Discovering Weird Old Books


Want to find some fascinating and unusual free ebooks? Try The Public Domain Review at Also an excellent place to do research on weird topics.

The site’s description of itself:

Founded in 2011, The Public Domain Review is an online journal and not-for-profit project dedicated to the exploration of curious and compelling works from the history of art, literature, and ideas.

In particular, as our name suggests, the focus is on works which have now fallen into the public domain, that vast commons of out-of-copyright material that everyone is free to enjoy, share, and build upon without restriction. Our aim is to promote and celebrate the public domain in all its abundance and variety, and help our readers explore its rich terrain – like a small exhibition gallery at the entrance to an immense network of archives and storage rooms that lie beyond.

With a focus on the surprising, the strange, and the beautiful, we hope to provide an ever-growing cabinet of curiosities for the digital age, a kind of hyperlinked Wunderkammer – an archive of content which truly celebrates the breadth and diversity of our shared cultural commons and the minds that have made it.

The site seems to focus mainly on books, but also includes film and images. Lots of weird and wonderful documents that few of us would likely ever discover on our own. I’ve already downloaded English as She is Spoke from 1884, and am enjoying browsing leisurely for other items of interest. Hmm, I’m rather tempted by The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals from 1906 (animals tried for human crimes) and The Danger of Premature Interment from 1816 (make sure someone is really dead before you bury them). The home page currently displays Tribal Life in Old Lyme: Canada’s Colorblind Chronicler and His Connecticut Exile; When the Birds and Bees Were Not Enough; Machiavelli, Comedian; Cat Pianos, Sound Houses, and Other Imaginary Musical Instruments; and The Mystery of Lewis Carroll. Oh look, there’s The Nightwalker and the Nocturnal Picaresque, about how the introduction of street lighting in 17th century London led to an explosion in prostitution and other nefarious goings-on.

So have fun, browse the site and enjoy the weird and wonderful.


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