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Posts Tagged ‘public domain’

Learn to Figure Skate the Old-Fashioned Way

February 20, 2014 | by

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Frontispiece from A System of Figure-Skating

If you’re like me, the Olympics have borne in you one mighty, overriding desire: to become a strapping world-class professional figure-skater. Well, we’re in luck, every one of us. Thanks to the glut of teaching materials available in the public domain, dazzling one’s peers in the rink and taking home the gold has never been easier.

To start, consult an invaluable volume from 1897: T. Maxwell Witham’s A System of Figure-Skating: Being the Theory and Practice of the Art as Developed in England, with a Glance at its Origin and History. In sporting matters, Witham was no slouch—the title page notes that he was a “Member of The Skating Club.” Which skating club, you ask? Well, let me answer your question with a question: How many skating clubs do you belong to?

With verve and good humor, A System of Figure-Skating will teach you such cherished and essential maneuvers as “the Jagendorf dance,” “the Mercury scud,” “the spread-eagle grape vine,” “the sideways attitude of edges,” and—of course—the “United Shamrock.” Confused? You needn’t be. The System offers detailed instructions every step of the way. Here’s an edifying bit about how to conduct the “outside edge forwards”: “We have also to bring into the more important action the hitherto unemployed leg, which must be gently and evenly swung round the employed one in such a manner that it arrives exactly at the proper time and angle to be put down, and so become the traveling one.”

See? You’ll be getting the hang of things in no time!

If all else fails, the System is meticulously illustrated—its dozens of diagrams and charts make even complicated performances seem rudimentary. Even a trained dog could follow these instructions: Read More »


Welcome to Wellcome

January 21, 2014 | by

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Thomas Burke after Philipp Reinagle, Cupid inspiring plants with Love, in a tropical landscape, 1805, via Wellcome Images.

Enjoy viscera? Of course you do! And you’re in luck: as of yesterday, London’s Wellcome Library, whose specialty is medical history, has opened up more than 100,000 images in its capacious digital archive for free download. Whether your tastes run to the macabre or the beautiful—not to say, of course, that such things are mutually exclusive—the Wellcome galleries have something for you. Conjoined twins wearing swimsuits? They’re here. A man being hit on the head by a falling flowerpot in Rome, circa 1890? Coming right up. Or perhaps—the keystone of any collection—a surgeon letting blood from Thomas Thurlow, Bishop of Durham, but leaving his patient in order to attend to a sick horse. And it’s not all grisly; above, for instance, you’ll see Cupid, slinging arrows so that the flora of the tropics will be inclined to reproduce. (You know, sexually.)

Click in good health.



Comedies Are Too Depressing, and Other News

January 10, 2014 | by

Sad clown

Chuchin the Clown, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Are today’s most prestigious “comedies” too depressing?
  • The Los Angeles Public Library is soon to offer high school diplomas. (You can’t just check them out for a few weeks; you have to work for them.)
  • More on the curious connection between prose and booze: “Writers in this office used to drink,” said an unnamed New Yorker fixture.
  • For the discriminating digital reader on a budget, a treasure trove of public domain e-books.


    Document: Happy Birthday, James Joyce

    February 2, 2012 | by

    Image courtesy Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc.; document now part of a private Joyce collection in New York.

    There’s so much to celebrate today, February 2, the birthday of James Joyce. On January 1 of this year the published works of Joyce came into the public domain. What does this mean? It means that scholars no longer need to go to his grandson Stephen Joyce, bowl in hand, begging for a ladle full of text. It means that I can translate for you the above illegible bit of manuscript from Ulysses in Joyce’s hand:

    By Bachelor’s walk jogjingle
    jaunted Blazes Boylan, bachelor.
    In sun, in heat, warmseated,
    sprawled, mare’s glossy rump
    atrot. Horn, Have you the ?
    Horn. Have you the ? Haw
    haw horn.

    Clearer? Good.

    Even better, it also means that I can quote you the slightly different published version of this passage:

    By Bachelor’s walk jogjaunty jingled Blazes Boylan, bachelor, in sun, in heat, mare’s glossy rump atrot with a flick of whip, on bounding tyres: sprawled, warmseated, Boylan impatience, ardentbold. Horn. Have you the ? Horn. Have you the ? Haw haw horn.

    You see the improvement? Excellent.

    The irony of Stephen Joyce’s virtual censorship of the work of a man continually at odds with the censors himself has not gone unnoted—especially because Joyce reveled in the thought of perplexing scholars for generations to come. (The censorship that afflicted—if not made—Joyce’s career is also tinged with irony: who among the hormonal pubescent lads you know would have the patience and determination to locate, let alone reread, the dirty bits?)

    You may recognize this snatch of text from the eleventh chapter of Ulysses, the Sirens episode. Read More »