The Public Domain Review – Online journal dedicated to showcasing the most interesting and unusual out-of-copyright works available on the web


  • Theresa Babb’s Photographs of Friendship (ca. 1898) – The Public Domain Review

    In The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendship, Marilyn Yalom describes the rise of the “new woman” in the late-nineteenth century, whose education, race, and class position created “a new model of friendship” that was “to last for much of the twentieth century”. She quotes a woman interviewed during this rise: “We live for our friends, and at bottom for no other reason.” Babb’s portraits do not fall neatly into this history, but certainly share the quoted sentiment. The groups of women she photographed are neither fully focused on the ennobling, moral uplift associated with “the serious New Woman” nor anticipatory of the “carefree flapper” that was to follow. Instead, we find joyful depictions of friendship among women, often on countryside outings, during a decade in US history remembered as “the gay nineties”. In the image above, Babb and three friends drink, heads thrown back, while lounging on a rocky shore. A fifth woman stares off toward the water, either comically posed in feigned disapproval or simply lost in thought. Several other images continue the theme, reflecting the pleasures of posing in groups. In a photograph captioned “Camping crowd at Ogier Point”, four women lean on each other, pulling faces for the camera; another image depicts friends and family of Babbs stacked on a ladder, with her sister, Grace Parker, on top.

    The activities are numerous: dancing, picnicking, dog walking, dinner parties, photography, bicycling, child care, hammocking, and naps on the beach are all represented. Spending time with these images, we start to feel as if we know Theresa Babb. And yet, in terms of biographical information, we know very little. Her husband was the treasurer of Knox Woolen Mill, Charles W. Babb, and her son, Charles Jr., succeeded in the family business, becoming President of the mill. On the envelopes that house the negatives of these photographs, Theresa Babb wrote detailed captions, small missives to some future onlooker.

    #Domaine_public #Femmes #Photographie

  • Clouds of Unknowing : Edward Quin’s Historical Atlas (1830)

    “Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps”, says the seafaring raconteur #Charles_Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899) ( “At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, ’When I grow up I will go there.’” Of course, these “blank spaces” were anything but. The no-man’s-lands that colonial explorers like #Marlow found most inviting (the Congo River basin, #Tasmania, the #Andaman_Islands) were, in fact, richly populated, and faced devastating consequences in the name of imperial expansion.

    In the same troublesome vein as Marlow, Edward Quin’s Historical Atlas painted cartographic knowledge as a candle coruscating against the void of ignorance, represented in his unique vision by a broiling mass of black cloud. Each map represents the bounds of geographical learning at a particular point in history, from a specific civilizational perspective, beginning with Eden, circa “B.C. 2348”. In the next map titled “B.C. 1491. The Exodus of the Israelites”, Armenia, Assyria, Arabia, Aram, and Egypt form an island of light, pushing back the black clouds of unknowing. As history progresses — through various Roman dynasties, the reign of Charlemagne, and the Crusades — the foul weather retreats further. In the map titled “A.D. 1498. The Discovery of America”, the transatlantic exploits of the so-called Age of Discovery force Quin to employ a shift in scale — the luminescence of his globe now extends to include Africa and most of Asia, but North America hides behind cumulus clouds, with its “unnamed” eastern shores peeking out from beneath a storm of oblivion. In the Atlas’ last map, we find a world without darkness, not a trace of cloud. Instead, unexplored territories stretch out in the pale brown of vellum parchment, demarcating “barbarous and uncivilized countries”, as if the hinterlands of Africa and Canada are awaiting colonial inscription.

    Not much is known about Edward Quin, the Oxford graduate, London barrister, and amateur cartographer whose Atlas was published two years after his death at the age of thirty-four. We learn, thanks to Walter Goffart’s research into historical atlases, that Quin’s images were more popular than his words. The well-regarded cartographer William Hughes rescaled the maps for a new edition in 1846, discarding their artist’s accompanying text. The Atlas’ enduring technical advancement, which influenced subsequent cartographers, can be found in its ingenious use of negative space. Emma Willard’s Atlas to Accompany a System of Universal History, for instance, features cloudy borders that seem very much indebted to Quin.

    Looking back from a contemporary vantage, the Historical Atlas remains memorable for what is not shown. Quin’s cartography inadvertently visualizes the ideology of empire: a geographic chauvinism that had little respect for the knowledge of those beyond imperial borders. And aside from depicting the reach of Kublai Khan, his focus remains narrowly European and Judeo-Christian. While Quin strives for accuracy, he admits to programmatic omission. “The colours we have used being generally meant to point out and distinguish one state or empire from another. . . were obviously inapplicable to deserts peopled by tribes having no settled form of government, or political existence, or known territorial limits”. Instead of representing these groups, Quin, like his clouds, has erased them from view.
    #cartographie_historique #cartographie #connu #inconnu #géographie_du_vide #vide #histoire #Tasmanie #fleuve_Congo #colonisation #colonialisme #Edward_Quin #atlas

    ping @reka @visionscarto

    via @isskein

  • On the Road : The Woman and the Car (1909) – The Public Domain Review

    In the early twentieth century, Dorothy Levitt, née Elizabeth Levi (1882-1922) was “the premier woman motorist and botorist [motorboat driver] of the world”. The first Englishwoman to drive in a public competition, she triumphed during races in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, defeated all challengers at the Championship of the Seas in Trouville, and set the women’s world record in the Brighton Speed Trials: a whopping 79.75 miles per hour — lightspeed, circa 1905.

    In Levitt’s “little handbook”, we find a similar hunger for the fraught freedom of the road that would eventually preoccupy the mid-century American imagination — exploited in novels like On the Road and Lolita, and in films such as Easy Rider — and which continues to provide a mesh of mechanist escapism in the British television program Top Gear:

    There may be pleasure in being whirled around the country by your friends and relatives, or in a car driven by your chauffeur; but the real, the intense pleasure, the actual realisation of the pastime comes only when you drive your own car.

    Above all else, The Woman and the Car endures as a pamphlet of petro-feminist empowerment:

    You may be afraid, as I am, of driving in a hansom through the crowded streets of town—you may be afraid of a mouse, or so nervous that you are startled at the slightest of sudden sounds—yet you can be a skilful motorist, and enjoy to the full delights of this greatest of out-door pastimes, if you possess patience —the capacity for taking pains.

    She ends her treatise with a reflection on recent historical progress. “Twenty or thirty years ago, two of the essentials to a motorist—some acquaintance with mechanics and the ability to understand local topography—were supposed to be beyond the capacity of a woman’s brain.” Levitt was not only instrumental in advancing equality behind the steering wheel, she also forever altered the automobile form. Decades before rearview mirrors became standard issue, she recommended that ladies carry a hand mirror, for holding up to the landscape receding in their dusty tracks.

    #Pétro-féminisme #Automobile #Féminisme #Domaine_public

  • The Cubies’ ABC (1913) – The Public Domain Review

    Trop fun cet abécédaire anti-cubiste.

    We tend to forget, now that the Cubists and Futurists have become as integral to the history of art as the painters of the Dutch Golden Age and the Italian Renaissance, how hostile most people — even most artists — felt toward the non-representational innovations of the artists on display at the Armory.

    For every open-minded viewer like William Carlos Williams, who later said he was “tremendously stirred” by what the show represented, there were dozens who felt more like the anonymous American quoted above — or like Mary Mills and Earl Harvey Lyall, who immortalized their disgust with “the Cubies”, stars of a novel alphabet book published sometime before the end of 1913.

    The mean-spirited, if sometimes hilarious, text of The Cubies’ ABC was composed by Mary (1879–1963), about whom nothing is known. The equally mean-spirited, if somewhat cutesy, illustrations were done by her architect husband, Earl (1877–1932).

    #Domaine_public #Cubisme