11,000 Digitized Books From 1923 Are Now Available Online at the Internet Archive

Whether your inter­est is in win­ning argu­ments online or con­sid­er­ably deep­en­ing your knowl­edge of world cul­tur­al and intel­lec­tu­al his­to­ry, you will be very well-served by at least one gov­ern­ment agency from now into the fore­see­able future. Thanks to the expi­ra­tion of the so-called “Micky Mouse Pro­tec­tion Act,” the U.S. Copy­right Office will release a year’s worth of art, lit­er­a­ture, schol­ar­ship, pho­tog­ra­phy, film, etc. into the pub­lic domain, start­ing with 1923 this year then mov­ing through the 20th cen­tu­ry each sub­se­quent year.

And thanks to the ven­er­a­ble online insti­tu­tion the Inter­net Archive, we already have almost 11,000 texts from 1923 in mul­ti­ple dig­i­tal for­mats, just a click or two away.

A cur­so­ry sur­vey pro­duced Wm. A. Haussmann’s trans­la­tion of Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, Arthur Stan­ley Eddington’s The Math­e­mat­i­cal The­o­ry of Rel­a­tiv­i­ty, Wal­do Lincoln’s His­to­ry of the Lin­coln Fam­i­ly, cov­er­ing the President’s ances­tors and descen­dants from 1637 to 1920…

…Lynn Thorndike’s A His­to­ry of Mag­ic and Exper­i­men­tal Sci­ence, Vol­ume I, Chan­dra Chakraberty’s An Inter­pre­ta­tion of Ancient Hin­du Med­i­cine, Edward McCurdy’s trans­la­tions of Leonar­do da Vinci’s Note­books, Nan­dal Sinha’s trans­la­tion of The Vais­esi­ka Sutras of Kana­da, Win­ston Churchill’s The World Cri­sis, Hen­ry Adams Bel­lows’ trans­la­tion of The Poet­ic Edda, a col­lec­tion of Mussolini’s polit­i­cal speech­es from 1914–1923, and Thom’s Irish Who’s Who, which cat­a­logues “promi­nent men and women in Irish life at home and abroad,” but telling­ly leaves out James Joyce, who had just pub­lished Ulysses, to some infamy, the pre­vi­ous year. (It does include William But­ler Yeats.)

1923 turns out to have been a par­tic­u­lar­ly rich lit­er­ary year itself, with many of the 20th century’s finest writ­ers pub­lish­ing major and less­er-known works (see here and here, for exam­ple). Brows­ing and focused search­ing through the archive—by top­ic, col­lec­tion, cre­ator, and language—will net many a lit­er­ary clas­sic or over­looked gem by some famous author. But you’ll also find much in this enor­mous col­lec­tion of dig­i­tized books that you would nev­er think to look for, like brows­ing the shelves of a Bor­ge­sian uni­ver­si­ty library with an entire wing devot­ed to the year 1923.

The Inter­net Archive home­page looks as mod­est as it does ded­i­cat­ed, list­ing all of its top col­lec­tions rather than fore­ground­ing the huge tranche of new­ly-avail­able mate­r­i­al (and count­ing) on the 1923 shelves. But founder Brew­ster Kahle does not mince words in describ­ing its incred­i­ble impor­tance. “We have short­changed a gen­er­a­tion,” he says, “The 20th cen­tu­ry is large­ly miss­ing from the inter­net” (in legal­ly avail­able form, that is). Now and in the com­ing years, thou­sands of its sto­ries can be told by teach­ers, schol­ars, artists, and film­mak­ers with ever-broad­en­ing access to doc­u­men­tary his­to­ry.

Relat­ed Con­tent:   

An Avalanche of Nov­els, Films and Oth­er Works of Art Will Soon Enter the Pub­lic Domain: Vir­ginia Woolf, Char­lie Chap­lin, William Car­los Williams, Buster Keaton & More

The Library of Con­gress Makes Thou­sands of Fab­u­lous Pho­tos, Posters & Images Free to Use & Reuse

The Pub­lic Domain Project Makes 10,000 Film Clips, 64,000 Images & 100s of Audio Files Free to Use

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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