First, two apologies: one, that we’re a day late on this as a result of processing all this new data, and, two, that this W4 is so off topic that we’ve barely found anything on topic in it.
However, it’s so ineffably cool that we had to get it out to you.
We speak of the New York Public Library Public Domain photograph, image, and document collection.
True, librarians tend to be nasty, censorious SJWs that incline to banning WeaponsMan.com for whatever (ideological?) reasons under false and fabricated pretexts (Indiana Public Libraries, we’re lookin’ at you). But in this case they’ve done the public the sort of public service that makes Andrew Carnegie, wherever he is, realize that not everything he gave to libraries is a waste.
All hail the librarians of the New York Public Library system, and their techie myrmidons who brought this collection out of the stacks. It is an immense public service, not only to New York, but also to the world.
There are several different ways to view the collection. Brian Foo of NYPL Labs has remixed it so that you can sort by the photo or artwork’s Century Created, its Genre, its Collection, and by Color. The image to the left here is a thumbnail of his micro-thumbnails (the meta’s getting thick around here!) of some of the roughly 71,000 images created in the 19th Century. Conversely, there are “only” 34,000 20th Century images.
This one embiggens…
The collection is also divided by sub-collections, many of them donated or bequeathed to the Public Library by lifelong collectors. Inside these collections are many gems. Given a background in Human Terrain, it was a thrill to find a book of photographs purporting to represent the races of (British Empire era) India1; we meant to find a Waziri or Adam Khel tribesman but were distracted by this photo of a very dignified member of something called the Lepcha who are noted as aboriginal, and from the mountain province of Sikkim. (Sikhim, in the period notes). This book alone would provide hours of fun, considering that Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh were all part of the Empire of India at the time; many of these tribal identities are probably deracinated to some extent in today’s slightly more homogenized India and Pakistan, but the Afghan tribes are the Afghan tribes — only the firearms have changed.
Indeed, maybe this Indian isn’t here by accident. Maybe it was the fact that he’s clutching what appears to be a muzzle-loading fowler that caught our eye?
This shows, in a very scaled down image, how the library captured the whole page. So if you want to see him in detail, click the other image above.
The color scale is a very, very good idea; we have to get one for when we scan old books and magazines with the Fujutsu book scanner (not every library scan seems to include this). These New York library technicians have probably forgotten more about scanning than we ever can hope to learn.
The collections include things you might expect, like , and also logical but welcome surprises, like Atlases of New York City, with over 10,000 images. If you’re an NYC or Long Island resident or native, chances are good there’s a historical map of your home here that would make a fantastic wall hanging — and since this stuff is public domain, there are no copyright questions in bringing it in to Office Monster or Kinkos and running off a copy in that size.
While we enjoyed searching through Foo’s elegant interface, looking for something on topic for a bunch of weapons geeks. We searched for Naval Gun and there were some interesting images at the result link, including this postcard of a 12″ Naval Gun firing from…?
But we also saw this unusual, 18th-Century-looking document. What was it?
The individual document page (if that doesn’t work, try this link, flagged as a permalink on the page) was primary document paydirt:
D. S., John Hanson. Countersigned by Cha. Thomson, Secy. Printed form filled in. With Naval seal attached. 1 page. Fo
The cut-off word is perhaps “folio”, referring to the size of the page. But what the document is, is a September 17, 1782, commission for a privateer.
Granting licence and authority to David Phips, commander of the Brigantine called the Hetty of the burthen of 120 tons, belonging to Elias Shipman & Co., mounting 8 carriage guns, and navigated by 35 men, to fit out the said brigantine in a warlike manner, and to attack and seize all ships and goods belonging to the King or Crown of Great-Britain.
Now, if you don’t think that’s cool, you may be on the wrong blog.
Unfortunately, we struck out on higher-resolution downloads on that page… they’re available, but they all hang. Maybe you’ll have better luck, or maybe we’ll all hang separately.
Returning to our document, it was from something enticingly titled Series IX. Lossing’s Field Book of the Revolution. You can look at the Lossing’s Field Book sub-collection (it’s from something titled the Thomas Addis Emmet Collection, 1483-1876) at this link, or you can View as Book. We haven’t done that yet, as we have a blog post to finish, and every click on this website takes us further down the rabbit hole. Well, here’s one more page from Lossing:
It’s the Return of Ordnance Stores from Fort Edward, NY, on 15 July 1777, signed by Jasper Maudle Gidley, Conductor and countersigned by one Col. Wilkinson. (The Library says “13 July,” but that seems to be an error on their part. Look at the number in the upper right area of the page very closely). Looks like they had powder, shot, cartridge paper and thread, and flints, but their muskets were in a bad way.
The search engine they use does not accept regular expressions or booleans, so, if you search for Maxim you’re going to get a ton on Maxim Gorky, even if you try Maxim -Gorky or Maxim NOT Gorky (in fact, the latter two cases get you only Maxim Gorky. And NYPL has a ton of photos of his ugly personage). You need to specify Hiram Maxim or Maxim Gun.
One more hot tip: if you’re going to download documents, don’t choose “original” size unless you’re planning on having them printed. The resolution is unbelievable, the documents are enormous, and even on a high-speed connection they take forever to download. Look at the pixel sizes available… usually the second largest numeric size is plenty big enough, if you’re not going to print with the file. (The inventory above was downloaded at the 1600px setting).
- According to the Library, the book is:
Watson, J. Forbes (John Forbes) (1827-1892) (Editor)Kaye, John William, Sir (1814-1876) (Editor), The people of India : A series of photographic illustrations, with descriptive letterpress, of the races and tribes of Hindustan, originally prepared under the authority of the government of India, and reproduced … (the title trails off in the Library record). London, India Museum, 1868=1875. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/collections/people-of-india-a-series-of-photographic-illustrations-with-descriptive#/?tab=about