The Public Domain Review

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Tennis with Muybridge (1887)

Monday 2 July 2012 at 10:36

Plates 294 to 299 of Eadweard Muybridge’s groundbreaking collection from 1887 titled Animal Locomotion: an Electro-Photographic Investigation of Connective Phases of Animal Movements, a massive portfolio with 781 plates comprising of 20,000 photographs. In the preceding four years Muybridge made more than 100,000 images, working obsessively in Philadelphia under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania. The vast majority of Muybridge’s work at this time was done in a special sunlit outdoor studio, due to the bulky cameras and slow photographic emulsion speeds then available. One of his favoured subjects to show the human form in locomotion was the tennis player. (Wikipedia)

(All images taken from the Boston Public Library via Wikimedia Commons – clicking on the images below will give you options for higher resolution versions).


Detail from plate 294




Detail from plate 294
















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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/07/02/tennis-with-muybridge-1887/


France in the year 2000

Saturday 30 June 2012 at 16:38

France in the Year 2000 (XXI century) – a series of futuristic pictures by Jean-Marc Côté and other artists issued in France in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910, originally in the form of paper cards enclosed to cigarette/cigar boxes and, later, as postcards. They depicted the world of the future, in 2000. The first cards were produced for the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris. There are at least 87 cards known that were authored by various French artists.

(All images via Wikimedia Commons).



































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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/06/30/france-in-the-year-2000-1899-1910/


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Interview (1927)

Friday 29 June 2012 at 15:13



A 1927 Fox newsreel interview with the author and spiritualist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He speaks about his greatest literary creation, Sherlock Holmes, and his work in spiritualism.

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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.










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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/06/29/sir-arthur-conan-doyle-interview-1927/


Navaho Legends (1897)

Thursday 28 June 2012 at 12:30


Navaho Legends, edited by G.E. Stechert; 1897; American Folk-Lore Society, New York

Book from the American Folk-Lore Society compiling Navaho myths and legends and including also a lengthy introduction on the history, beliefs and customs of the Navaho people.

I. THE STORY OF THE EMERGENCE.

136. At To‘bIllhaskI’di (in the middle of the first world), white arose in the east, and they regarded it as day there, they say ; blue rose in the south, and still it was day to them, and they moved around ; yellow rose in the west and showed that evening had come ; then dark arose in the north, and they lay down and slept.

137. At To‘bIllhaskI’di water flowed out (from a central source) in different directions ; one stream flowed to the east, another to the south, and another to the west. There were dwelling-places on the border of the stream that flowed to the east, on that which flowed to the south, and on that which flowed to the west also.


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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/06/28/navaho-legends-1897/


A History of Mourning (1890)

Thursday 28 June 2012 at 11:21


A History of Mourning, by Richard Davey; 1890; Jay’s, London.

A history of mourning, burial customs, and funerary rites.

“Then occurred an event unique in history,” continues this naive contemporary chronicle. “The body of Inez was lifted from the grave, placed on a magnificent throne, and crowned Queen of Portugal. The clergy, the nobility, and the people did homage to her corpse, and kissed the bones of her hands. There sat the dead Queen, with her yellow hair hanging like a veil round her ghastly form. One fleshless hand held the sceptre, and the other the orb of royalty. At night, after the coronation ceremony, a procession was formed of all the clergy and nobility, the religious orders and confraternities which extended over many miles each person holding a flaring torch in his hand, and thus walked from Coimbra to Alcobaga, escorting the crowned corpse to that royal abbey for interment. The dead Queen lay in her rich robes upon a chariot drawn by black mules and lighted up by hundreds of lights.” The scene must indeed have been a weird one. The sable costumes of the bishops and priests, the incense issuing from innumerable censers, the friars in their quaint garments, and the fantastically-attired members of the various hermandades, or brotherhoods some of whom were dressed from head to foot entirely in scarlet, or blue, or black, or in white with their countenances masked and their eyes glittering through small openings in their cowls ; but above all, the spectre-like corpse of the Queen, on its car, and the grief-stricken King, who led the train when seen by the flickering light of countless torches, with its solemn dirge music, passing through many a mile of open country in the midnight hours was a vision so unreal that the chronicler describes it as “rather a phantasmagoria than a reality.” In the magnificent abbey of Alcobasa the requiem mass was sung, and the corpse finally laid to rest.


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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/06/28/a-history-of-mourning-1890/


The Polyglot of Bologna

Tuesday 26 June 2012 at 15:32

Michael Erard takes a look at The Life of Cardinal Mezzofanti, a book exploring the extraordinary talent of the 19th century Italian cardinal who was reported to be able to speak over seventy languages.

Mezzofanti as pictured in the frontispiece to The Life of Cardinal Mezzofanti; with an introductory memoir of eminent linguists, ancient and modern (1858) by Charles William Russell.

Without a doubt, the most important book in English devoted to Cardinal Giuseppe Mezzofanti (1774-1849), the polyglot of Bologna, is The Life of Cardinal Mezzofanti, written by an Irish priest, Charles William Russell, and published in 1858. When I first began research on hyperpolyglots, I knew I was going to have to spend considerable time with Russell’s book, which contains a wealth of information about Mezzofanti, his time, and his language abilities, not to mention other famous language learners. I had discovered the book by chance in the collection of the Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The only way to get the required time to hunt through its treasures was to get some sort of research funding, I thought. Soon I discovered that the book, because it is in the public domain, had been scanned and republished in hardcopy, and was also available for free online.

Before I say something about what makes Russell’s book so valuable for the hyperpolyglot hunter, let me say a bit about what a “hyperpolyglot” is. A hyperpolyglot is someone who knows six or more languages, according to Richard Hudson, a linguist at University College London. Some have criticized the word as an ugly string of syllables – the word “polyglot” trips off no tongues – but it’s useful for distinguishing ordinary multilingualism from the massive accumulation and use of languages that Mezzofanti and others displayed. For a long time, the hyperpolyglot was a sort of language learner whom many people had anecdotes about but who had never been investigated seriously. Is hyperpolyglottery a new kind of multilingualism, feeding off a globalized world of cheap communications? Is it a personal eccentricity, this passion or obsession for languages? Is it driven by a certain type of brain that remembers well, loves patterns, and finds pleasure in repetition? It’s all these things, to varying degrees, but to get my hands around the phenomenon, I was going to have to hunt for hyperpolyglots and start with Mezzofanti.

Russell begins by devoting nearly a quarter of the book to describing a menagerie of polyglot scholars, monarchs, missionaries, explorers, and warriors who knew many languages. That’s the “introductory memoir of eminent linguists, ancient and modern,” of the book’s subtitle. Methodically Russell lists them by region or nation. Most came from European countries, though Mithridates makes an appearance. Most are also men, though he devotes a section to women, including a Russian Princess Dashkoff, Cleopatra, and someone named Elizabeth Smith, who had taught herself French, Italian, Greek, Latin, Spanish, German, and Hebrew. Part of the chapter discusses infant prodigies and unschooled polyglots, such as the British traveler Tom Coryat (1577-1617), who walked all over Europe and Eastern Mediterranean countries, accumulating Italian, Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Hindustani, and probably a dozen other languages he had no use for at home. He walked two thousand miles in the same pair of shoes, which he hung on the wall at his hometown church as an offering.

The polyglot and traveler Thomas Coryat as pictured in the frontispiece to his Thomas Coriate, Traueller For the English Wits (1616).

Russell’s book is full of singular details like this, or the one in his capsule portrait of the American, Elihu Burritt (1810-1879), who “rose early in the winter mornings, and, while the mistress of the house was preparing breakfast by lamplight, he would stand by the mantel-piece with his Hebrew Bible on the shelf, and his lexicon in his hand, thus studying while he ate.” Dropping in mundane details don’t humanize as much they amplify the miraculous nature of the personage. It’s a stylistic trope from the hagiography that Russell borrowed.

In the same way, he sets Mezzofanti’s monumentalism against the gifts of all those lesser saints. “Cardinal Mezzofanti will be found to stand so immeasurably above even the highest of these names,…that, at least for the purposes of comparison with him, its minor celebrities can possess little claim for consideration,” he wrote. Over and over, he states that his goal is to assess the claims made for Mezzofanti’s language abilities and to measure, once and for all, the cardinal’s abilities. He resists the urge to recount anecdotes about him (though a few are too good to resist, such as the time that Lord Byron and Mezzofanti had a swearing match; after Byron’s stock was exhausted, Mezzofanti asked, “Is that all?”), opting instead to collate first-hand reports from native speakers who witnessed Mezzofanti using languages. It’s as if Russell wanted to singlehandedly rescue him from the cabinet of curiosities where he had been abandoned by science. (Even though Mezzofanti lived at the height of phrenology in Europe, his skull was apparently never an object of fascination, not while he was alive, anyway.) Russell scours the literature and solicits accounts from Mezzofanti’s contemporaries. Collecting them, he concludes that Mezzofanti spoke 72 languages to varying degrees.

Russell’s biography is also important as a counterpoint to three shorter, sharper papers delivered by Thomas Watts, who was said to know 50 languages himself, before London’s Philological Society in 1852, 1854, and 1860. His 1852 paper was the first time various accounts of Mezzofanti had been collected in English, the earliest from 1806. Over the next decade or so, Russell and Watts wrote about the other’s work with alternating praise and exasperation. While Russell’s biography “is not a blind and unreasoning admiration,” Watts writes, it “may still be suspected of being drawn with too courtly a pencil.” He then proceeds to take Russell to task for over-counting Mezzofanti’s languages, which he puts at “60 or 61.” Later Russell agreed with that figure, if one subtracted languages in which Mezzofanti had only a basic knowledge of the grammar and some vocabulary.

'Allegory of Grammar and Style' from Antoine Furetière's Nouvelle Allegorique, Ou Histoire Des Derniers Troubles Arrivez Au Royaume D'Eloquence Daatum (1659)

Unlike Watts, Russell had met Mezzofanti in Rome several times, the first time in 1841. At 67 years old, the cardinal was not feeble though diminutive, his shoulders slightly rounded; he had a full head of “almost luxuriant” gray hair. One day after a meeting in the Vatican, Russell heard Mezzofanti converse, “with every appearance of fluency and ease,” in seven languages: Romaic, Greek, German, Hungarian, French, Spanish, and English. Two years later, on another trip, he witnessed Mezzofanti’s performance at the annual gathering of students from all over the world at the Propaganda of the Faith. They got up and recited poems in 42 languages, many of which had apparently been looked at by Mezzofanti. (In the Mezzofanti archives in the Archiginnasio Public Library in Bologna, I found a great number of these poems written in Mezzofanti’s hand.) But the real performance came after, when students gathered around him and engaged him in their languages. Mobbed Mezzofanti spoke this language, then that, Chinese, Peguan, Russian, and others, “hardly ever hesitating, or ever confounding a word or interchanging a construction,” in a “linguistic fusilade.” Russell added, “I cannot, at this distance of time, say what was the exact number of the group which stood around him, nor can I assert that they all spoke different languages; but making every deduction, the number of speakers cannot have been less than ten or twelve; and I do not think that he once hesitated for a sentence or even for a word!” One hundred and fifty years later, the modern hyperpolyglot hunter has more tools for understanding Mezzofanti’s abilities than either Russell or Watts did. Yet we’re not much further than they were in focusing on a number of languages as the most salient way to characterize these sorts of language talents. Digging into the neurological questions – what sorts of brains do these people have, and are they different from other brains, and if so, how – it’s important to stay connected to the subjective experience of being someone like Mezzofanti. He wrote little about himself, but this poem, in English, which I found in the Archiginnasio, suggests that the modesty attributed to him (even as cardinal, he didn’t allow anyone to kiss his ring, as is customary) was not just another performance, and that the man himself wished to be on the periphery, not the center of attention.

Why do you ask my name?
Why will you have it here
Where many names appear
illustrious, known to Fame.
But since you are so kind,
I write it, and remind =
what World offers is vain
Oh let us Heaven gain!



Author and linguist Michael Erard is the author of Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners. Website: http://www.babelnomore.com.


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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/06/26/the-polyglot-of-bologna/


Novum Instrumentum Geometricum (1607)

Friday 22 June 2012 at 12:37

Illustrations from Leonhard Zubler’s Novum Instrumentum Geometricum (1607). Zubler was a Swiss goldsmith and instrument maker who is credited with introducing the use of the plane table into modern surveying. This book demonstrates the use of his instruments in techniques of triangulation, particularly in the context of warfare.

(All images courtesy of Deutsche Fotothek via Wikimedia Commons. See Wikimedia Commons for slightly higher resolution versions).













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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/06/22/novum-instrumentum-geometricum-1607/


The First Six Books of The Elements of Euclid (1847)

Thursday 21 June 2012 at 12:46


The first six books of the Elements of Euclid in which coloured diagrams and symbols are used instead of letters, by Oliver Byrne; 1847; W. Pickering, London.

Oliver Byrne (1810–1890) was a civil engineer and prolific author of works on subjects including mathematics, geometry, and engineering. His most well known book was this version of ‘Euclid’s Elements’, published by Pickering in 1847, which used coloured graphic explanations of each geometric principle. The book has become the subject of renewed interest in recent years for its innovative graphic conception and its style which prefigures the modernist experiments of the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements. Information design writer Edward Tufte refers to the book in his work on graphic design and McLean in his Victorian book design of 1963. In 2010 Taschen republished the work in a facsimile edition. (Wikipedia)

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/06/21/the-first-six-books-of-the-elements-of-euclid-1847/


Lambeth Walk – Nazi Style (1942)

Wednesday 20 June 2012 at 16:09



In 1942, Charles A. Ridley of the British Ministry of Information made a short propaganda film, “Lambeth Walk – Nazi Style”, which edited footage of Hitler and German soldiers from Leni Riefenstahl’s classic Triumph of the Will to make it appear as if they were marching and dancing to the song “The Lambeth Walk”. A member of the Nazi Party achieved attention in 1939 by declaring “The Lambeth Walk” (which was becoming popular in Berlin) to be “Jewish mischief and animalistic hopping” as part of a speech on how the “revolution of private life” was one of the next big tasks of National Socialism in Germany. The film so enraged Joseph Goebbels that reportedly he ran out of the screening room kicking chairs and screaming profanities. The propaganda film was distributed uncredited to newsreel companies, who would supply their own narration. This version is from the Universal Newsreel company: “The cleverest anti-Nazi propaganda yet! You will howl with glee when you see and hear what our London newsreel friends have cooked up for Hitler and his goose-stepping armies. The ‘Nasties’ skip and sway in tune to the Lambeth Walk!”

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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.










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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/06/20/lambeth-walk-nazi-style-1942/


Correct Postures for Housework (1920s)

Monday 18 June 2012 at 16:02

Series of photographs taken of Miss Ruth Kellogg demonstrating correct postures for various forms of housework. Photos taken by Troy for Delineator magazine. No date given, but Miss Kellogg was at Cornell 1921-26.

(All images courtesy of the Div. Rare & Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library via Flickr).





















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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/06/18/correct-postures-for-housework-1920s/