yellowback novels
September 16, 2010 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Emory University has made more than 1,200 yellowback novels available as PDF downloads. Yellowbacks were inexpensive books marketed largely to railway travelers in 19th century Britain.
posted by maurice (30 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Um, how is this possibly legal?"

/that dude in every single one of these threads
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:59 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Victorian equivalent of airplane reading!

See also Monash University's exhibition of yellowback covers.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:06 PM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Unless it has Mickey Mouse in it, anything published in the 19th century would be public domain by now.

Please tell me this is true.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:13 PM on September 16, 2010


I prefer silverback novels. They're written from the gorilla's point of view.
posted by box at 5:14 PM on September 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Oh MetaFilter... you know me way too well... I've never even heard of this term before and I'm still overjoyed to be reading the pulp trash that Victorian travelers purchased from the train carts.

Please tell me this is true.

It's true, so now please inform the Google Books team of this fantastically simple fact.

posted by shii at 5:18 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


These are *fantastic*. I wish the interface was better. Primo sucks for this. Maybe Primo sucks for everything, but it sucks for this anyway.
posted by the dief at 5:31 PM on September 16, 2010


Terrific 19th century advertisements for the likes of Whelpton's Healing Ointment -"Once tried will always be used".
posted by Joe Beese at 5:32 PM on September 16, 2010


So, uh, just out of curiosity, do most of these sucks? I mean are these Harlequin Romance novels or Robert Ludlum or Chuck Pahlanik (sp?)
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:38 PM on September 16, 2010


anything published in the 19th century would be public domain by now.

Correct, in the US. Here is a handy chart. These are British, so there's a different chart, but this still seems to be true.

Terrific link, thanks.
posted by jessamyn at 6:43 PM on September 16, 2010


Unless it has Mickey Mouse in it, anything published in the 19th century would be public domain by now. True, another one closely guarded 19th century name is The Rose Parade (on new years day in Pasadena, ca.) in fact the Rose Parade has a full time lawyer protecting that trademark against anyone trying to use that term. i know as i tried to put an old
orange crate label(Rose Parade) on a t-shirt, years ago.their lawyer swooped down on me before the t-shirt was silk-screened up.
posted by tustinrick at 6:48 PM on September 16, 2010


anything published in the 19th century would be public domain by now. Please tell me this is true.

True if you are in the US. Not true if you are in the UK (among other places). While much 19th C work is public domain, the UK is life+70, so it depends when the author(s) died. For instance, the 19th C works of H.G. Wells will not enter the public domain there until 1946+70 = 2016.
posted by fings at 6:49 PM on September 16, 2010


I'm sure it's the mention of yellow, but I can't help but think of Reclam (yellow examples), though they're rather more highbrow. That said, I did see a vending machine selling Reclams in an exhibition on the history of the German language at the Deutsches Historisches Museum, so perhaps they once had popular literature.
posted by hoyland at 6:57 PM on September 16, 2010


I mean are these Harlequin Romance novels or Robert Ludlum or Chuck Pahlanik (sp?)

The stereotypical yellowback was a sensation novel--Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Mrs. Henry Wood, etc. Adventure novels, mysteries, and the like were also popular; however, there are also abridged or single-volume editions of classic triple-deckers, popular science books, the occasional light devotional reading, kid's books, and so forth. Anything, really, that would do for a long train ride.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:04 PM on September 16, 2010


I'm completely delighted by this. I had no idea that British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli wrote what are apparently trashy romance novels. And they have the Pickwick Papers. And Percival Leigh's The Comic English Grammar. And a book called Mrs. Crichton's creditor a novel. I think I just wet my pants a little.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:08 PM on September 16, 2010


in fact the Rose Parade has a full time lawyer protecting that trademark
posted by tustinrick at 8:48 PM on September 16


Trademarks don't expire into the public domain like copyrights. They can last forever provided their owners defend them.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:11 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


This looks great.
posted by OmieWise at 7:49 PM on September 16, 2010


The best bit may be that the original adverts are included in the .PDFs.

Now, I just need to find a good chemist for some Whelpton's Pills, which relive both headache and constipation.
posted by Gin and Comics at 8:02 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


@ fings: The 19th century is not the 1900s.
posted by Chasuk at 8:57 PM on September 16, 2010


I prefer switchback novels, where if you're reading too fast you don't react in time for the upcoming page turn and you go flying off the edge.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:04 PM on September 16, 2010


Chasuk: I'm well aware of that. Are you aware of the publication date of H. G. Well's The Time Machine (1895)? The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)? The Invisible Man (1897)? The War of the Worlds (1898)? 19th century works, all. And they're copyrighted until 2017 in the UK, EU, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Norway and Romania.
posted by fings at 9:19 PM on September 16, 2010


Oh, maurice, I'm sorry. I started your thread with a dumb joke, hoping to defuse the usual IP debate, but my comment ended up triggering said debate.

Think you for making this great post. This is an incredible resource.
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:35 PM on September 16, 2010


That's a lot of books. A place to start might be favourites [PDF] from The Times.
posted by unliteral at 10:27 PM on September 16, 2010


I'm sure it's the mention of yellow, but I can't help but think of Reclam (yellow examples), though they're rather more highbrow. That said, I did see a vending machine selling Reclams in an exhibition on the history of the German language at the Deutsches Historisches Museum, so perhaps they once had popular literature.

Yeah, that's exactly what I thought of. I'm failing to think of a similar modern alternative - Reclam, like the 5,-€ Süddeutsche Zeitung hardcovers or the cheap classics lines by major American booksellers and publishers, focuses mostly on the classics, not modern popular stuff.

Apparently Reclam first published books for book-dispensing machines in 1912; Penguin followed suit almost 20 years later. There's a photo of one of the machines in this article. Hamburg seems to have a Buchautomat program, though according to the people who started it, the focus seems more to be local literature. Still a cool-sounding program, though.
posted by ubersturm at 11:53 PM on September 16, 2010


Oh MetaFilter... you know me way too well... I've never even heard of this term before and I'm still overjoyed to be reading the pulp trash that Victorian travelers purchased from the train carts.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you!
posted by Ahab at 1:34 AM on September 17, 2010




"the UK is life+70"

It's not always Life+70 (and it's Life+70 for individual authors in the US these days as well, thanks to the Sono Bono Copyright Extension Act, aka the Mickey Mouse Protection Act).

Since laws generally aren't retroactively applied, you usually need a chart, such as the two jessamyn provided, to see how the law has changed; when the work was published will determine when the copyright expires, and there are many overlapping laws that may or may not apply in both the US and the UK. Charts are good.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:49 AM on September 17, 2010


Since laws generally aren't retroactively applied

Sadly, the 1996 UK switch from life+50 to life+70 was retroactively appied, and works of authors who died between 1926 and 1945 came back into copyright, called a "revived copyright". The works of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and others were taken out of the public domain, and re-protected. Works of authors who died after 1945 were still under copyright, so their terms were just extended by 20 years.

Which means as best I can tell, the chart for UK literature within the UK looks like this: life+70.

Bringing things back to the original post, this book would still be under UK copyright.

Blah, enough side-issue. This was a wonderful post, and I'm sorry I got sidetracked. Thank you maurice.
posted by fings at 9:56 AM on September 17, 2010


Folks interested in copyright issues might want to take a look at Jonathan and his continent : rambles through American society where the author complains about American lack of respect for European copyrights toward the end of chapter 5.
posted by maurice at 10:22 AM on September 17, 2010


Bringing things back to the original post, this book would still be under UK copyright.


Unfortunately sessions timeout and links to books inside a search will fail to work overtime. Yours fails.
posted by jgaiser at 10:26 AM on September 17, 2010


My apologies. The book I tried to link to was "The Postmaster of Market Deignton" (1897) by E. Oppenheim, (Edward Phillips), 1866-1946. I can't seem to find a permanent link, but you can find it by searching the yellowback collection for "Deignton".
posted by fings at 11:07 AM on September 17, 2010


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