The Public Domain Review

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

Roundhay Garden Scene (1888)

Thursday 27 September 2012 at 14:45

Roundhay Garden Scene is an 1888 short film directed by inventor Louis Le Prince, considered to be the world’s first film ever made using a motion picture camera. According to Le Prince’s son, Adolphe, it was filmed at Oakwood Grange, the home of Joseph and Sarah Whitley, in Roundhay, Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, United Kingdom on October 14, 1888. It features Adolphe Le Prince, Sarah Whitley, Joseph Whitley and Harriet Hartley in the garden, walking around and laughing. It was recorded at 12 frames per second and runs for only 2.11 seconds. Le Prince later used his camera to shoot trams and the horse-drawn and pedestrian traffic on Leeds Bridge. These pictures were soon projected on a screen in Leeds, making it the first motion picture exhibition. After returning to France, in September 1890, Le Prince was preparing to go back to the UK to patent his new camera, followed by a trip to the US to promote it. Before his journey, he decided to return home and visit friends and family. Having done so, he left Bourges on 13 September to visit his brother in Dijon. He would then take the 16 September train to Paris, but when [...]

Source: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/09/27/roundhay-garden-scene-1888/


Spring Morning in the Han Palace (17th.c)

Wednesday 26 September 2012 at 20:30

(Image above is very long, scroll to the right within the image to see the whole thing) A 17th century copy of Spring Morning in the Han Palace, a famous handscroll by the 16th century Ming Dynasty artist Qiu Ying [Ch'iu Ying]. It depicts imperial life at its most idyllic. During the years of the Qing [Ch'ing] Dynasty, copies such of this of Qiu Ying’s painting were popular because they were considered an excellent guide to elegant behaviour. (Above image stitched together from images, below, on Wikimedia Commons donated by Walter Art Museum). 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/2012/09/26/spring-morning-in-the-han-palace-17th-c/


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)

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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.










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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)















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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



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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










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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.










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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).









































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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]

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