The Public Domain Review

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

An Alphabet of Celebrities (1899)

Monday 24 September 2012 at 16:22

An Alphabet of Celebrities, by Oliver Herford; 1899; Small & Maynard, Boston. Intricately rhymed and beautifully illustrated alphabet book on the world of late 19th century celebrity. It ends up creating quite wonderfully bizarre a-historical scenarios by throwing names with the same beginning letter all in with each other – for the letter N: “N is for Napoleon, shrouded in gloom,/ With Nero, Narcissus, and Nerdau, to whom/ He’s explaining the manual of arms with a broom.” The book is housed at the Internet Archive, donated by The Library of Congress. Sign up to get our free fortnightly newsletter which shall deliver direct to your inbox the latest brand new article and a digest of the most recent collection items. Simply add your details to the form below and click the link you receive via email to confirm your subscription!

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/09/24/an-alphabet-of-celebrities-1899/


Bach’s organ works played by Albert Schweitzer (1935)

Friday 21 September 2012 at 16:50



Albert Schweitzer was a German (writing in French also) theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary. As well as his important theological work (he depicted Jesus as literally believing the end of the world was coming in his own lifetime), he developed various theories on music, in particular the work of J.S. Bach. He explained figures and motifs in Bach’s Chorale Preludes as painter-like tonal and rhythmic imagery illustrating themes from the words of the hymns on which they were based. They were works of devotional contemplation in which the musical design corresponded to literary ideas, conceived visually. Schweitzer’s interpretative approach greatly influenced the modern understanding of Bach’s music. His pamphlet “The Art of Organ Building and Organ Playing in Germany and France” (1906) effectively launched the 20th century Orgelbewegung, which turned away from romantic extremes and rediscovered baroque principles. In addition to his contribution to music theory, Schweiter also made many seminal recordings of Bach’s organ recitals. In mid-December 1935 he began to record for Columbia Records on the organ of All Hallows, Barking-by-the-Tower, in London – the recordings above. He developed a particular technique for recording the performances of Bach’s music known as “The Schweitzer Technique” which involved a new positioning of microphones. (Wikipedia)

MP3 Download
Internet Archive Link

Note these recordings are in the public domain in the EU, but may not be in other jurisdictions (e.g. the US). Please check its status in your jurisdiction before re-using.










Sign up to get our free fortnightly newsletter which shall deliver direct to your inbox the latest brand new article and a digest of the most recent collection items. Simply add your details to the form below and click the link you receive via email to confirm your subscription!

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/09/21/bachs-organ-works-played-by-albert-schweitzer-1935/


Illustrated initials from a German fairytale book (1919)

Thursday 20 September 2012 at 15:27

Illustrated initials from Deutsche Märchen seit Grimm (German Fairytales since Grimm), a German fairytale book from 1919.

(All images from an online copy of the book housed at the Internet Archive, donated by the University of Connecticut Libraries. Hat-tip to Pinterest user Michele Finnegan)















Sign up to get our free fortnightly newsletter which shall deliver direct to your inbox the latest brand new article and a digest of the most recent collection items. Simply add your details to the form below and click the link you receive via email to confirm your subscription!

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/09/20/illustrated-initials-from-a-german-fairytale-book-1919/


Mrs Giacometti Prodgers, the Cabman’s Nemesis

Wednesday 19 September 2012 at 12:15

Heather Tweed explores the story of the woman whose obsessive penchant for the lawsuit struck fear into the magistrates and cabmen of Victorian London alike.

Cartoon from Punch magazine, March 6th 1875, pp.106: (Source)

Imagine, if you will, strolling towards a Hackney cabstand in late 19th century London. Suddenly the cry ‘Mother Prodgers!’ echoes around the streets. The cab drivers scarper, leaving the stand empty but for a seemingly innocuous, overdressed woman: Mrs Caroline Giacometti Prodgers, nemesis of cabmen, zealous litigant and infamous music hall conversation topic.

Over the course of two decades she was to lead a one woman campaign against the notorioulsy truculent cabmen of London. She took to court the publisher of a major newspaper and even her own cook. Her stubbornness was caricatured in print and sung about in music halls. One desperate cab driver went so far as to burn her effigy on bonfire night.

Her first taste of life in the courts came in 1871, when she began proceedings to divorce her husband of ten years, an Austrian naval captain called Giovanni Battista Giacometti. The case set a precedent for divorces in which the wife was wealthier than the husband (the Prodgers family found itself with a considerable fortune through her mother, a wealthy heiress whom her father, the Reverand Prodgers, had married after rescuing her from drowning). The details of Giacometti v Prodgers would regularly make the papers, including such oddities as Mrs Prodgers questioning the legitimacy of her own children, presumably in an attempt to try and disinherit Giovanni from her family fortune. Following the actual divorce there were other legal wranglings. It was reported that her husband Giovanni had given up his whole career at Mrs Prodgers’’ request and that, after the divorce, he had taken her to court over non payment of a yearly settlement. The Prodgers family, taking his side, agreed on an additional several hundred pounds per year. Mrs Prodgers found herself again in court after failing to pay a shorthand writer she had, debatably, hired during the divorce proceedings.

It was soon after the divorce and its various spin off cases that Mrs Prodgers began her infamous crusade against London cab drivers. Her modus operandi was to catch a cab to a specific destination to which she knew the exact distance (she had familiarised herself with the cost charts), then ask the cabman to stop just at the point where the fare would change. Invariably the cabman would attempt to charge her for the next part of the fare, which she would dispute. One or other party would then threaten a lawsuit and she would continue to goad the often irate cabman into verbal abuse and swearing whereupon she’d immediately threaten another writ.

Chart of cab fares by distance from Waterloo Station: (Source)

She was remarkably successful and ended up bringing over 50 cases to court – many of which descended into farce. Reports on the various cases are packed with amusing incidents. There is extended banter over the use of her full name (which she always insisted upon). One judge suggests that it might be cheaper for her to purchase a carriage than keep returning to court.

In addition to cab related litigations she was involved in a string of court cases regarding other matters. She sued her dismissed cook for refusing to leave her house (and continuing ‘to sing about the place’). She sued a newspaper publisher for accidentally tearing her dress during an altercation after she refused to pay the full penny for a paper (which she thought she might be mentioned in). She sued a watchmaker for returning the wrong watch to her house. Her obsessive and sometimes bizarre activity in the courts did not go unnoticed.

In 1875 she had the dubious honour of having an effigy of her burnt on bonfire night, a ‘gigantic figure’ paraded around on a cab. The police intervened and arrested the cab driver – rather bizarrely on the charge of ‘begging’ (the accounts don’t report if Mrs Prodgers had any influence over the arrest). The judge dismissed the case saying that the cabbie was ‘acting as a showman for the amusement of the public’ and that it was merely meant as a joke.

Mrs Giacometti Prodgers appeared several times in Punch magazine. A satirical piece in 1890, the year of her death, coincided with controversial plans to fit each Hackney cab with a mechanical device to measure distances and calculate the cost of each journey:

A Autumn-attic happaratus
For measuring off our blooming fares!
Oh, hang it all! They slang and slate us;
They say we crawls, and cheats, and swears.
And we surwives the sneering slaters,
Wot tries our games to circumvent,
But treating us like Try-yer-weighters,
Or chockerlate, or stamps, or scent!
Upon my soul the stingy dodgers
Did ought to be shut up. They’re wuss
Than Mrs. JACKERMETTY PRODGERS,
Who earned the ‘onest Cabman’s cuss.
It’s sickening! Ah, I tell yer wot, Sir,
Next they’ll stick hup―oh, you may smile―
This:―”Drop a shilling in the slot. Sir,
And the Cab goes for just two mile!”
Beastly! I ain’t no blessed babby,
Thus to be measured off like tape.
Yah! Make a autumn-attic Cabby,
With clock-work whip and a tin cape.
May as well, while you’re on the job, Sir.
And then―may rust upset yer works!
The poor man of his beer they’d rob, Sir,
Who’d rob poor Cabby of his perks!

Such was her notoriety that the reverse of her name, Sregdorpittemmocaig, was used for a character in The Sunless City, a novel by J.E. Preston and Punch punnily suggested that she had penned her own book after the Hansom cab: ‘Hansom Is As Hansom Does’. She also made it onto the pantomime circuit when comedian Herbert Campbell performed a verse about her:

‘All great men have their statues and it’s but their due,
But I wonder why the ladies don’t have them too;
If they did, to the Academy I’d like to send,
A bust of Mrs Prodgers the Cabman’s friend.
Of all the strong-minded females she’s the worst I ever saw,
Oh, wouldn’t she be lovely as a mother-in-law?
At the corner of every cab-rank her flag should be unfurled
As a horrible example to this wicked world.’

The press painted a picture of a formidable if eccentric woman who should be avoided at all costs if one did not wish to encounter her wrath. One might speculate that a certain amount of misogyny and sexism fuelled by the women’s suffrage movement may have played its part in the press coverage and urban mythology. Had she been a man might she have been hailed as a champion of consumer rights, rather than dismissed as a caricature?

Illustration of a funeral cab passing outside the Old Bailey, from Omnibuses and Cabs: their origin and history (1902), by Henry Charles Moore: (Source)

One person who seemed to take her seriously was the explorer and Victorian polymath Sir Richard Burton, who entertained her in his house, and reportedly supported her campaign. According to Burton’s biographer Thomas Wright two of Burton’s cousins had a running family joke about the relationship between Mrs Giacometti Prodgers and Sir Richard:

At the (Athenæum) club he was never at home to anybody except a certain Mrs. Giacometti Prodgers… according to rumour, there was a flavour of romance about her marriage. It was said that while the laws of certain countries regarded her as married, those of other countries insisted that she was still single. However, married or not, she concentrated all her spleen on cab-drivers,…and having a profound respect for Burton’s judgment, she often went to him about these cab disputes, and, oddly enough, though nobody else could get at him, he was always at the service of Mrs. Prodgers, and good-naturedly gave her the benefit of his wisdom. To the London magistrates the good lady was a perpetual terror, and Frederick Burton, a diligent newspaper reader, took a pleasure in following her experiences. “St. George,” he would call across the breakfast table, “Mrs. Giacometti Prodgers again: She’s had another cab-man up”.

Sadly first hand anecdotal evidence does nothing to alleviate the true awfulness of her character. She appears to have been as rude to fellow members of the public as she was to porters and cab drivers. Upon being offered a cup of tea by another passenger on a ship she was travelling on, she allegedly replied “I have only had afternoon tea once in my life, and that was with the Duke of Sutherland”. Her arrival in various ports around the world was often reported upon in the local press – followed by a sigh of relief when she departed. Unfortunately one has the impression the same might be said about her departure from life in 1890. Her obituary as reported in foreign papers was blunt and concise:

Mrs. Giacometti Prodgers, the terror of London cabmen, is dead. Her habit was to drive the fullest possible distance for the money, pay the exact legal fare, and then cause the arrest of the cabman for expressing his feelings.




Heather Tweed is a multimedia artist and educator based in the UK. She has exhibited pieces widely throughout the UK as well as in New York, Tokyo and the Library Of Congress in Washington. She has worked with organizations including The British Council Cairo, Bristol City Council and Arts & Business. The ever expanding installation ‘Anubis Other World Tour’ has been visiting art galleries, caves and other interesting venues scaring, delighting and perplexing in equal measure since 1997. Her website: www.heathertweed.co.uk



Links to Works








Sign up to get our free fortnightly newsletter which shall deliver direct to your inbox the latest brand new article and a digest of the most recent collection items. Simply add your details to the form below and click the link you receive via email to confirm your subscription!

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/09/19/mrs-giacometti-prodgers-the-cabmans-nemesis/


Curiosities of Puritan nomenclature (1888)

Tuesday 18 September 2012 at 15:17


Curiosities of Puritan nomenclature, by Charles W. Bardsley; 1888; Chatto and Windus, London.

A fascinating look at some of the more bizarre names given to children during the 17th century in England. Among the names explored are “From-above”, “Free-gift” & “More-fruit” for unexpected additions to families; “Humiliation”, “Abstinence” & “Sorry-for-sin” to express those qualities considered to be virtues; and just the plain brilliant/weird/mean, such as, “Job-rakt-out-of-the-asshes” and “Dancell-Dallphebo-Marke-Antony-Dallery-Galleiy-Caesar”.

The book is housed at the Internet Archive, donated by the California Digital Library










Sign up to get our free fortnightly newsletter which shall deliver direct to your inbox the latest brand new article and a digest of the most recent collection items. Simply add your details to the form below and click the link you receive via email to confirm your subscription!

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/09/18/curiosities-of-puritan-nomenclature-1888/


Tarzan of the Apes (1918)

Monday 17 September 2012 at 21:46



The very first Tarzan film ever made, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original novel Tarzan of the Apes of only 4 years earlier. The film is directed by Scott Sidney and stars Elmo Lincoln, Enid Markey, George B. French and Gordon Griffith. It is considered the most faithful to the novel of all the film adaptations, though only tells the first part of the novel, the remainder becoming the basis for the sequel, The Romance of Tarzan (also from 1918 but directed by Wilfred Lucas).

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.










Sign up to get our free fortnightly newsletter which shall deliver direct to your inbox the latest brand new article and a digest of the most recent collection items. Simply add your details to the form below and click the link you receive via email to confirm your subscription!

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/09/17/tarzan-of-the-apes-1918/


The Hyginus Star Atlas (1482)

Wednesday 12 September 2012 at 11:03

Hyginus’ Poeticon Astronomicon is a star atlas and book of stories whose text is attributed to “Hyginus”, though the true authorship is disputed. During the Renaissance, the work was attributed to the Roman historian Gaius Julius Hyginus who lived during the 1st century BC, however, the fact that the book lists most of the constellations north of the ecliptic in the same order as Ptolemy’s Almagest (written in the 2nd century AD) has led many to believe that the text was created by a more recent Hyginus. The text describes 47 of the 48 Ptolemaic constellations, centering primarily on the Greek and Roman mythology surrounding the constellations, though there is some discussion of the relative positions of stars. The first known printing was in 1475, attributed to “Ferrara”, though it was not formally published until 1482, by Erhard Ratdolt in Venice, Italy. This edition carried the full title Clarissimi uiri Hyginii Poeticon astronomicon opus utilissimum. Ratdolt commissioned a series of woodcuts depicting the constellations to accompany Hyginus’ text. As with many other star atlases that would follow it, the positions of various stars are indicated overlaid on the image of each constellation.. however, the relative positions of the stars in the woodcuts bear little resemblance to the descriptions given by Hyginus in the text or the actual positions of the stars in the sky. As a result of the inaccuracy of the depicted star positions and the fact that the constellations are not shown with any context, the Poeticon astronomicon is not particularly useful as a guide to the night sky. The illustrations commissioned by Ratdolt did, however, serve as a template for future sky atlas renderings of the constellation figures. (Wikipedia)

(All images taken from The United States Naval Observatory’s Naval Oceanography Portal).









































Sign up to get our free fortnightly newsletter which shall deliver direct to your inbox the latest brand new article and a digest of the most recent collection items. Simply add your details to the form below and click the link you receive via email to confirm your subscription!

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/09/12/the-hyginus-star-atlas-1482/


The Coverdale Bible (1535)

Monday 10 September 2012 at 13:00


The Bible, compiled by Myles Coverdale; 1535; Merten de Keyser, Antwerp.

The Coverdale Bible, compiled by Myles Coverdale and published in 1535, was the first complete Modern English translation of the Bible (not just the Old Testament or New Testament), and the first complete printed translation into English. The later editions (folio and quarto) published in 1539 were the first complete Bibles printed in England. The place of publication of the 1535 edition was long disputed. The printer was assumed to be either Froschover in Zurich or Cervicornus and Soter (in Cologne or Marburg). In 1997 the printer was identified as Merten de Keyser in Antwerp. The publication was partly financed by Jacobus van Meteren in Antwerp, whose sister-in-law, Adriana de Weyden, married John Rogers. The other backer of was Jacobus van Meteren’s nephew, Leonard Ortels (†1539), father of Abraham Ortelius (1527–1598), the famous humanist geographer and cartographer. Although Coverdale was also involved in the preparation of the Great Bible of 1539, the Coverdale Bible continued to be reprinted. The last of over 20 editions of the whole Bible or its New Testament appeared in 1553. (Wikipedia) [edit]

Internet Archive link










Sign up to get our free fortnightly newsletter which shall deliver direct to your inbox the latest brand new article and a digest of the most recent collection items. Simply add your details to the form below and click the link you receive via email to confirm your subscription!

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/09/10/the-coverdale-bible-1535/


German Folk Dress (1887)

Friday 7 September 2012 at 12:29

Images from Deutsche Volkstrachten, Original-Zeichnungen mit erklärendem Text (1887) by Albert Kretschmer, a book detailing the folk dress of the peoples in areas covering modern day Austria and southern Germany. Albert Kretschmer (1825-1891) was known for his highly detailed drawings, watercolors and lithographs usually in publications detailing varieties of German and international costumes and historical clothing. In addition, he worked until 1889 as a costume designer at the Königliches Schauspielhaus in Berlin. (Wikipedia)

(All images taken from Deutsche Volkstrachten, Original-Zeichnungen mit erklärendem Text housed at the Internet Archive, donated by University of Toronto Libraries – Hat-tip to Old Book Illustrations Scrapbook Blog where we first came across the images).

Austria – Styria (Steiermark)



Austria – Pinzgau



Vorarlberg – Bregenzerwald



Tyrol – Bechthal



Tyrol – Uber Innthal













Sign up to get our free fortnightly newsletter which shall deliver direct to your inbox the latest brand new article and a digest of the most recent collection items. Simply add your details to the form below and click the link you receive via email to confirm your subscription!

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/09/07/german-folk-dress-1887/


The Last Great Explorer: William F. Warren and the Search for Eden

Thursday 6 September 2012 at 10:50

Of all the attempts throughout history to geographically locate the Garden of Eden one of the most compelling was that set out by minister and president of Boston University, William F. Warren. Brook Wilensky-Lanford looks at the ideas of the man who, in his book Paradise Found, proposed the home of all humanity to be at the North Pole.

Map showing the geographical centrality of the North Pole, from Paradise Found (1885), by William F. Warren.

The quest to find the Garden of Eden sounds like an occupation that should have fallen by the wayside well before the nineteenth century. No longer did the fanciful medieval geographies of Prester John, or Columbus, allow for the existence of an exotic, unspoiled earthly paradise. This was a newer, wiser age. We had conquered the wild regions of the world. And Darwin’s Origin of Species, published in 1859, was slowly proving that man and, say, the birds of the air, were not created all at once in a single spot on the globe.

Darwin himself dismissed the search for a geographical point of origins in his 1871 Descent of Man. He allowed that: “It is somewhat more probable that our early progenitors lived on the African continent than elsewhere.” But, he declared, there was also a large ape that roamed Europe not so long ago, and anyway the earth is old enough for primate species to have migrated all the way around it by now. So, “It is useless to speculate on this subject.”

Victoria Woodhull, feminist radical and free-love advocate, was less diplomatic in her epic speech “The Garden of Eden,” which she delivered frequently in the 1870s. Eden on Earth was nonsense: “Any school boy of twelve years of age who should read the description of this garden and not discover that it has no geographical significance whatever, ought to be reprimanded for his stupidity.” (Perhaps she was referring to the missionary-explorer David Livingstone, who had declared, while mad with malaria in 1871, that paradise existed at the source of the Nile, which he judged to be in the Lake Bangweulu region of Zambia.)

Livingstone was not the only one still looking for Eden. This brave new world was turning time-honored beliefs upside down. Evolution was suggesting that man had ascended over time from our less-intelligent, animalistic primate origins. But Christianity had been insisting for centuries that man had descended, through original sin, from near-divine heights in the Garden of Eden to the miserable, depraved society of the late nineteenth century. What was a modern, faithful person to believe? Enter William Fairfield Warren, distinguished Methodist minister and educator. As the president of Boston University, he knew science was going to define the future. But he was unwilling to give up his theology to the new discipline. How to knit the two perspectives together?

Counter-intuitively, Warren looked to Eden. He set about translating the Bible into science: Eden was “the one spot on earth where the biological conditions are the most favorable.” Genesis says Eden contains “every tree that is pleasant to the eye or good for food”; Warren posited “flora and fauna of almost unimagined vigor and luxuriousness.” He took note of a newly discovered fact: millions of years ago, the earth had been much warmer. He followed the uncovering of fantastic creatures at once familiar and mythical, like the woolly mammoth, the dinosaur, and the giant sequoia. He knew there was still one blank spot on the world map, a place where nobody had been. And he arrived at the inevitable conclusion: The Garden of Eden is at the North Pole. It made sense, in a way. Both Eden and the Pole had frustratingly resisted attempts to discover and claim them, despite centuries of dangerous, expensive expeditions.

Illustration from Paradise Found (1885), by William F. Warren.

Warren published this theory in 1881 as Paradise Found, The Cradle of the Human Race at the North Pole. The tome positively reeked with academic authority. There were long passages in French, German, and ancient Greek in the footnotes. He drew on his specialty, comparative mythology, which he described as “the science of the oldest traditional beliefs and memories of mankind.” He knew the great epic folklore of the Hindus, the Celts, the Chinese, the Persians. In the nineteenth century, this was a rare, esoteric body of knowledge, full of metaphorical echoes of Bible stories, objective “evidence” of Christian facts. The index of “authors referred to or quoted” in Paradise Found lists 580 sources — for 495 pages of text. Right next to Darwin there’s Ignatius Donnelly, who claimed that the lost continent of Atlantis was real; it was destroyed by the near-collision of the earth with a comet. His 1882 book Atlantis was wildly popular. (Donnelly had another theory — that Shakespeare’s plays might actually be written by Francis Bacon — but at the time that was considered too ridiculous to be taken seriously.) Some reviewers felt that Warren’s wanton citation did his argument no favors, but apparently many readers weren’t bothered.

The second printing of Paradise Found, released only months after the first, was peppered with testimonials. Warren wrote proudly of a “plain unschooled Bible student,” Mr. Alexander Skelton, a machinist and blacksmith of Paterson, New Jersey, who had independently arrived at his own “remarkably comprehensive and cogent” argument for a North Pole Eden. Warren bragged that one Professor Heer, a haughty Swiss paleontologist, claimed that Warren was plagiarizing him. He also published a testimonial from the British archaeologist, and faithful Anglican, Archibald Henry Sayce: “Provisionally, I may say that your view seems to me eminently reasonable…” (No matter that Sayce was actually referring to an earlier work of Warren’s, about the cosmology of Homer’s Iliad.) Warren’s theory was “rapidly superseding every earlier hypothesis” on both sides of the Atlantic— even if Warren did say so himself.

So it was a matter of confounding frustration for him that other Eden theories continued to appear. A German archaeologist, Moritz Engel of Leipzig, had the gall to publish The Solution To the Paradise Question simultaneously with Paradise Found. Engel’s Eden was an oasis in the desert outside of Damascus. His four rivers were flood torrents that disappear in the dry season, come May or June. Warren fought back: Engel’s Eden was ugly. It was as if Mr. Engel had never even read Genesis, with its picture of abundance and plenty! It was also narrow-minded, as if he never even noticed that there were “myths of the Happy Garden” found in dozens of other ancient traditions! Worst of all, Engel’s Eden was unscientific, making no effort to incorporate “the facts and theories of ethnologists and zoologists as to the beginnings of human life…. The time for studies of such narrowness as this is past.”

Warren’s insistence that the North Pole Eden was the overriding, authoritative account was sincere. But it may have been a little naïve, given the secret that Warren himself revealed on the very last page of his book: he didn’t actually think his paradise could be found. He writes, mournfully: “Long-lost Eden is found, but its gates are barred against us. Now, as at the beginning of our exile, a sword turns every way to keep the Way of the Tree of Life…” Arriving at Polar Eden, we could do nothing “but hurriedly kneel amid a frozen desolation and, dumb with a nameless awe, let fall a few hot tears above the buried and desolated hearthstone of Humanity’s earliest and loveliest home.” The only way to get back to Eden was in death, if we accept the sacrifice of Christ. Follow Jesus in life, and in death you can walk right past the cherubim with their flaming swords.

Frontispiece from Paradise Found (1885), by William F. Warren.

And just like that, despite his best efforts to be the last word on Eden, Warren had inadvertently opened the door for a whole new generation of Eden-seekers. They began to pop up almost immediately, and many even cited Warren as authoritative evidence for their own claims, just as Warren had done with his 580 sources.

It started with Warren’s own colleagues in the Methodist church. Reverend E. D. Ledyard announced to an audience of 5,000 at a retreat in upstate New York that Eden was rather closer to home. “In Chautauqua we see one place where Edenic privileges have been restored. Christ is the central figure here. Through the second Adam paradise is being regained.”

In 1890, a three-part editorial in the San Jose, California evening paper entitled “Garden of Eden: Its Position on the Globe Has Been Definitely Located” explained that California’s Santa Clara Valley had all the characteristics of an Eden—pristine state, perfect climate, and the giant sequoia. If Warren was so enthused about the sequoia, the writer notes, why didn’t he choose California? “In coming so near the truth it seems strange that the able scientific writer did not receive the true light as to the location of the original home of man.”

Warren can’t have been happy to find his work praised by Wyoming novelist Willis George Emerson, in the preface to his 1908 science fiction novel The Smoky God. The book claimed to be the true account of a Norwegian fisherman who in 1829 had fallen through a hole at the North Pole into the interior of the Hollow Earth — where the Garden of Eden is reachable by monorail. “In his carefully prepared volume, Mr. Warren almost stubbed his toe against the real truth, but missed it seemingly by only a hair’s breadth.”

Dr. George C. Allen, a Boston University philologist, took his colleague Warren’s word for it that Eden was at the North Pole. But he made one important modification. In 1921, he claimed that the North Pole moves entirely around the world every 25,000 years, so “careful mathematical computations bring the original paradise where Ohio now is.”

Warren himself, who died in 1929 at the age of 96, remained utterly, evangelically convinced of his original theory’s veracity. The North Pole Eden “has shown itself the supreme and inevitable generalization from all the facts of modern knowledge respecting man and the world. It has harmonized the oldest traditions of religion and the latest achievements of science…”

But a dead Eden and the promise of a more perfect afterlife did not satisfy the same kind of itch for a living paradise — an itch that had turned out to be peculiarly modern after all. Invisible paradise after death was too remote to be believed. And so a surprising number of twentieth-century thinkers continued to try to bring Eden down to earth. Reverend Landon West, an Anabaptist minister in Ohio, insisted in 1901 that the giant earthwork known as the Serpent Mound, outside Chillicothe, marked the site of man’s first transgression. Hong Kong Christian revolutionary Tse Tsan Tai believed that placing Eden in Outer Mongolia could help bring about an end to World War I. Libertarian lawyer Elvy Edison Callaway used numerology to prove that God had made man in the Florida Panhandle; in 1956 he opened a park for all to visit. And like William Warren, each of these seekers were working to synthesize their time-honored religious beliefs with the requirements of modern science. That’s a quest that continues to this day.




Brook Wilensky-Lanford is the author of Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden (Grove Press), just out in paperback. She writes about religion and culture for the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Lapham’s Quarterly, and Killing the Buddha, where she is an editor.


Links to works








Sign up to get our free fortnightly newsletter which shall deliver direct to your inbox the latest brand new article and a digest of the most recent collection items. Simply add your details to the form below and click the link you receive via email to confirm your subscription!

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/09/06/the-last-great-explorer-william-f-warren-and-the-search-for-eden/