Art and Film,  Book Recommendations,  Literature

Happy Public Domain Day 2023!

Every year on the 1st of January, U.S. copyright office opens its vaults to release any to include any material older than 95 years old. The treasures made available each year include books, magazines, films, songs and other works which can then be freely printed, adapted, remixed, recorded, used, and most of all, enjoyed. This year, all works from 1927 are now at our fingertips.

Veritas Journal celebrates this event each year by highlighting a few of the most notable works. Have a look at our offerings below, and then check out the Copyright Listings from 1927 to explore for yourself. It’s a bit like a treasure hunt. Sometimes you can get a feel for the zeitgeist from the year in question. Perusing the listings this year, our editorial staff was struck by the recurrence of works having to do with reconciling evolution with Christian faith, such as William Hallock Johnson’s Can the Christian Now Believe in Evolution? which contains perhaps one of the earliest invocations of the phrase “God in/of the gaps.” Another tome boldly but erroneously announces itself as The First and Last Work on Evolution, and at least half a dozen additional titles can be found in the same vein. Additionally, The Origin of Birds, a seminal work on the evolution of birds, was also published in 1927. Its theories and illustrations have since been revised but it was extremely important to the conversation about natural selection along the way.

In the movies category, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is perhaps at the top of the list, but Alfred Hitchcock’s first thriller, The Lodger, A Story of the London Fog is also being released, as well as The Jazz Singer, the first full-length film with synchronized dialogue and sound. As for music, the next time your kids break out into “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream” to induce you to buy a tasty treat, you won’t have to worry about paying royalties. Also, numerous tunes from Broadway greats such as Rodgers & Hammerstein, Gershwin, and Irving Berlin are being released.

Here are a few more to whet your appetite, then go explore on your own!

  • The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes, A. Conan Doyle (last collection of Sherlock Holmes mysteries)
  • To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  • Amerika, Franz Kafka
  • Secret of the Old Mill, The Tower Treasure and The House on the Cliff, Franklin W. Dixon (The first Hardy Boys!)
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather (My Antonià is also in the public domain, by the way, from the previous year)
  • Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse
  • Le temps retrouvé, Marcel Proust (the final installment of In Search of Lost Time, in original French).

header image: “Dinosaurs” from The Origin of Birds, by Gerhard Heilmann

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