Essays

Every two weeks we publish a new long-form essay which seeks to offer insight and reflection upon public domain works and the oft overlooked histories which surround them. You’ll find pieces on a wide and eclectic range of subjects – from a history of the smile in portraiture to the case of the woman who claimed to give birth to rabbits. Our contributors are drawn from an equally varied pool, from leading writers and scholars – such as Julian Barnes and Jack Zipes – to history and literature PhD students working with fascinating material and seeking an outlet for their more unusual finds. If you’d like to submit (or if you simply have an idea for a good subject) then please visit our submissions page, we’d love to hear from you.

Want the essays off the screen and onto your bookshelf? Then look no further than our “Selected Essays” series.
See here for more info.

Simple Songs: Virginia Woolf and Music

Last year saw the works of Virginia Woolf enter the public domain in many countries around the world. To celebrate Emma Sutton looks at Woolf’s short story ‘A Simpl…more

The Implacability of Things

Jonathan Lamb explores the genre of ‘it-narratives’ – stories told from the point of view of an object, often as it travels in circulation through human hands…more

Conan Doyle’s Olympic Crusade

When an exhausted Dorando Pietri was helped across the finishing line in the 1908 Olympics marathon, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, was there t…more

Seeing Joyce

This year’s ‘Bloomsday’ – 108 years after Leopold Bloom took his legendary walk around Dublin on the 16th June 1904 – is the first since the works of Jame…more

The Krakatoa Sunsets

When a volcano erupted on a small island in Indonesia in 1883, the evening skies of the world glowed for months with strange colours. Richard Hamblyn explores a lit…more

Lost Libraries

In the latter half of the 17th century the English polymath Thomas Browne wrote Musaeum Clausum, an imagined inventory of ‘remarkable books, antiquities, pictures a…more

Selma Lagerlöf: Surface and Depth

In 2011 many countries around the world welcomed The Wonderful Adventures of Nils and the other works of the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf into the public domain. …more

Robert Southey’s Dreams Revisited

As well as being poet laureate for 30 years and a prolific writer of letters, Robert Southey was an avid recorder of his dreams. W.A. Speck, author of Robert Southe…more