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A Floral Fantasy in an Old English Garden (1899)

Thursday 10 May 2012 at 10:02


A Floral Fantasy in an Old English Garden, set forth in verses & coloured designs, by Walter Crane; 1899; Harper, London

Walter Crane (1845–1915) is considered to be the most prolific and influential children’s book creator of his generation and, along with Randolph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway, one of the strongest contributors to the child’s nursery motif that the genre of English children’s illustrated literature would exhibit in its developmental stages in the latter 19th century. His work featured some of the more colourful and detailed beginnings of the child-in-the-garden motifs that would characterize many nursery rhymes and children’s stories for decades to come. (Wikipedia)

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/10/a-floral-fantasy-in-an-old-english-garden-1899/


Guess the Celeb behind the Driving Garb (1906)

Wednesday 9 May 2012 at 11:52

Images from a 1906 issue of the French women’s magazine Femina, the first of it’s kind in France and which is still going today. These strange array of pictures are from a competition in which the readers were asked to identify the famous female ‘artistes’ of the day obscured behind a bizarre variety of women’s driving headwear. We at the PDR are not having much luck getting a single one. Can you fare any better?

(All images via Wikimedia Commons).



























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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/09/guess-the-celeb-behind-the-driving-garb-1906/


The Assassination of the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval

Tuesday 8 May 2012 at 15:58

Only once has a British Prime Minister been assassinated. Two hundred years ago, on the 11th May 1812, John Bellingham shot dead the Rt. Hon. Spencer Perceval as he entered the House of Commons. David C. Hanrahan tells the story.

Illustration of the shooting, artist unknown. (Source: Norris Museum)

On Monday 11 May, 1812, an unremarkable, anonymous man, just over forty years of age, made his way to the Houses of Parliament. The man had become a frequent visitor there over the previous few weeks, sitting in the gallery of the House of Commons and carefully examining the various members of the government through his opera glasses. At 5.00 p.m. on this particular day he walked into the lobby that led to the House of Commons and sat near the fireplace. No-one could have known that he was carrying, concealed on his person, two loaded pistols.

As it was a fine evening Mr. Spencer Perceval, the Tory First Lord of the Treasury, or Prime Minister, had decided to dispense with his carriage and walk from No. 10, Downing Street, to the Houses of Parliament. He arrived there around 5.15pm, entered the building and walked down the corridor towards the lobby entrance to the House of Commons. He handed his coat to the officer positioned outside the doors to the lobby.

As Mr. Perceval entered the lobby a number of people were gathered around in conversation as was the usual practice. Most turned to look at him as he came through the doorway. No-one noticed as the quiet man stood up from beside the fire place, removing a pistol from his inner pocket as he did so. Neither did anyone notice as the man walked calmly towards the Prime Minister. When he was close enough, without saying a word, the man fired his pistol directly at Mr. Perceval’s chest. The Prime Minister staggered forward before falling to the ground, calling out as he did so words that witnesses later recalled in different ways as: “I am murdered!” or ‘Murder, Murder’ or ‘Oh God!’ or ‘Oh my God!’

Amid the confusion, a number of people raised Mr. Perceval from the ground and carried him into the nearby Speaker’s apartments. They placed him in a sitting position on a table, supporting him on either side. Most ominously, the Prime Minister had not uttered a single word since falling on the floor of the lobby, and the only noises to have emanated from him since had been a few pathetic sobs. After a short time Mr. Smith MP, on failing to find any perceptible sign of a pulse, announced his terrible conclusion to the group of stunned onlookers that the Prime Minister was dead.

The Assassination of Spencer Perceval, illustration by Walter Stanley Paget (1861-1908) from Cassell's Illustrated History of England. Vol.5 (1909)

Before long Mr. William Lynn, a surgeon situated at No. 15 Great George Street, arrived on the scene and confirmed that Mr. Smith was indeed correct. The surgeon noted the blood all over the deceased Prime Minister’s coat and white waistcoat. His examination of the body revealed a wound on the left side of the chest over the fourth rib. It was obvious that a rather large pistol ball had entered there. Mr. Lynn probed an instrument into the wound and found that it went downwards and inwards towards the heart. The wound was more than three inches deep. The Prime Minister, who was not yet fifty years of age, left behind a widow, Jane, and twelve children.

In the shock of what had happened, the assassin was almost forgotten. The man had not attempted to escape as he might well have done amid the confusion. Instead, he had returned quietly to his seat beside the fireplace. The identity of the man was revealed as John Bellingham, not a violent radical but a businessman from Liverpool. The details of his story soon began to emerge. As a result of a dispute with some Russian Businessmen, Bellingham had been imprisoned in Russia in 1804 accused of owing a debt. He had been held in various prisons there for the next 5 years. Throughout all of this time he had pleaded with the British authorities for assistance in fighting his cause for justice. He believed that they had not given his case sufficient attention.

Bellingham was finally released from gaol and returned to England in 1809 a very bitter man. He felt deep resentment against the British authorities and immediately set about seeking financial compensation from them for his suffering and loss of business. Once again, however, Bellingham felt that he was being ignored. He petitioned the Foreign Secretary, the Treasury, the Privy Council, the Prime Minister, even the Prince Regent, but all to no avail. No one was willing to hear his case for compensation. Finally, he came to the insane decision that the only way for him to get a hearing in court was to shoot the Prime Minister.

Detail from a painting of The Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, in the year of his death, 1812, by George Francis Joseph. (Source: National Portrait Gallery)

On the Friday following the assassination of the Prime Minister, John Bellingham did indeed get his day in court, but only to answer a charge of murder. His trial took place in a packed court room at the Old Bailey, presided over by Sir James Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. The tall, thin Bellingham came before the court wearing dark nankeen trousers, a yellow waistcoat with black stripes and a brown greatcoat. The members of his defence team first attempted to get the trial postponed on the grounds that they had not been given sufficient time to prepare for the case. Mr. Peter Alley, Bellingham’s chief counsel, told the court that he had only been given the case the day before and that he had never even met Mr. Bellingham until that very day. He asserted that given adequate time, in particular to find medical experts and witnesses in Liverpool who knew Mr. Bellingham personally, he was confident he could prove his client to be insane. The Attorney General, Sir Vicary Gibbs, on behalf of the prosecution, argued vehemently against any such postponement. Ultimately Mr. Allen’s request was unsuccessful and the trial proceeded.

The Attorney General set about dismantling the reason Bellingham had given as justification for his heinous act by arguing that the Government had been aware of what had happened to him in Russia, had examined his claims and had rejected them. He also rejected any notion that Bellingham was insane. He said that Bellingham had been well able to conduct his business and had been trusted by other to conduct theirs without any hint of insanity on his behalf.

Titlepage from the pamphlet 'The Trial of John Bellingham for the Wilful murder of the Right Hon. Spencer Perceval, in the lobby of the House of Commons' (Source: National Library of Medicine)

When his time came to speak, Bellingham continued to base his defence upon what had happened to him in Russia: his unjust arrest for a debt he did not owe and the failure of the British Government to assist at that time and since. Before outlining the details of his experience in Russia, he stated that he was pleased the judge had not accepted his counsel’s arguments alleging his insanity. He made it clear that although he believed what he had done to be necessary and justified, he bore Mr. Perceval or his family no personal malice:

Gentlemen, as to the lamentable catastrophe for which I am now on my trial before this court, if I am the man that I am supposed to be, to go and deliberately shoot Mr. Perceval without malice, I should consider myself a monster, and not fit to live in this world or the next. The learned Attorney General has candidly stated to you, that till this fatal time of this catastrophe, which I heartily regret, no man more so, not even one of the family of Mr. Perceval, I had no personal or premeditated malice towards that gentleman; the unfortunate lot had fallen upon him as the leading member of that administration which had repeatedly refused me any reparation for the unparalleled injuries I had sustained in Russia for eight years with the cognizance and sanction of the minister of the country at the court of St. Petersburg.

Bellingham was clear about where he felt the blame lay for Spencer Perceval’s death:

A refusal of justice was the sole cause of this fatal catastrophe; his Majesty’s ministers have now to reflect upon their conduct for what has happened. . . . Mr. Perceval has unfortunately fallen the victim of my desperate resolution. No man, I am sure, laments the calamitous event more than I do.

In the end, of course, his arguments for justification had no influence upon a judge and jury shocked by his horrific murder of the Prime Minister. The Lord Chief Justice even became openly emotional and began to cry at one point during his statement to the jury:

Gentlemen of the jury, you are now to try an indictment which charges the prisoner at the bar with the wilful murder . . . of Mr. Spencer Perceval, . . . who was murdered with a pistol loaded with a bullet; . . . a man so dear, and so revered as that of Mr. Spencer Perceval, I find it difficult to suppress my feelings.

He dismissed any idea that Bellingham might have been insane at the time of committing the crime:

. . . there was no proof adduced to show that his understanding was so deranged, as not to enable him to know that murder was a crime. On the contrary, the testimony adduced in his defence, has most distinctly proved, from a description of his general demeanour, that he was in every respect a full and competent judge of all his actions.

In such circumstances it is no surprise that John Bellingham was found guilty of Spencer Perceval’s murder by a jury that took only fourteen minutes to reach a verdict. On the following Monday he was executed and his body sent for dissection to St. Bartholomew’s hospital. He is remembered in history as the only assassin ever of a British Prime Minister.

Following his execution John Bellingham's skull became the subject of research for phrenologists, representing the head of a destructive personality. Shown here is a comparison of Bellingham's skull with that of a 'Hindoo', from A System of Phrenology (1834) by George Combe



David C. Hanrahan is the author of The Assassination of the Prime Minister: John Bellingham and the Murder of Spencer Perceval (The History Press, 2008). His other books include: Colonel Blood: The Man Who Stole the Crown Jewels (The History Press 2003); Charles II and the Duke of Buckingham (The History Press 2006); The First Great Train Robbery (Robert Hale, 2011).


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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/08/the-assassination-of-the-prime-minister-spencer-perceval/


The Memoirs of Count Boruwlaski (1820)

Monday 7 May 2012 at 22:04


Memoirs of Count Boruwlaski, containing a sketch of his travels, with an account of his reception at the different courts of Europe, Joseph Boruwlaski; 1820; Andrews, Durham

Józef Boruwłaski (1739–1837) was a Polish-born dwarf who toured in European and Turkish courts. Although not a nobleman by birth (the Count in his name did not refer to a real title), when Boruwlaski was fifteen and 64 cm (25 inches) tall he was adopted into the Eastern European aristocracy and taken into the care of Countess Humiecka. With the Countess he toured the homes of Europe’s elite including Empress Maria Theresa and the ex-King of Poland. In 1960 he travelled with the Countess to Paris where he frequented the court in various masked balls and pageants, reportedly impressing the ladies greatly, and entertaining crowds with his guitar playing. When Stanisław II acceded to the throne of Poland, he took Boruwlaski under his protection. When Boruwlaski fell in love with the Countess’ new companion, Isalina Barbutan, the countess threw him out but the King interceded on his behalf, gave him a small allowance and a coach to travel in, and with the royal backing he married Isalina. At first, Isalina, the child of a French couple who had settled in Poland, was reluctant to marry Joseph, but he bombarded her with love-letters and won her heart. At the age of 25, Boruwlaski stood 89 cm (35 inches tall), and five years later, measured 99 cm (39 inches), which was to be his final height. After further tours of Austria, Germany, and Turkey, he made his way to England with his wife, where he was presented to George IV and the rest of the royal family. He also met the Irish giant Patrick Cotter and the famously overweight Daniel Lambert. Although he was sometimes able to make a reasonable living from playing the guitar, the problems and expenses of touring sometimes wore Boruwlaski down. Money problems forced Joseph to display himself for money (which he found deeply humiliating) and to bring out three different editions of his autobiography, the last published at Durham in 1820. Eventually, in his advancing years, Boruwlaski accepted an offer to live in Durham, from Thomas Ebdon, organist of Durham cathedral. He died in Durham, on September 5, 1837, at the age of 97. (Wikipedia)

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/07/the-memoirs-of-count-boruwlaski-1820/


Illustrations of Ventilation (1869)

Saturday 5 May 2012 at 19:07

Illustrations showing movement of air through various rooms, from Lectures on Ventilation (1869) by Lewis W. Leeds. Images via Wikimedia Commons. The full book can be seen here on Internet Archive.

















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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/05/lectures-on-ventilation-1869/


First Film Footage From Space (1963)

Friday 4 May 2012 at 12:08



Universal Newsreel showing footage of the launch of a Titan II rocket in 1963 along with images from the unmanned capsule of the first stage being dropped. Beneath the falling debris of the discarded first stage the curvature of the earth is clearly visible: “Through the magic of the camera earthlings take their first ride into space.”

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.










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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/04/first-film-footage-from-space-1963/


Collection of Dances in Choreography Notation (1700)

Wednesday 2 May 2012 at 11:58

Images extracted from the latter half of Choregraphie, a book first published in 1700 which details a dance notation system invented by Raoul-Auger Feuillet which revolutionised the dance world. The system indicates the placement of the feet and six basic leg movements: plié, releveé, sauté, cabriole, tombé, and glissé. Changes of body direction and numerous ornamentations of the legs and arms are also part of the system which is based on tract drawings that trace the pattern of the dance. Additionally, bar lines in the dance score correspond to bar lines in the music score. Signs written on the right or left hand side of the tract indicate the steps. Voltaire ranked the invention as one of the “achievements of his day” and Denis Diderot devoted ten pages to the subject in his Encylopdédie.

The rest of the book, including a beautifully illustrated explanation (in French) of the notation system, can be viewed here in our Texts collection.













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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/02/collection-of-dances-in-choreography-notation-1700/


Choregraphie (1701)

Tuesday 1 May 2012 at 11:12


Choregraphie, ou, L’art de décrire la dance, par caracteres, figures, et signes démonstratifs avec lesquels on apprend facilement de soy-même toutes sortes de dances: ouvrage tres-utile aux maîtres à dancer & à toutes les personnes qui s’appliquent à la dance, by M. Feuillet, maître de dance; 1701; Chez l’auteur et chez Michel Brunet, Paris.

First published in 1700, this manual details a dance notation system invented by Raoul-Auger Feuillet which revolutionised the dance world. The system indicates the placement of the feet and six basic leg movements: plié, releveé, sauté, cabriole, tombé, and glissé. Changes of body direction and numerous ornamentations of the legs and arms are also part of the system which is based on tract drawings that trace the pattern of the dance. Additionally, bar lines in the dance score correspond to bar lines in the music score. Signs written on the right or left hand side of the tract indicate the steps. Voltaire ranked the invention as one of the “achievements of his day” and Denis Diderot devoted ten pages to the subject in his Encylopdédie. The book was translated into English by John Weaver in 1706 under the title Orchesography. Or the Art of Dancing.

See extracted images from the second half of the book over in our Images collection.

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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/05/01/choregraphie-1701/


A Farewell To Arms (1932)

Monday 30 April 2012 at 15:50



Film directed by Frank Borzage, and starring a young Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes. The screenplay by Oliver H.P. Garrett and Benjamin Glazer is based on the 1929 semi-autobiographical novel by Ernest Hemingway set during World War 1 about a rebellious ambulance driver who falls in love with a nurse after drunkenly going AWOL.

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.










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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/04/30/a-farewell-to-arms-1932/


Nehemiah Grew’s Anatomy of Plants (1680)

Wednesday 25 April 2012 at 13:10

In the 82 illustrated plates included in his 1680 book The Anatomy of Plants, the English botanist Nehemiah Grew revealed for the first time the inner structure and function of plants in all their splendorous intricacy. Find out more in Brian Garret’s article for The Public Domain Review – “The Life and Work of Nehemiah Grew” – which explores how Grew’s pioneering ‘mechanist’ vision in relation to the floral world paved the way for the science of plant anatomy.

(All images taken from University of Strasbourg scans here and here).































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Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/04/25/nehemiah-grews-anatomy-of-plants-1680/