Public Domain Day 2023

Compared to previous years, the delivery of books and other media into the public domain this year – from authors who died in 1952 – is a little disappointing.

The last of the Sherlock Holmes canon entered the public domain in the United States, having already long lost its copyright in Britain, but the infamous test case Steamboat Willie is still one more year off.

The one book that stuck out to me was The Daughter of Time (1951) by Josephine Tey. It is a murder mystery novel, but instead of contemporary crimes her policeman investigates the murder of the Princes in the Tower in 1483 and comes to the conclusion that Richard III was innocent. Although a work of fiction and not a textbook, Fey’s valediction provides an insightful analysis of the interaction between fact, legend and propaganda, as well as a satire on many other types of historical literature.

All that is from the Wikipedia page, for I have not yet read the book itself. That said, I have read Philippa Langley’s The King’s Grave and attended many virtual lectures by the Richard III Society. Although the society and the wider Ricardian movement predate Fey’s book, they were of negligible size or influence by the time of its publication and many in the movement today are quite explicit about the role it played to revive academic research into the maligned monarch as well as shift public opinion.

Now that copyright has expired, I hope that LibriVox and similar organisations will not tarry in bringing out an audiobook, failing which I will search for a physical copy in my local libraries.

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