Beautiful industrial and architectural letterheads from a bygone era

Bibliodyssey has curated a beautiful collection of letterheads from 19th century and early 20th century architectural and industrial firms, doing a lot of cleanup and posting the hi-rez images to Flickr. The originals are from Columbia University's Biggert Collection.

The images in this post all come from Columbia University's very large assortment of commercial stationery (featuring architectural illustrations): the Biggert Collection.

The vast majority of the images below have been cropped, cleaned and variously doctored for display purposes, with an intent towards highlighting the range of letterform/font and design layouts. The underlying documents are invoices (most), letters, postcards, shipping records and related business and advertising letterhead ephemera from the mid-1800s to the 1930s.

Architectural Stationery Vignettes (via Kottke)

Fan video for Jonathan Coulton's "Down Today" made from public domain ballooning footage

Craig sez, "This is a music video I've edited for the song 'Down Today' by Jonathan Coulton (from his 2011 album, 'Artificial Heart,' produced by John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants) using footage from public domain films mostly found on 'No! No! A Thousand Times No!! - a 1935 Fleischer Studio animated short film, starring Betty Boop, 'Voyage à Travers l'Impossible' (The Impossible Voyage) (1904) directed by Georges Méliès, 'Le Voyage Dans la Lune' (A Trip to the Moon) (1902) directed by Georges Méliès, 'Le Dirigeable Fantastique ou le Cauchemar d'un Inventeur' (The Inventor Crazybrains and his Wonderful Airship) (1905) directed by Georges Méliès, L.T.A. History of Balloons (1944). More music videos I've edited for songs from Jonathan Coulton's excellent 'Artificial Heart' album. Stream or buy the album 'Artificial Heart' at Jonathan Coulton's website.

Jonathan Coulton - "Down Today" unofficial music video (Thanks, Craig!)

Trove of free, public domain HD video

Rick Prelinger sez,

I'm delighted to let everyone know about our newest Internet Archive collection which, for want of a cooler title, we're calling 35mm Stock Footage. Digitized from 35mm original negatives and release prints dating back to the first decade of the 20th century, these unedited sequences were shot for feature films but never used. Studio librarians saved them for use in future productions, and now you can download and use them yourself in a variety of formats, including 720p HD, absolutely free. As far as I know, this is Internet Archive's first all-HD collection.

In the first wave of materials: a trip across the George Washington Bridge in the late 1940s, a snake slithering on rainy ground, aerials of Hollywood studios, 1940s Southern California hotrodders, stunt flying, miniature airplanes crashing, the Staten Island Ferry in the 1930s, and much more. Much of the footage is "process plates" -- film shot for the rear-projection screens you see out of car, taxi and train windows in old movies.

We've also digitized HD versions of newsreels and short subjects from the 1920s and 1930s, and there are even French "primitive-era" silent films dating back as far as 1905. Please get lost in this collection, make your own movies with it (please upload them to Internet Archive if you can!), and keep watching for more.

Welcome to 35mm Stock Footage

Paul Brownstein Productions claims YouTube ownership of US government movie, could have Public Resource's YouTube account killed

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez,

Cory Doctorow wrote in the Guardian about our copyright problems on YouTube with FedFlix, a channel of U.S. government videos. On January 4, we protested one of the ContentID matches on a 1974 film called Pathfinder, which was paid for and produced by the Fish and Wildlife Service. A Hollywood shop called Paul Brownstein Productions had been monetizing the video by forcing ads in front of each viewing. After we protested, Paul Browstein Productions got nasty and forced removal of the video and gave us a so called Copyright Strike on our account. If we get 3 strikes, our account is cancelled.

It seems wrong for some individual to monetize and then remove a video produced by the U.S. government. Even worse, it seems really wrong for that individual to try me and convict me in abstentia with no due process or indeed without even an explanation. If SOPA passes, this is exactly the kind of arbitrary enforcement we're going to see. I think this is wrong and I hate seeing these poachers claiming the public domain, so I uploaded the video twice more.

Under the ContentID system, Paul Brownstein now has the option of declaring our two new uploads to be violations and the FedFlix account will be terminated on YouTube. Judge Paul holds his fate on our hands. We've had 10 million views on that account and another 10 million on the Internet Archive. Is it right for some individual to make that choice for all of us? Stop SOPA or we're going to live in that kind of world.

Judge Paul Called Me a Thief: I Was Tried In Abstentia, Convicted and Sent to Copyright School (Thanks, Carl!)

Color photos of Depression-era American small towns

The Denver Post collects some of the Library of Congress's best color photos from the early 1940s, chronicling Depression life in small towns.

These images, by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, are some of the only color photographs taken of the effects of the Depression on America’s rural and small town populations. The photographs are the property of the Library of Congress and were included in a 2006 exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color.

Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943 (Thanks, Tony!)

Canadians: tell Parliament to preserve Canada's public domain!

Michael Geist sez,

Canada celebrated New Year's Day this year by welcoming the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Carl Jung into the public domain just as European countries were celebrating the arrival of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, 20 years after both entered the Canadian public domain. Canada's term of copyright meets the international standard of life of the author plus 50 years, which has now become a competitive advantage when compared to the United States, Australia, and Europe, which have copyright terms that extend an additional 20 years (without any evidence of additional public benefits).

In an interesting coincidence, the Canadian government filed notice of a public consultation on December 31, 2011 on the possible Canadian entry into the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, trade talks that could result in an extension in the term of copyright that would mean nothing new would enter the Canadian public domain until 2032 or beyond. The TPP covers a wide range of issues, but its intellectual property rules as contemplated by leaked U.S. drafts would extend the term of copyright, require even stricter digital lock rules, restrict trade in parallel imports, and increase various infringement penalties.

Now is the opportunity to help preserve the public domain in Canada by speaking out against TPP copyright provisions that would extend the term of copyright or impose even stricter digital lock rules. The consultation is open until February 14, 2012. All it takes a single email with your name, address, and comments on the issue. The email can be sent to Alternatively, submissions can be sent by fax (613-944-3489) or mail (Trade Negotiations Consultations (TPP), Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Trade Policy and Negotiations Division II (TPW), Lester B. Pearson Building, 125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2).

Help Preserve the Canadian Public Domain: Speak Out on the Trans Pacific Partnership Negotiations

Public domain WPA posters from the Library of Congress

Mynonymouse sez, "The Library of Congress just posted a Flickr set of lovely WPA posters. There are awesome ones about keeping your teeth clean, science and one that seems to be about drunk driving but also might warn of a previously unknown deadly reactive incompatibility between gas and whiskey."

These are awesome designs, but it's a disappointment that the LoC posted them at such crummy low-resolutions. The nation's treasures deserve better than that.

Update: See the comments for lots of places where you can get higher rez ones.

WPA Posters

Will America's public domain treasures finally be freed?

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez, "John Podesta and I have written an open letter to President Obama calling for the creation of a Federal Scanning Commission, tasking this body with developing a strategy for digitizing .gov. Today, we do not scan at scale and there is a huge untapped storehouse buried in federal institutions such as the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, National Archives, and scores of others. Our open letter is linked to a White House petition. We hope people will consider these issues and sign the petition."

Cambridge digital library posts scan of Newton's Trinity College notebook, claims copyright over scans

Robbo sez, "The Cambridge Digital Library has posted Sir Issac Newton's notebook which he used as an undergraduate at Trinity College in the 1660's. It can be viewed, page by page, in its entirety and is a fantastic glimpse into the scribbling and doodling thought processes of the man."

Sadly, these images are licensed under CC noncommercial, which means that Cambridge is asserting a copyright over these ancient manuscripts. UK law does make some provision for asserting a copyright in photos of public domain works, though to do so certainly runs contrary to the ethic of scholarship that the Cambridge name evokes.

However, readers in the USA should know that these images are not in copyright there, and they could be downloaded and reused in any way, in keeping with the principle of a robust public domain.

Given that I live in the UK, I have not included any images from the manuscript here.

The argument for asserting copyrights in public domain works is that the public interest is best served by taking public money to acquire and maintain national cultural treasures, then selling access to them, and using the money to reduce the amount that the public pays for future operations.

I understand and reject that argument. A real public domain in national treasures allows for a much broader range of uses and reproductions than the limited, noncommercial, no-derivatives license permits, and these uses would benefit our public life.

I applaud the Cambridge Library's initiative in making its works available to the public, and in adopting CC licenses, but I wish they would adopt a programme of making Britain's ancient treasures truly free.

Update: I've been giving this more thought; here's something I just posted to the comments:

The problem with this framing is that it assumes that increasing commercial exploitation of the public domain by cultural institutions will fill the void left by contracting public spending, but the reverse is true.

When public institutions reduce their public service in order to supplement their income, they are (obviously) delivering less public value than they would if they made the public's treasures free.

The public, then, sees less reason to fund these institutions (because there are fewer ways in which the public receives benefit from them), which means they are more vulnerable to future cuts.

So each round of budget cuts results in a new impetus to privatise the collection. Each privatisation of the collection results in more vulnerability to budget cuts.

And this logic isn't limited to times of austerity. The drive to fence off digitised versions of the public domain dates to the 90s and the neoliberal period when Labour (in the UK) encouraged cultural institutions to claim copyright in the verbatim copies of their public domain works.

This is "now more than ever" thinking: in good times, we must shut down the public domain and charge for its use. In bad times, we must do the same.

Meanwhile, the evidence runs contrary to this agenda. In the US, public data is public -- no copyright can be asserted in government documents, and in the US, both the public and business enjoy unfettered access to same. The result is that all the sectors that depend on public data (such as maps) in the US dwarf their UK equivalents, and return more in tax revenue (and jobs, and public benefit) than their UK counterparts, which can only kick off if they can afford to pay to access and use the data.

If public data is to have a future, it has to make the case to the public that it deserves to be funded. It cannot do that by reducing the utility of public data to the public.

Trinity College Notebook by Isaac Newton (Thanks, Robbo!)

Vintage Hallowe'en postcards

Here's a beautiful gallery of vintage Hallowe'en postcards from the New York Public Library Picture Collection on Flickr.

Haunted Postcards (via How to Be a Retronaut)

Ask the Smithsonian to withdraw copyright claim on public domain images

Creative works published before 1923 are legally part of the public domain. Beyond that, the federal government can't copyright anything, except in very specific circumstances.

So why is the Smithsonian Institution claiming copyright on a collection of 19th-century seed catalog images?

What Would Luther Burbank Do? is a project aimed at convincing the Smithsonian to change its policy and make American cultural history available to Americans, a move that would put its policies in line with those of the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the Government Printing Office.

Public.Resource.Org is going to file a complaint about this and is collecting statements from any member of the public who'd like join. If you have some thoughts about why you think the Smithsonian should let these images be part of the public domain—or if you'd just like to have your name added to the formal complaint—please send a postcard to:

What Would Luther Burbank Do?
1005 Gravenstein Highway North
Sebastopol, CA 95472

Internet Archive adds its three millionth scanned book

The Internet Archive's Book Scanning project just added its three millionth text. Unlike Google Book Search, the Archive only scans public domain works, and, more significantly, places no restrictions on the scans' usage. Another significant difference is the Archive's privacy policy, which, unlike Google, promises not to release your personal information without a court order.
More than 100 people digitize books in Internet Archive scanning centers in 27 libraries in 6 countries. At 10 cents a page, we are bringing over 1,000 new books online every day. is visited by more than 1 million different users every day. Books are downloaded or read on about 10 million times each month, and approximately 2,000 books for the blind and dyslexic (print disabled) are downloaded every day.

Other projects use the texts archive in bulk. Researches at the University of Massachusetts have used millions of books to do digital scholarship. integrates these books with many thousands of recent books for the print disabled and library borrowers. All of the public domain books are full text searchable, indexed by multuiple search engines, and downloadable individually or in bulk.

Please help us build the library of free books by scanning and uploading, by donating physical books to the Internet Archive, or by sponsoring the digitization of great collections!

3 million texts for free