A Cabinet of Curiosities: Discover The Public Domain Review’s New Book of Essays


Many of the regulars to the glorious pages of Open Culture might be familiar with The Public Domain Review project, having been featured on OC a fair few times. From sixteenth-century woodcuts on how to swim to hand-colored photographs of nineteenth-century Japan, you will have seen links to all sorts of historical oddities and delights that we’ve gathered from various archives and highlighted on The Public Domain Review. In addition to these shorter collection posts, since we started in 2011, we’ve also published a steady stream of long-form essays on similar wonders from the historical record. It is with great pleasure this week to announce that The Public Domain Review has compiled a selection of these essays into a brand-new beautiful book!

Spread across six themed chapters – Animals, Bodies, Words, Worlds, Encounters and Networks – the collection includes a total of thirty-four essays from a stellar line up of contributors, including Jack Zipes, Frank Delaney, Colin Dickey, George Prochnik, Noga Arikha, and Julian Barnes.


There’s a whole host of weird and wonderful topics explored: from the case of Mary Toft, the woman who claimed to give birth to rabbits, to William Warren’s search for the coordinates of Eden; from Thomas Browne’s odd litany of imagined artefacts, to the phrasebooks of the invented language Volapük; from the strange literary fruits of the “it-narrative” fad, to epic verse in praise of a cat named Jeoffry; from a history of the painted smile, to the bizarre world of medieval animals trials.

The collection is not all obscurities and unknown tales. We have some big hitters in there too. Great essays on figures you will no doubt have heard of – the Brothers Grimm, Proust , Flaubert, Joyce – but all approached from new angles and illuminated by unfamiliar lights.

With 146 illustrations, more than half of which have been newly sourced especially for the book, this is very far from simply the website in print form. It is a beautiful object in and of itself, lovingly designed by writer and designer Nicholas Jeeves.

Anyhow, I hope I’ve enticed you all sufficiently to check out the page on the site for more details, and perhaps even to place an order or two! If you would like to grab yourself a copy then do make sure to put your order in before midnight on November 26th as up until then we’ll be offering the book for a special discounted rate and also ensuring delivery by Christmas.

Adam Green is the co-founder and editor of The Public Domain Review.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.