The Public Domain Review

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The Emancipatory Visions of a Sex Magician: Paschal Beverly Randolph’s Occult Politics

Wednesday 8 February 2023 at 08:07

Erotic magic, Black emancipation, gender fluidity, interplanetary spirit realms — these were but a few of the topics that preoccupied Paschal Beverly Randolph (b. 1825), an occult thinker who believed that his multiracial identity afforded him “peculiar mental power and marvelous versatility”. Lara Langer Cohen considers the neglected politics of Randolph’s esoteric writings alongside the repeated frustration of his activism: how dreams of other worlds, above and below our own, reflect the unfulfilled promises of Emancipation.


Many-Colored Misdirection: Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom (1909)

Tuesday 7 February 2023 at 12:39

An exposition on camouflage that believes all animal coloration is an attempt to blend in.


A Treatise Concerning the Properties and Effects of Coffee (1792)

Thursday 2 February 2023 at 12:34

Benjamin Moseley's treatise argues the multitude of benefits that come from drinking coffee, when the beverage was still relatively new to Europe.


John H. White’s Photographs of Black Chicago for DOCUMERICA (1973–74)

Wednesday 1 February 2023 at 09:50

As part of the DOCUAMERICA project, which sought to produce a visual record of the 1970s US, John H. White took stunning photographs of Black Chicago.


Introducing PDR Revisited

Wednesday 25 January 2023 at 15:19

We are revisiting older posts in our collection to give them some much needed love.


Illusory Wealth: Victor Dubreuil’s Cryptic Currencies

Wednesday 25 January 2023 at 09:53

After supposedly stealing 500,000 francs from his bank, the mysterious Victor Dubreuil (b. 1842) turned up penniless in the United States and began to paint dazzling trompe l’oeil images of dollar bills. Once associated with counterfeiting and subject to seizures by the Treasury Department, these artworks are evaluated anew by Dorinda Evans, who considers Dubreuil’s unique anti-capitalist visions among the most daring and socially critical of his time.


James Ensor, The Deadly Sins (ca. 1904)

Tuesday 24 January 2023 at 13:14

James Ensor's etchings of the seven deadly sins stage personal grievances and caricatures through grotesque, Christian symbolism.


Frost Flowers on the Windows (1899)

Thursday 19 January 2023 at 10:49

This forgotten monograph puts forward a novel theory: that frost is able to make “ice photographs”, expressing the form of objects near it.


Battles of the Sexes: Duels between Women and Men in 1400s Fechtbücher

Wednesday 18 January 2023 at 09:19

These manuscript illustrations from the 1400s raise a historically vexing question: did men and women really duel to settle judicial disputes?


Art Brut: The Scare-Fox (1910)

Tuesday 10 January 2023 at 10:48

A mechanical device, designed to keep foxes away from pheasants, which opens onto a story about American gamekeeping in the early twentieth century.