The Public Domain Review

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Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type and Borders (1874)

Wednesday 4 December 2013 at 17:41

Some select pages from the exquisite Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type, Borders, Etc. (1874), a specimen book produced by the William H. Page wood type company. Chromatic types, which were made to print in two or more colours, were first produced as wood type by Edwin Allen, and shown by George Nesbitt in his 1841 Fourth Specimen of Machinery Cut Wood Type. It is William H Page’s book, however, that is considered to be the highpoint of chromatic wood type production. As well as providing over 100 pages of brilliantly coloured type, the book can also be seen, at times, to act as some sort of accidental experimental poetry volume, with such strange snippets as “Geographical excursion knives home” and “Numerous stolen mind” adorning its pages. One wonders whether the decisions about what words to feature and in what order were entirely arbitrary. Thanks to the wonderful Bibliodyssey blog where we came across the book: visit the post there for more info on the book and a great list of related links. Housed at: Internet Archive | From: Columbia University Libraries Found via: Bibliodyssey Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: No Additional Rights Download: Right click on image or […]


Music manuscripts from the 17th and 18th centuries in the British Library

Tuesday 3 December 2013 at 12:49

CURATOR’S CHOICE #6: SANDRA TUPPEN FROM THE BRITISH LIBRARY Sandra Tuppen, curator of Music Manuscripts at the British Library, explores some highlights from their digitised collection of music manuscripts, including those penned by the hand of Haydn, Handel, Purcell, and a very messy Beethoven. Ever since the earliest methods of notating music were devised, composers and scribes have written out music by hand – on vellum in the medieval period and subsequently on paper. (Only now is this beginning to change, with the advent of computer programs for music notation.) Even after the perfecting of music printing techniques in the 16th century, when music was printed using moveable type and later by engraving, and the burgeoning of a trade in music publishing, much music continued to be written out by hand and circulated in manuscript. Printing music was expensive, time-consuming and complex; copying out music by hand could be done relatively cheaply and quickly, especially when a few copies only of a particular composition were needed. In the 17th and 18th centuries, music was written out in manuscript for several purposes. These included the creation of ‘master copies’ from which further handwritten copies could be made when required, the provision […]


The Chinese Fairy Book (1921)

Thursday 28 November 2013 at 17:29

A book compiling seventy-four traditional Chinese folk takes, making, as the translator notes, "probably the most comprehensive and varied collection of oriental fairy tales ever made available for American readers".


Time and Place: Eric Ravilious (1903-1942)

Wednesday 27 November 2013 at 14:19

In many countries around the world the works of Eric Ravilious have come out of copyright this year – he died when his aircraft went missing off Iceland while he was making war paintings. An artist in multiple disciplines, his greater legacy dwells in water-colours. Frank Delaney re-visits the work of this understated, yet significant figure.


Caption Competition #3

Thursday 21 November 2013 at 17:15

“Sir Joshua Kindell’s reading device offers paperwhite pages and stores up to 12 books. Carry case available.” AND THE WINNER IS… FIRST PLACE “Sir Joshua Kindell’s reading device offers paperwhite pages and stores up to 12 books. Carry case available.” (submitted by Andrew Chapman, Oxfordshire, UK) SECOND PLACE An early depiction of a device for torturing book-lovers, known as “The Complete Works of Dan Brown” (submitted by Conductor71) THIRD PLACE Now if we can get this a wee bit smaller, we might have a chance against these ebook-readers… (submitted by Michael Hinkel, Heidelberg, Germany) Many congratulations to Andrew Chapman from Oxfordshire, UK, for providing the winning caption and being the well deserved recipient of a Public Domain Review tote bag! Learn more about The Public Domain Review Caption Competition by visiting the main competition page HERE. HELP TO KEEP US AFLOAT The Public Domain Review is a not-for-profit project and we rely on support from our readers to stay afloat. If you like what we do then please do consider making a donation. We welcome all contributions, big or small - everything helps! Become a Patron Small angel : £3.00 GBP - monthly Medium sized hero : £5.00 GBP - […]


Fortunio Liceti’s Monsters (1665)

Wednesday 20 November 2013 at 17:42

Highlights from the illustrations in the 1665 edition of Fortunio Liceti’s De Monstris, originally published, without the illustrations, in 1616. Liceti’s work, although not the first on the topic of deformities in nature, was perhaps the most influential of the period. In the wake of the book there was a huge rise in interest throughout Europe in “monstrosities”: pygmies, supposed mermaids, deformed fetuses, and other natural marvels were put on display and widely discussed, becoming the circus freak-shows of their time. However, unlike many of his contemporaries Licenti did not see deformity as something negative, as the result of errors or failures in the course of nature. Instead he likened nature to an artist who, faced with some imperfection in the materials to be shaped, ingeniously creates another form still more admirable. ‘It is said that I see the convergence of both Nature and art,’ wrote Liceti, ‘because one or the other not being able to make what they want, they at least make what they can.” Housed at: Internet Archive | From: Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: Pending Clarification Download: Right click on image or see source for higher res versions […]


Robert Cornelius’ self-portrait: The First Ever “Selfie” (1839)

Tuesday 19 November 2013 at 18:03

Today the Oxford Dictionaries announced their word of the year for 2013 to be “selfie”, which they define as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” Although it’s current rampant incarnation is quite recent, the “selfie” is far from being a strictly modern phenomenon. Indeed, the photographic self-portrait is surprisingly common in the very early days of photography exploration and invention, when it was often more convenient for the experimenting photographer to act as model as well. In fact, the picture considered by many to be the first photographic portrait ever taken was a “selfie”. The image in question was taken in 1839 by an amateur chemist and photography enthusiast from Philadelphia named Robert Cornelius. Cornelius had set his camera up at the back of the family store in Philadelphia. He took the image by removing the lens cap and then running into frame where he sat for a minute before covering up the lens again. On the back he wrote “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839.” Housed at: Wikimedia Commons | From: Library of Congress Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: […]


W.F. Hooley reads Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (1898)

Tuesday 19 November 2013 at 17:24

150 years ago today, on November 19th 1863, President Lincoln delivered his famous speech at the dedication of the Gettysburg Civil War Cemetery, a cemetery set up to house and honour the dead from one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War which had taken place four months earlier (the sad aftermath of which is pictured above in a photograph by Timothy H. O’Sullivan). Abraham Lincoln’s carefully crafted address was in fact meant to be secondary to other presentations that day, following on as it did from a two hour speech by the orator Edward Everett. Although Lincoln’s was only just over two minutes long in it’s delivery, it came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. In it’s short span, Lincoln reiterated the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and proclaimed the Civil War as a struggle for the preservation of the Union sundered by the secession crisis, with “a new birth of freedom,” that would bring true equality to all of its citizens. Lincoln also managed to redefine the Civil War as a struggle not just for the Union, but also for the principle of human equality. […]


Paintings in Proust (Vol. 1, Swann’s Way)

Thursday 14 November 2013 at 17:46

As a celebration of the centennial of the publication of Du côté de chez Swann (Swann's Way), the first volume of Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, we have put together a few highlights of the many mentions of artworks to be found in the first volume, Swann's Way, in which the narrator recounts his experiences growing up, participating in society, falling in love, and learning about art.


Lost in Translation: Proust and Scott Moncrieff

Wednesday 13 November 2013 at 17:06

Scott Moncrieff's English translation of Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu is widely hailed as a masterpiece in its own right. His rendering of the title as Remembrance of Things Past is not, however, considered a high point. William C. Carter explores the two men's correspondence on this somewhat sticky issue and how the Shakespearean title missed the mark regarding Proust's theory of memory.