The Public Domain Review

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The Turns of the Turnverein: Heinrich Hamann’s Gymnastic Photographs (ca. 1902)

Tuesday 27 September 2022 at 15:08

More than a set of techniques to improve individual fitness, Johann Friedrich Ludwig Christoph Jahn’s gymnastics were meant to train a new form of body politic.


The Kumatologist: Vaughan Cornish’s Wave Studies (1910–14)

Thursday 22 September 2022 at 13:49

After a transformative moment on the Devon Coast, Vaughan Cornish devoted his life to the study of waveforms.


The Blood Collages of John Bingley Garland (ca. 1850–60)

Tuesday 20 September 2022 at 13:58

Some 50 years before collage would become an established art form, came these pioneering Victorian images all of which exude a certain decorative detail: blood.


Colonizing the Cosmos: Astor’s Electrical Future

Wednesday 14 September 2022 at 08:57

During America’s Gilded Age, the future seemed to pulse with electrical possibility. Iwan Rhys Morus follows the interplanetary safari that is John Jacob Astor’s A Journey in Other Worlds, a high-voltage scientific romance in which visions of imperialism haunt a supposedly “perfect” future.


Trimalchio in Newburyport: Timothy Dexter’s A Pickle for the Knowing Ones (1848)

Tuesday 13 September 2022 at 08:27

A strange 1797 text — in a personal eye dialect and entirely devoid of punctuation — written by the eccentric 18th-century businessman known for his wildly good luck.


Howard Pyle's The Mermaid (1910)

Thursday 8 September 2022 at 09:11

A year before his death, the artist Howard Pyle set off for Italy, leaving unfinished on his Delaware easel his final painting The Mermaid — a profoundly haunting work of art.


Phantom Bouquets: Two Books on the Art of Skeleton Leaves (1864)

Tuesday 6 September 2022 at 08:25

These two treatises detail the art of leaf preservation through “skeletonization”.


Jumbo’s Ghost: Elephants and Machines in Motion

Wednesday 20 July 2022 at 16:51

On September 15, 1885, twenty-five years after his capture in Sudan, Jumbo the elephant tragically died when struck by a freight train. Ross Bullen takes us on a spectral journey through other collisions between elephant and machine — in adventure novels, abandoned roadside hotels, and psychic science — revealing latent anxieties at the century’s turn.


Visualising Bubbles (1500–1906)

Tuesday 19 July 2022 at 21:24

Like the substance itself, which binds to all kinds of grime, soap bubbles make for sticky symbols, assuming disparate associations — from innocence to vanitas, physics to politics — in the history of visual art.


Peter Fabris’ Illustrations for William Hamilton’s Campi Phlegraei (1776–79)

Wednesday 6 July 2022 at 20:12

Hand-coloured plates of “the utmost fidelity” for William Hamilton's documentation of the late-eighteenth-century eruptions of Mount Vesuvius.