The Public Domain Review

This is just an automatic copy of Public Domain Review blog.

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

Saturday 12 November 2011 at 22:07


The Eccentric Mirror: Reflecting a Faithful and Interesting Delineation of Male and Female Characters, Ancient and Modern, Collected and re-collected, from the most authentic sources, by G.H. Wilson; 1807; J. Cundee, London

Reports on a marvellous menagerie of weird and wonderful characters from the past and Georgian-present, including Daniel Lambert, a gaol keeper and animal breeder from Leicester, famous for his unusually large size, more than 50 stone, and the Polish-born 3-foot 3-inch Józef Boruwłaski who toured in European and Turkish courts, (and who incidentally met Mr Lambert amid much public interest in 1782).

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)

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/11/12/the-eccentric-mirror-reflecting-a-faithful-and-interesting-delineation-of-male-and-female-characters-ancient-and-modern-1807/


Kodak No.1 Circular Snapshots

Thursday 10 November 2011 at 14:18

Popular photography can properly be said to have started 120 years ago with the introduction of the Kodak camera, the invention of an American, George Eastman (1854-1932). It was a simple, leather-covered wooden box – small and light enough to be held in the hands. Taking a photograph with the Kodak was very easy, requiring only three simple actions; turning the key (to wind on the film); pulling the string (to set the shutter); and pressing the button (to take the photograph). There wasn’t even a viewfinder – the camera was simply pointed in the direction of the subject to be photographed. The Kodak produced circular snapshots, two and a half inches in diameter. The Kodak was sold already loaded with enough paper-based roll film to take one hundred photographs. After the film had been exposed, the entire camera was returned to the factory for the film to be developed and printed. The camera, reloaded with fresh film, was then returned to its owner, together with a set of prints. To sum up the Kodak system, Eastman devised the brilliantly simple sales slogan: ‘You press the button, we do the rest.’

(Images and text courtesy of The National Media Museum via Flickr)

















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.)

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/11/10/kodak-no-1-circular-snapshots/


Your Name Here (1960)

Tuesday 8 November 2011 at 10:10



Bizarre film from Calvin Communications, in which they satirise their own formulaic approach to industrial promotional films, showing how the idea of the “American Dream” is utilised to sell products. A real insight into the humour and tongue-in-cheek attitude lying behind a lot of the industrial films of the 50s and 60s.

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

.

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/11/08/your-name-here-1960/


Peter The Wild Boy

Monday 7 November 2011 at 16:15

Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces and author of Courtiers: The Secret History of the Georgian Court, on the strange case of the feral child found in the woods in northern Germany and brought to live in the court of George I.

Illustration from The Eccentric Mirror (1807) by G.H. Wilson

On the evening of 7 April 1726, George I’s courtiers crammed themselves into the drawing room at St James’s Palace. The room buzzed with their trivial chatter about balls and masquerades, everything seemed just as usual.

But a sensational event would make this particular palace party the most memorable in years. The doors opened to reveal a brace of footmen, bearing between them a grinning, bushy-haired boy. He was perhaps twelve years old.

There was something decidedly odd about this youth. For a start, he seemed not the least ‘embarrassed at finding himself in the midst of such a fashionable assembly’. Once lowered to the floor, he scuttled about using his arms, like a chimp, and scampered right up to the king. The courtiers were scandalised by his audacious lack of ceremony.

This was their first encounter with Peter, the curious ‘Wild Boy’. Green-eyed, with strong teeth, he had ‘a roving look’ in his eyes. He often giggled, and lacked the solemn and stately demeanour of the other courtiers. Strangest of all, he could not speak.

Everyone shared his delight when he heard a watch striking the hour for the first time, and Peter’s comical ways provided much amusement. But he also sparked off engrossing philosophical debates. His very existence raised the fascinating question of what it really meant to be human.

Peter’s unlikely journey to court began in the German forest of Hertswold. In 1725, local forest folk had come across a feral child, ‘naked and wild’. He’d been living all alone in the woods, eating nuts and acorns.

There was a general assumption that the Wild Boy was ‘rescued’ from the wilderness, but the more detailed accounts of his capture reveal that he was actually hunted down. He took refuge up a tree, which had to be felled before he could be caught. His captors didn’t know quite what to do with him, so they thrust him into the local ‘House of Correction’.

But news of Peter and his bizarre, speechless condition reached the nearby palace of Herrenhausen, the summer home of the German-born George I. The king ordered Peter to be brought from the prison to the palace, made him a member of his household, and took him back to London.

Peter the Wild Boy and Dr Arbuthnot painted by William Kent, at Kensington Palace - courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces (NB: not published under an open license).

Now the Wild Boy became a kind of court pet. Soon after his arrival, he was taken to Kensington Palace to sit for William Kent, the painter who was decorating the King’s Grand Staircase there with portraits of the king’s favourite servants. Peter’s painting still remains there today.

The courtiers were entranced by Peter, and a mania for the Wild Boy took off outside the palace gates as well. Londoners crowded to see the waxwork of Peter which appeared in Mrs Salmon’s celebrated gallery in the Strand. Writers hailed him as ‘the most wonderful wonder’, and ‘one of the greatest curiosities of the world since the time of Adam’.

Throughout the centuries, feral children like Peter have aroused feelings of mingled pity and fear. More seriously, Peter fascinated the intellectuals then exploring the questions raised by the Enlightenment. Philosophers were beginning to assert the primacy of reason over superstition. They even debated the very definition of a human being, and whether or not people had souls. Peter proved to be a stimulating test case. If he possessed no speech, did he therefore possess no soul? Was he really just an animal? Or was he an admirable and ‘noble savage’, who’d lived a life untainted by society? Jonathan Swift remarked that the subject of the Wild Boy had been ‘half our talk this fortnight’, and Daniel Defoe thought he was the most interesting thing in the world.

Illustration from Curiosities of Human Nature (1843) by Samuel G. Goodrich.

The Wild Boy became wonderful fodder for the city’s satirists. The few accurate facts about his life were soon forgotten or distorted in a deluge of pamphlets now printed about him. Ostensibly about Peter himself, their writers were really using him to mock the court, the courtiers, and even the whole silly race of men. The Wild Boy’s lack of worldly knowledge exposed the shallow foundations upon which fashionable society was built. London’s satirists invented more and more ludicrous transgressions that Peter was said to have committed: he licked people’s hands in greeting; he wore a hat in the king’s presence; he’d stolen the Lord Chamberlain’s staff.

Daniel Defoe joined in with his own wild cadenza of speculation. It would be a terrible indictment of the present age, Defoe argued, if the Wild Boy had actively chosen his previous way of life, to ‘converse with the quadrupeds of the forest, and retire from human society’. He was really suggesting that Peter was in fact the only truly sensible person alive.

Back at the palace, the Wild Boy soon began to show signs of distress. The first time he saw someone removing stockings, he was ‘in great pain’, thinking the man was peeling the very skin from his leg. The courtiers had enormous trouble in getting Peter into a new green suit. As well as the daily struggle over his clothes, Peter could not be made ‘to lie down on a bed, but sits and sleeps in a corner of the room’. These details of a little boy bewildered pierce the heart.

Illustration from Curiosities of Human Nature (1843) by Samuel G. Goodrich.

Peter’s tight court coat, cut much more restrictively than a modern jacket, prevented him from ‘crawling or scrambling about’, and he learned to walk. Eighteenth-century court garments were designed to make the wearer stand with shoulders lowered, chest puffed, and toes turned-out. They began to do their work upon the Wild Boy’s posture.

Eventually he grew used to his fine clothes. He also learned to pick pockets, from the most innocent of motives: ‘if he finds nuts or fruits, he is very glad of them’. This was charming and amusing. But when Peter stepped over the invisible line that defined acceptable behaviour, he was beaten on the legs with a ‘broad leather strap to keep him in awe’.

George I, exasperated by Peter’s wild ways, put him under the care of the medical doctor John Arbuthnot to be taught to speak ‘and made a sociable creature’. Dr Arbuthnot is another of the figures depicted in William Kent’s staircase paintings at Kensington Palace. He gave Peter daily lessons, but progress was slow as the Wild Boy had ‘a natural tendency to get away if not held by his coat’.

Peter did indeed learn to ‘utter after his tutor words of one syllable’. But he would never really engage with other people through language. Dr Arbuthnot had Peter baptised nevertheless, just in case he did have a soul.

Illustration from Wonderful Characters (1821) by Henry Wilson.

Even with the advantage of hindsight, it’s not exactly clear what Peter’s condition was. It is likely that he was autistic, and it’s been argued that he had Pitt-Hopkins syndrome. This condition would explain his learning difficulties and the remarkable Cupid’s-bow shape to his upper lip. Perhaps Peter was abandoned in the woods in the first place by a mother who considered him damaged or defective.

Eventually the courtiers grew bored with him, and Peter was sent to live in retirement on Broadway Farm near Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. There he lived a long and quiet life, remaining ‘exceedingly timid and gentle in his nature’, fond of gin, and of onions. He liked to watch a fire burn, and loved ‘to be out on a starry night’. In autumn he would still show ‘a strange fondness for stealing away into the woods’ to feed upon acorns.

Peter constantly visited by the curious, including the novelist Maria Edgeworth, who commented that in old age he looked just like a bust of Socrates. He was in some measure loved by the farming families who looked after him. After the sudden death of his last carer, Farmer Brill, Peter ‘refused food, pined away, and died in a few days’. It was 22 February 1785.

I have visited his grave in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Northchurch, near Berkhamsted, which is often laid with flowers by an unknown person. When I asked a member of the congregation if she knew who places the bouquets, I was moved by her answer.

‘We’ve no idea who leaves the flowers’, she said, ‘but it must be someone who thinks that Peter should be remembered’. And so he should be.

Peter's grave in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Northchurch, near Berkhamsted.



Lucy Worsley is Chief Curator at the charity Historic Royal Palaces, which opens the unoccupied royal palaces of London including The Tower of London, Hampton Court and Kensington Palace to 3.2 million visitors a year. Her book Courtiers: The Secret History of the Georgian Court was published by Faber and Faber in 2011. She has also presented a BBC television series on the topic of her new book If Walls Could Talk, An Intimate History of the Home (Walker Books, 2012). Please visit her website.


Links to Works


Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/11/07/peter-the-wild-boy/


The attitudes of animals in motion, illustrated with the zoopraxiscope (1882)

Friday 4 November 2011 at 11:37


The Attitudes of Animals in Motion, Illustrated with the Zoopraxiscope, by Eadweard Muybridge; 1882; W.M.Clowes and Sons, London.

Published lecture given by the pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge on March 13th 1882 at the Royal Institution in London in front of a sell out audience that included members of the Royal Family, notably the future King Edward VII. He displayed his photographs on screen and described his zoopraxiscope, a device for projecting motion pictures that pre-dated the flexible perforated film strip.



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)

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/11/04/the-attitudes-of-animals-in-motion-illustrated-with-the-zoopraxiscope-1882/


Apollo 11 Onboard Recordings (1969)

Wednesday 2 November 2011 at 13:30



From NASA: Apollo 11 Onboard Audio Highlights – These are not necessarily major milestones of the mission but are some of the more interesting and clearly recorded conversations the crew members had among themselves as the mission progressed.

(Use next track button to navigate between recordings).

Highlight clip 1
(mission time: 1:24-1:29, tape 11-03302)
As the crew members complete their first orbit of Earth after launch, they talk about the beauty of the planet below.

Highlight clip 2
(mission time: 003:03:48-003:04:00, tape 11-03348)
The crew members debate the color of the moon before, and after, they fire Columbia’s engines to enter lunar orbit.

Highlight clip 3
(mission time: 003:04:03-003:04:16, tape 11-03348)
After entering lunar orbit, the crew members are amazed at the lunar terrain as they fly 60 miles above the back side of the moon and await Earthrise and to resume communications with Mission Control.

Highlight clip 4
(mission time: 004:03:42-004:03:47, tape 11-03352)
As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin prepare to depart for the lunar surface in the lunar module Eagle, Mike Collins, in the command module Columbia, bids them farewell … and tells them to take it easy.

Highlight clip 5
(mission time: 005:04:21-005:04:33, tape 11-03330)
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin lift off from the moon to rejoin Mike Collins in lunar orbit.

These recordings are in the public domain because they were created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that “NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted”.

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)

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/11/02/apollo-11-onboard-recordings/


Engravings by Dominicus Custos

Tuesday 1 November 2011 at 11:13

Dominicus Custos (1560 – 1612), was a Flemish artist, printer and copperplate engraver, who specialised in depicting notable figures of his time – producing books akin to a 16th century “Who’s Who”. The most famous of these was the “Atrium heroicum” which he made between 1602 and 1604; a collection of 171 engraved portraits of rulers, nobles, statesmen, dignitaries, celebrities, military leaders and important businessmen of the time. See more here.




















































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.)

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/11/01/engravings-by-dominicus-custos/


On Benjamin’s Public (Oeuvre)

Monday 31 October 2011 at 15:58

On the run from the Nazis in 1940, the philosopher, literary critic and essayist Walter Benjamin committed suicide in the Spanish border town of Portbou. In 2011, over 70 years later, his writings enter the public domain in many countries around the world. Anca Pusca, author of Walter Benjamin: The Aesthetics of Change, reflects on the relevance of Benjamin’s oeuvre in a digital age, and the implications of his work becoming freely available online.

Benjamin's passport photograph from 1928 - courtesy of the Walter Benjamin Archiv, Berlin.

Walter Benjamin, a German-Jewish intellectual of kaleidoscopic abilities and interests – literary critic, philosopher, translator, essayist, radio presenter – has always fascinated academics and intellectuals. His dense academic prose, his unique reading of Marxism, his fascination with Jewish mysticism, but more importantly, his ability to capture some of the major transformations of the early 19th century Europe in a series of literal and temporal frames that distilled the very material which gave it consistency – iron, concrete, shopping arcades, new technologies such as photography and film, ideological propaganda – into words, earned Benjamin a cult-like following which continues today. Artists, philosophers, theorists from every discipline, continue to offer different readings and meanings to his work, which remains strikingly relevant to social and political transformations today.

If Benjamin’s public is mainly of an academic nature today, that was certainly not the case at the time of his writing. With his habilitation rejected by the University of Frankfurt, Benjamin was forced to survive outside of academia, and hence to write accordingly: most of his work appears in fragments – essays, short stories, journal entries, letters, newspaper and journal articles, radio broadcasts – which mainly appeared in the public domain through his journalistic and radio work, with the exception of a few pieces intended for publication by the Institute for Social Research led by Horkheimer and Adorno. This significantly affected not only his writing style – making most of it much more accessible to a larger public – but also his thoughts on the role of language and text. The fragmentary nature of his work, initially a result of financial and practical constraints, later became a trademark of Benjamin’s methodology, particularly obvious in his unfinished magnus opus, the Arcades Project.

Detail from a 19th century postcard showing the Passage Bellivet, Caens, opened in 1836.

Conceived as a catalogue of thoughts and images on 19th century Paris as the emblematic modern city, the Arcades Project brings incredible innovation not only stylistically – through the fragmentary nature of the text, which could be read and accessed in non-linear fashion – but also intellectually, by breaking the traditional frame of text which rests upon a necessary temporal and linguistic progression, and effectively establishing a new architecture which relies less on words and more on the images and material that those words conjure. Benjamin effectively reconstructs different Parisian frames, capturing them not unlike a photographer captures a scene. Each of these frames, as fragments of text, contains its own temporality, existing both in relation to but also independent from the others. By embedding the relevance of each frame into a temporality that emerges directly from the material it depicts – for example, by depicting the old Parisian arcades in ruin as a new type of architecture emerges – Benjamin creates a unique dialectic in which the present can never exist as independent from either the past or the future.

The Galerie Vivienne during the Bourbon restauration : 8 rue Vivienne, Paris 2nd arr. c. 1820, one of the arcades mentioned in Benjamin's Arcades Project.

The return of Benjamin’s work back to its original wider audience, the public domain, at this particular point in time, creates a series of new possibilities that Benjamin himself could not have envisioned. Internet technology and the ability to collect, categorize and re-arrange Benjamin’s fragments in an electronic publication form could perhaps provide Benjamin with a post-humos solution to his struggle to organize the Arcades Project in a manner that would both appease publishers and maintain its innovative framework. One can already imagine the possibilities of a new interactive electronic Arcades Project in which Benjamin’s fragments could easily be navigated through the click of a button, the text appearing as a digital image, a material fragment much closer to Benjamin’s original intentionality.

Benjamin’s obsession with sorting, filing, keeping tabs on his work, making copies of manuscripts to leave with different friends, carrying a copy of the unfinished manuscript of the Arcades Project with him to his death, as he attempted to escape Nazi-occupied France, shows his determination to protect his work, his hope for eventual publication for future audiences. This is an incredible opportunity to pay Benjamin the ultimate compliment, by finding and bringing together all the fragments of his work, many of which still lie undiscovered and untranslated, and bringing them together into the public domain, free from the constraints of the publishers on which Benjamin depended so desperately during his life.

The publication of his writings on technology, online, particularly his essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Its Mechanical Reproducibility’, but also his other writings on media, could not be more appropriate and relevant at this particular point in time. His essay on the ‘Work of Art’ has been used by many of today’s artists and theorists to understand the impact of digital technologies, as a form of reproductive technology, on art, culture and political mobilization. His arguments about the prioritization of the act of seeing, the increased speed through which information/the image in processed when reproduced by mechanical means, but also, the extent to which the technically reproduceable image is now completely removed from the actuality, and intentionality of the scene where it was initially created, remain strangely relevant today.

Interior sculpture display. at the Paris Exposition. 1900 - from Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection.

Street scene outside the Rue de Rivoli Arcades during the Paris Exposition, 1900 - from Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection.

The inability of perception to detect ‘authenticity’ – to connect the image with the original setting in which it was taken – had, according to Benjamin, important repercussions for how mass culture was re-imagined and potentially manipulated by different ideologies. Through technology, the image no longer stayed in the domain of ‘art’, but rather moved into the domain of ‘politics’. If film, the cutting edge technology at the time, served according to Benjamin: ‘to train human beings in the apperceptions and reactions needed to deal with a vast apparatus whose role in their lives is expanding almost daily’, one can easily apply a similar logic to different internet technologies today. Benjamin was however both admirative and weary of the technology of film, for the so-called ‘film capital’ could be used both in the interest of and against the masses. As we are increasingly learning today, same goes for ‘internet and social media capital.’

So many of Benjamin’s writings continue to carry important implications for the wider public today. It is perhaps high time that we remove the ‘aura’ around Benjamin’s figure – an aura built around limited accessibility to and tight control of his work – and return Benjamin and his oeuvre to his public.



Anca Pusca is Senior Lecturer in International Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the author of Walter Benjamin: The Aesthetics of Change and other articles on Benjamin which have appeared in Alternatives, International Political Sociology, Perspectives and the Journal of International Research and Development.


Links to Works


A selection of Benjamin’s writings are housed in German here at Wikisource, including relevant Internet Archive links.

If you are interested in helping get English translations of Benjamin’s works into the public domain then get in touch

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/10/31/on-benjamin%e2%80%99s-public-oeuvre/


Halloween Postcards

Saturday 29 October 2011 at 14:27

Happy halloween!

Images from the New York Public Library Picture Collection.





























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

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/10/29/halloween-postcards/


The Diary of a Nobody (1919 edition)

Friday 28 October 2011 at 12:39


The Diary of a Nobody, by George Grossmith and Weedon Grossmith; 1919 4th edition; J.W. Arrowsmith, Bristol.

This fictitious diary details fifteen months in the life of Mr. Charles Pooter, a middle aged city clerk of lower middle-class status but significant social aspirations, living in the fictional ‘Brickfield Terrace’ in London. The diary was written by George Grossmith and his brother Weedon Grossmith who also contributed the illustrations. It first appeared in Punch magazine through the years 1888 – 89, and was first printed in book form in 1892. Due to much of the humour deriving from Mr. Pooter’s comical tendency toward self-importance, the book has spawned the word “Pooterish” to describe the taking of oneself excessively seriously.

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)

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/10/28/the-diary-of-a-nobody/