09/18/22

Reading Public Domain Ebooks

I recently finished reading A Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe’s account of the 1665 Bubonic Plague epidemic in London. Only took me two and a half years of living through a pandemic myself to read one of the most famous historical accounts of a plague. The book itself apparently sits somewhere between fiction and non-fiction, and was full of detailed retellings of the trials and tribulations of English people living through a Public Health crisis. While this book was written some 300 years ago (it was first published in 1722), it reads as a remarkably recognizable narrative for those of us continuing to live through the COVID-19 pandemic. There are stories of people fleeing the city, their run-ins with locals in the small towns dotting the countryside, the ongoing work of keeping those who stayed in London fed and employed, tales of sickness, quacks and scam treatments, people celebrating the end of the plague before it was over, and much more. Despite the writing style this book felt remarkably relevant to me and I recommend it to anyone interested in considering our modern moment, its relationship to similar eras in the past, and how people cope with large scale crises of sickenss.

I also wanted to be sure to mention Standard Ebooks, a great site I’ve been using to access public domain books. In addition to A Journal of the Plague Year, I am also making my way through Moby Dick and have a number of other works in my e-reader queue. The quality and attention to detail of these files is top notch and I really appreciate the dedication of this project to providing professional level files though and open source model. Promoting access to free culture, public domain materials, and classic literature is always a good decision!

06/10/14

The Public Domain on my Birthday

Today is the day of my birth, and I figure that there’s no better way to celebrate than by highlighting what Public Domain materials have to say about June 10th. While browsing the Wikimedia Commons page for this date, I found a relevant and very interesting image:

American Association of University Women members with President John F. Kennedy as he signs the Equal Pay Act into law, June 10, 1963.

American Association of University Women members with President John F. Kennedy as he signs the Equal Pay Act into law, June 10, 1963.

Look how happy all of those women look, not to mention President Kennedy! Is it just me or does his desk seem rather cluttered? I see an ashtray, other mementos, files, a phone, papers… I especially like seeing LBJ in the back of the group, overseeing the signature. Little did this assembly know that in just a few short years this date would catapult my being into existence, unleashing unkown forces upon the world (I kid, I kid)…

On a more serious note, I encourage everyone to investigate and explore what is available on Wikimedia Commons and other public domain repositories. Before this, I didn’t know that my birth date loomed so large in the story of the struggle for equal rights and pay in the United States. Now I know more about this law and discovered that I have some amazing access to a fine image documenting this day. Three cheers for the public domain!