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Public domain books

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Revision as of 22:12, 7 January 2012 by RichardF (Talk | Contributions) (Introduction: zap)

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Public domain books are freely available works and can hold valuable information relevant to efforts towards sustainability. Generally, these books were published pre 1930's and therefore are from a "simpler" age. The early 1900s are notable in their efficiency studies of household management and small scale production; the 1700s and 1800s explore the practical application of newly found scientific principles. There are also valuable records of traditional arts and crafts. During WW1 there were a number of austerity programs that produced books about living simply and maximising production.

BE WARNED: Ignorance of the dangers of using heavy metals (mercury, lead, chromium etc) was prevalent throughout this period and the 1800s especially was particularly bad for crank medicinal treatments for people and animals.

BE AWARE of the profound sexism and racism of the age - we know now that men make excellent housekeepers. In a sustainable society that retains today's liberal attitudes, everyone will need to do their share of domestic duties to compensate for the lack of underclass.

Most scientific knowledge was well understood by the 1900s - plastics, genetics, insulin, antibiotics and nuclear physics were still to come but application of scientific knowledge to daily life was common and sometimes profound - and still ignored today...


I would like to see these books assessed for scientific accuracy (to current understanding) so the knowledge in them can be used again, confidently. If a book has worthwhile information, it should have it's own page with a description and any hazards pointed out. If it has been produced into an ebook then particularly good bits could be posted or it could be posted in its entirety as the basis of a wiki page on the subject - with additions, subtractions and discussion to update or expand.


  • Internet Archive - scanned books
  • Project Gutenberg- these books have been proofread and produced in plain text and html versions. This makes them searchable and editable, so we can paste sections onto the wiki and discuss/revise.
  • Distributed proofreaders (DP) - this is where the scanned texts are converted - they're always looking for more volunteers. If you are interested in producing a particular book, start at DP to build up experience and contact me (zoeannl) through the Kiwi team.
  • Distributed Proofreaders list of sources
  • Advanced Google Books search - pick "Full view only", search by subject etc and the public domain books will have a "pdf" download tab.

My Bookmarks -


Appropriate tech



See also Project Gutenberg Agriculture bookshelf



Green living