physiognomy that can be ‘known very long after’ is merely a scientific phenomenon, not an intended memorial to an individual. The imperious inscription pathetically asks us with its commanding injunction to behold anew that which was never remarkable or memorable in the first place. Browne’s favourite theme, here and elsewhere, is the randomness of recollection, and Father Crispin, a random survival of the past, is preserved only to be lost again with the collection that contains him.

Twenty years earlier Browne had written the astonishing Urne-Buriall, a discussion of mortuary customs. There he asked why it should be that we have record of the epitaph of Hadrian’s horse but not of Hadrian himself, or whether the best men are even remembered ‘or whether there be not more remarkable persons forgot than any that stand remembered in the known account of time?’ That abiding sense of so much forgotten, so little still recalled, animated Browne and other early-modern savants who were conducting a salvage operation for intellectual recovery.



Claire Preston is Professor of Early-Modern Literature at the University of Birmingham. Her books include Bee (Reaktion,2006), Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science (Cambridge, 2005), and Edith Wharton’s Social Register (Macmillan/St Martin’s, 2000). She recently co-edited, with Reid Barbour, Sir Thomas Browne: The World Proposed (Oxford 2008), and is the general editor of the Complete Works of Sir Thomas Browne (8 vols), forthcoming from OUP. She has written extensively on early-modern topics, including Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, Dugdale, and Boyle, and on the literature of the American Gilded Age. She is completing a book on seventeenth-century literature and scientific investigation. She has been a recipient of a British Academy Research award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize (British Academy).


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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/02/20/lost-libraries/


Dog Factory (1904)

Wednesday 15 February 2012 at 12:58



A rather dark and bizarre Edison short. Two men are operating a ‘dog factory’, using a device that they call a Dog Transformator. A man brings three dogs into their shop, which they purchase from him. They place the dogs one by one into the machine, which turns each dog into a string of sausages. As their customers come in, they are then able to select the kind of dog that they want, and the machine changes the corresponding string of sausages back into a dog.

Download from Internet Archive



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

American Day in Tripoli, Libya (1962) 14min

The Thief of Bagdad (1924) 2hr20min

Five Minutes to Live (1961) 1hr14min

VD is for Everybody (1969) 1min

Your Name Here (1960) 10min10sec

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) 1hr11min

Cyrano De Bergerac (1950) 1hr53min

The Enchanted Drawing (1900) 1min29sec

The Night Before Christmas (1905) 8min44sec

Stella Maris (1918) 1hr13min

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936) 1hr40min

Time-Lapse Demolition of the Star Theatre, New York (1901) 1min49sec

The Dream of Mrs L.L. Nicholson from Oakland, California (1924) 7min23sec

The Lost World (1925) 1hr8min

Gulliver's Travels (1939) 1hr18min

Dog Factory (1904) 4min37sec

The Battle of San Pietro (1945) 43min

Out of the Inkwell: The Tantalizing Fly (1919) 3min38sec

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/02/15/dog-factory-1904/


Almost as good as Presley: Caruso the pop idol

Monday 13 February 2012 at 15:04

When he died in 1921 the singer Enrico Caruso left behind him approximately 290 commercially released recordings, and a significant mark upon on the opera world including more than 800 appearances at the New York Met. John Potter, singer and author of Tenor: History of a Voice, explores Caruso’s popular appeal and how he straddled the divide between ‘pop’ and ‘classical’.

Caruso in 1910, photograph by the Laveccha Studio, Chicago (Source: Library of Congress)


‘…Then someone sat me down last night and I heard Caruso sing / He’s almost as good as Presley…’

Ben Watt (Everything But The Girl), from ‘The Night I heard Caruso Sing’, Idlewild.


Every generation seems to reinvent the tenor as something closer to a pop star than an opera star. The Three Tenors were among the late 20th century’s great musical marketing successes, and the brightest star that they acknowledged in the tenor firmament was cinema heart throb Mario Lanza. Lanza himself claimed Enrico Caruso as his greatest influence and famously played him on screen, reminding a wider audience that there was nothing incompatible with classical tenors and genuine popularity, whatever they were singing.

Although many fine divas stamped their mark on early recording, it was the tenor voice of Caruso which was the defining voice of the early twentieth century. His reputation was due to the fact that people could not only hear him in their own homes, but that his success could actually be measured in record sales; he was the first global superstar of the gramophone era. Such celebrity wasn’t new in what we think of as classical music, however, it was not uncommon in the nineteenth century for opera singers (such as Adelina Patti or Giuditta Pasta) to meet with the kind of reception we associate with pop stars. The fact is, there was no equivalent of today’s mass popular music – and nothing like today’s classical (in the sense of unpopular) either. Popular entertainment took a huge variety of forms from conjuring to celebrity whistling but singing was in the end just singing, and the best singers were opera singers largely because they had the best tunes. They all shared a basic level of vocality: even a vaudeville personality had to have voice enough to carry right to the back of a theatre: crooning and the intimate nuances enabled by the microphone were still in the future when Caruso died in 1921.

Caruso with a flower in 1913 (Source: Library of Congress)

Caruso listening to his own voice on a Victor phonograph machine in 1913 (Source: Library of Congress)

Three years earlier he was at the height of his fame. His many triumphs in 1918 included a Carnegie Hall debut (at one of several hugely successful find raising galas) and recording the patriotic song ‘Over There’ which would become the best selling recording by an opera singer for generations to come, putting him alongside Al Jolson as one of the century’s most successful recording artists to date. ‘Over There’ was certainly not an opera aria, and although Caruso was practically resident at the Metropolitan Opera for seventeen years his best selling records were actually lighter music such as Neapolitan songs and ‘Italian airs’. It was his voice that his public wanted, and they’d buy into whatever he chose to record.

That same year Al Jolson did a recital of his own songs with the 50 strong Boston Symphony Orchestra, having a month or two earlier followed Caruso on stage at a marathon concert in New York sponsored by the Army Tank Corps Welfare League in aid of returning soldiers. It was the first time Jolson uttered his famous catch phrase ‘You ain’t heard nothin’ yet’, a response to Caruso’s rousing performance of Italian war songs culminating in a rendering of ‘Over There’ which had brought the house down. The two singers, both European émigrés who had conquered America, were then probably the most successful singers on earth. Although Jolson the entertainer and Caruso the opera singer inhabited different musical worlds, there were clearly circumstances where their respective arts could appeal to similar audiences and even happen at the same venue. Both singers’ biographers tend to be rather reticent on the connections between these two great stars, but we know that they appreciated each other’s place in the scheme of things, and even each other’s singing. After their performances for the Tank Corps, Caruso invited Jolson back to his hotel room, and is said to have suggested they sing together at the Met. He may have been joking of course, and Jolson knew he wasn’t himself an opera singer, but the fact that he could make himself heard over a 50 piece orchestra shows that Jolson would have had no problem with the vast acoustic space of the world’s most famous opera theatre. Jolson and Caruso duetting on the opera stage is not as improbable as it might seem (had they been able to agree on what to sing): two months later the erstwhile vaudeville artiste Rosa Ponselle made her Met debut opposite Caruso himself in Verdi’s La Forza del Destino.

Drawing by Caruso depicting the rehearsals for the world premiere of La fanciulla del West at the Met in 1910 (Source: Metropolitan Opera Archives)

Vaudeville singers at the Met? Caruso able to duet with someone who called himself a jazz singer? How could such things possibly happen? Before amplification divided singers into those who were proper singers and those who might not be, all singers had to make themselves heard at the back of the hall, whether they were opera singers, vaudeville entertainers or blues shouters. That’s why so many ‘popular’ singers recording at the beginning of the 20th century sound so stilted and stylised – to project their voices a long way they had to sing with their larynxes lower than in normal speech. That maximised their acoustic efficiency and as a by-product gave them the richer sound that we now associate with classical singers. If they were singing in English it also generated the deeper vowels associated with Received Pronunciation (the non-regional accent sometimes called BBC English). Caruso and Jolson, faced with having to fill a vaudeville theatre or an opera house with sound, inevitably adopted a similar technique: there was no other way to sing in large theatres or halls, so they had much more in common vocally than, say, Placido Domingo and Sting.

(Caruso singing vowels from Caruso’s method of voice production, by P. Mario Mariafioti, 1922 – click to enlarge)

Many people would have bought both singers’ records and may not have been very conscious of the different genres that they were later seen to represent. The idea of music being categorised as ‘popular’ or ‘classical’ would have meant very little to the man on the famous Clapham omnibus. Caruso didn’t see a big difference between a Puccini aria and a Neapolitan folk song – they were both ‘popular’ and likely to appear beside each other in recital programmes. Verdi and Puccini knew, as composers for generations before them had known, that the secret of a successful opera was to hit the punters with a stand-alone stonking good tune every now and again, a format which supported a huge sheet music industry and the burgeoning record business. For every person who heard an opera at the Met or Covent Garden, there was a potentially infinite number of record buyers or people who would sing the arias round the piano at home, alongside the ‘popular’ songs of entertainers such as Al Jolson. Jolson was aware that opera was of sufficiently high status to make it worth satirising, as in his hilarious (at the time) Pagliacci sketch. He knows exactly how opera singing works (he was the son of a cantor, who hoped for greater things from his absurdly ambitious offspring) but he surely understood that he could really only play one role: that of Al Jolson. Caruso was a huge success in many (carefully chosen) roles but his more serious repertoire didn’t give him many opportunities to shine simply as an entertainer.

Al Jolson as featured on the cover of the sheet music to When Grown Up Ladies Act Like Babies, published by Maurice Abrahams Music Corp., New York, 1913

But that didn’t stop him equalling Jolson in popularity. It wasn’t just patriotic songs and Italian lollipops: the big tunes that came out of the realistic plots and less cluttered singing of verismo opera were enormously successful too. In the first quarter of the 20th century (roughly between the first recordings and the first radio broadcasts) the worlds of what we now think of as the classical and popular were still tantalisingly close, with the difference between singers of the calibre of Caruso and Jolson often just one of repertoire and a certain sort of public engagement. As the century progressed they would become increasingly polarised: composers, divorced from private patronage but often indirectly supported by the state, could indulge in the luxury of writing music that very few people wanted to hear, while the microphone rendered over-blown natural vocal projection unnecessary for those excited by the possibilities of a more subtle vocal delivery. Opera singers retained their stylised vocality with its inevitable loudness, growing in status but contracting in reach with each generation. The mass audience that had been there for Rossini and Verdi preferred the immediate emotional hit provided by crooners, a direct mouth-to-ear experience which they could enjoy with friends at home rather than brave the stratified world of the opera house; ‘classical’ came to mean the opposite of ‘popular’.

Caruso examining a bust sculpture of himself in 1914 (Source: Library of Congress

Caruso would know nothing of this: he would continue to sing from beyond the grave, but increasingly on the wrong side of the growing divisions between the two genres. The 21st century is beginning to see (and hear) things differently, though, and many of us now take a broader view of Caruso’s art and achievement. ‘Over There’ has even been plundered for a TV commercial (which I’m sure Caruso would have enjoyed), but Ben Watt comparing the great tenor with Elvis Presley is a sign of more enlightened times. The digital age gives us unfettered access to the whole of music, unfiltered by snobbery and tradition, and perhaps Caruso can be released from the stale old classical ghetto: in his time he was indeed as good as Elvis.



John Potter is the author of Tenor: History of a Voice (Yale University Press 2009 & 2010). His latest book, A History of Singing, jointly written with ethnomusicologist Neil Sorrell, is published this month by Cambridge University Press. A former member of the Hilliard Ensemble, he records for ECM (the Dowland Project) and Hyperion (Red Byrd and the Conductus Project), with new releases on both labels later this year.


Links to Works


Please note these Caruso recordings are in the public domain in the European Union, but may not be in other jurisdictions (e.g. the US). Please check its status in your jurisdiction before re-using.

Caruso Collected Works Part 1 (scroll down within the playlist to access all 100 tracks, visit Internet Archive for downloading options)


Caruso Collected Works Part 2 (scroll down within the playlist to access all 28 tracks, visit Internet Archive for downloading options)


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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/02/13/almost-as-good-as-presley-caruso-the-pop-idol/


Edison reading Mary Had a Little Lamb (1927)

Thursday 9 February 2012 at 13:53



Recording made by Thomas A. Edison on August 12, 1927, at the Golden Jubilee of the Phonograph ceremony. In this recording Edison demonstrates how in 1877 he made the first record on his tinfoil phonograph. The original 1877 recording was not saved and no longer exists.

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)

The Voice of Florence Nightingale (1890)

General Pershing March - Imperial Marimba Band (1918)

Apollo 11 Onboard Recordings (1969)

Santa Claus Proves There is a Santa Claus (1925)

Whitney Brothers Quartet - The Little Red Drum (1908)

Edison reading Mary Had a Little Lamb (1927)

Lucy Isabelle Marsh

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/02/09/edison-reading-mary-had-a-little-lamb-1927/


Labors of the Months from the Très Riches Heures

Wednesday 8 February 2012 at 13:47

The Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (or simply the Très Riches Heures) is probably the most important illuminated manuscript of the 15th century, “le roi des manuscrits enluminés” (“the king of illuminated manuscripts”). It is a very richly decorated Book of Hours containing over 200 folios, of which about half are full page illustrations. It was painted sometime between 1412 and 1416 by the Limbourg brothers for their patron Jean, Duc de Berry. They left it unfinished at their (and the Duc’s) death in 1416. Charles I, Duc de Savoie commissioned Jean Colombe to finish the paintings between 1485-1489. Featured here are the Labors of the Months, the section illustrating the various activities undertaken by the Duke’s court and his peasants according to the month of the year. Most of the illustrations show one of the Duke’s castles in the background, and each are accompanied by a sun carrying Phoebus beneath an archway depicting the appropriate zodiac signs.

(Text and images via Wikipedia)

January: The Duke's household exchanges New Year gifts - the Duke at right in a blue robe.



February: A typical winter's day. Some peasants warm themselves by the fire, another peasant chops wood, and still another goes to market.



March: Sowing the field. In the background is the Château de Lusignan, a residence of Jean de Berry.



April: A young couple exchanging rings. In the background is the Château de Dourdan.



May: Young nobles riding in a procession. In the background is the Hôtel de Neslé, the Duke's Paris residence in Paris.



June: Harvest. In the background is the Palais de la Cité with the Sainte Chapelle clearly identifiable on the right.



July: The shearing of the sheep. In the background is the Palace of Poitiers near Poitiers.



August: Falconry, with the Duc's Château d'Étampes in the background.



September: The harvest of the grapes. In the background is the Château de Saumur.



October: Tilling the field. In the background is the Louvre.



November: The autumn harvest of acorns, on which pigs are feeding.



December: A wild boar hunt. In the background is the Château de Vincennes.





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

Harry Clarke's illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe (1919)

The Embalming Jars of Frederik Ruysch (1710)

Labors of the Months from the Très Riches Heures (1416)

Photographs of the famous by Felix Nadar

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/02/08/labors-of-the-months-from-the-tres-riches-heures/


Phillis Wheatley: an Eighteenth-century Genius in Bondage

Monday 6 February 2012 at 15:53

Transported as a slave from West Africa to America when just a child, Phillis Wheatley published in 1773 at the age of 20 her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Vincent Carretta takes a look at the remarkable life of the first ever African-American woman to be published.

Frontispiece from Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773).

The African-American poet Phillis Wheatley has achieved iconic status in American culture. A 174-word letter from her to a fellow servant of African descent in 1776 sold at auction in 2005 for $253,000, well over double what it had been expected to fetch, and the highest price ever paid for a letter by a woman of African descent. Elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the United States bear her name. A prominent statue in Boston memorializes her. Wheatley is the subject of numerous recent stories written for children and adolescents. Googling “Phillis Wheatley” turns up about 665,000 items.

The author we now know as Phillis Wheatley was born around 1753 somewhere in West Africa, probably between present-day Gambia and Ghana. She was forced to endure the Middle Passage from Africa to America when she was about seven or eight years old, and brought to Boston, where she was sold as a domestic servant to John and Susanna Wheatley. They called her Phillis, after the name of the slave ship that brought her from Africa. Encouraged by her owners, Phillis Wheatley quickly became literate and began writing poetry that soon found its way into local newspapers. Notwithstanding the prejudices against her race, social status, gender, and age, Wheatley became the first published woman of African descent in 1767. She gained international recognition with her funeral elegy on the death of the evangelist George Whitefield, addressed to his English patron, the Countess of Huntingdon, and published in Boston and London in 1770. By 1772 Wheatley had written enough poems to enable her to try to capitalize on her growing transatlantic reputation by producing a book of previously published and new works. Unable to find a publisher in Boston, in part because of racial prejudice, Wheatley and her owners successfully sought a London publisher and Huntingdon’s patronage in 1773 for her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.

Letter from John Wheatley to the English publisher as featured in Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773)

Phillis Wheatley’s trip to London with her master’s son to arrange for the publication of her book was a turning point in her personal and professional lives. Her six-week stay in London enabled her to establish a network of associations that included many of the militarily, politically, religiously, and socially most important people in North America and Britain She arrived in England a year after a court decision declared that slave owners could not legally compel their slaves to return to the colonies. Phillis returned to Boston shortly before her book was published. Within a month of her return she wrote a friend that she had been freed “at the desire of my friends in England.” She had apparently agreed to return only after her owner was compelled to promise to free her if she did.

The assertiveness that Phillis probably displayed in her dealings with Nathaniel Wheatley was anticipated more subtly in her Poems. Wheatley does not hesitate in Poems to proclaim her African heritage. Her opening poem, “To Maecenas,” thanks her unnamed patron, loosely imitating Classical models such as Virgil and Horace’s poems dedicated to Maecenas, the Roman politician and patron of the arts. Emphasizing in a footnote that the Classical Roman poet Terence “was an African by birth,” Wheatley implies that her “Maecenas” has enabled her to claim a place in the Western literary tradition, which has included Africans since its beginning. Elsewhere in her poems, Wheatley appropriates the persona of authority or power normally associated with men and her social superiors. For example, in “To the University of Cambridge, in New-England,” first composed when she was about fifteen years old, Wheatley speaks as a teacher to students, or a minister to his flock, in addressing the young men of what was to become Harvard University, many of whom were being trained there to become ministers themselves.

Several of Wheatley’s poems demonstrate a nuanced treatment of slavery unrecognized by some of her critics. For example, written in October 1772 to celebrate Dartmouth’s appointment the previous August, “To the Right Honourable WILLIAM, Earl of Dartmouth, His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for North America, &c.” is one of the most carefully crafted poems in the 1773 volume. In it Wheatley re-appropriates the concept of slavery from its common metaphorical use in the colonial rhetoric of discontent, which described any perceived limitation on colonial rights and liberty as an attempt by England to “enslave” (white) Americans. Wheatley appears to use slavery in this conventional sense in the poem:

No more, America, in mournful strain
Of wrongs, and grievance unredress’d complain,
No longer shall thou dread the iron chain,
Which wanton Tyranny with lawless hand
Had made, and with it meant t’enslave the land.

But Wheatley’s reference to her authority to speak against this conventionally metaphorical slavery reminds her readers of the reality of chattel slavery trivialized by the political metaphor:

Should you, my lord, while you peruse my song,
Wonder from whence my love of Freedom sprung,
Whence flow these wishes for the common good,
By feeling hearts alone best understood,
I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate
Was snatch’d from Afric’s fancy’d happy seat
. . . .
Such, such my case. And can I then but pray
Others may never feel tyrannic sway?

Having gone to England as an enslaved African Briton, Wheatley returned to the colonies prepared to embrace the free African-American identity that the American Revolution soon made available to her. Her anti-slavery stance became more overt once she was free than in her poems published while she had been enslaved. She denounces slave owners as “Modern Egyptians” in a letter to the Indian Presbyterian minister Samson Occom that was widely reprinted in newspapers in March 1774 throughout New England, as well as in Canada. Wheatley increasingly came to believe that the colonial struggle for freedom from Britain would lead to the end of slavery in the former colonies. In her poem “To His Excellency General Washington” Wheatley pledged her allegiance in 1776 to the revolutionary cause, hoping that even the most eminent slave owner in North America would ultimately apply the revolutionary ideology of equality and liberty to people of African as well as European descent. In the poem “On the Death of General Wooster,” included in a letter to Wooster’s widow, Mary, on July 15, 1778, Wheatley exclaims, “But how, presumptuous shall we hope to find/Divine acceptance with th’Almighty mind—/While yet (O deed ungenerous!) they disgrace/And hold in bondage Afric’s blameless race?”

Portrait of Phillis Wheatley which appeared in Revue des Colonies in Paris between 1834 and 1842 (Source: Schomburg Center)

The hopes that Phillis Wheatley brought home with her from England were soon frustrated. She did not live to see the enfranchisement of her fellow people of African descent. Nor was she able to publish a second volume. Susanna Wheatley died within months of Phillis’s return from London. Phillis married John Peters, a free black, on Thanksgiving Day, 1778, eight months after John Wheatley died. Although the marriage of Phillis and John Peters was initially prosperous, they soon fell victim to the general economic depression that followed the war. Peters, who at various times in his life advertised himself as a lawyer, physician, and gentleman was repeatedly jailed for debt. He was probably in prison when Phillis died on 5 December 1784, when she was about thirty-one years old. The cause of her death is unknown, but it may have been related to the “Asthmatic complaint” she suffered from in previous winters. The first American edition of her Poems was not published until 1786, in Philadelphia.

Wheatley was the first person of African descent to publish a book, and consequently the first international celebrity of African descent. She also founded the literary tradition of English-speaking authors of African descent. Although Wheatley never met her contemporaries Jupiter Hammon, an enslaved African-American poet, Philip Quaque, an African-born Christian missionary to Africa, or Ignatius Sancho, a renowned contemporaneous African-British author, they all knew of her and her writings. Sancho called her a “Genius in Bondage.”

Eighteenth-century opponents of the transatlantic slave trade, as well as nineteenth-century ante-bellum American abolitionists, cited Wheatley’s poetry as proof of the humanity, equality, and literary talents of people of African descent. But she and her work have not always been so highly valued. Arguments about the significance of Wheatley and her writings, from her own lifetime on, reflect the evolving re-assessment of African-American and African-British culture. Some commentators, black as well as white, questioned the literary quality of her writings, or the political and social significance of her life, in support of their own ideological positions on whether and how people of African descent should produce literature. The most notorious was Thomas Jefferson, who denied that she was a poet. During the period from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s, a number of critics expressed neo-Jeffersonian denunciations of Wheatley’s literary abilities, as well as of her racial loyalty.

Phillis Wheatley’s place in the developing tradition of early transatlantic literature by people of African descent, and her role as the mother of African-American literature are now finally secure. The many ways in which she subtly and indirectly confronted the issues of racism, sexism, and slavery have been increasingly appreciated. The prophecy offered by the pseudonymous “Matilda” in “On Reading the Poems of Phillis Wheatley, the African Poetess” (New York Magazine, October 1796) has been realized:

A PHILLIS rises, and the world no more Denies the sacred right to mental pow’r;
While, Heav’n-inspir’d, she proves her Country’s claim
To Freedom, and her own to deathless Fame.



Vincent Carretta is a professor of English at the University of Maryland. He is the author of Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage (University of Georgia Press, 2011), and the editor of Phillis Wheatley: Complete Writings (Penguin Classics) (Penguin Putnam Inc., 2001).


Links to Works


Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/02/06/phillis-wheatley-an-eighteenth-century-genius-in-bondage/