Free digital versions of older photography books that are in the public domain

Project Gutenberg is a voluntary digital library effort that takes the old public domain and converts it into freely available e-books for the benefit of the general public. Founded in 1971, the library now has over 42,000 items in its collection.

Among the books in his collection are a number of old books on the subject of photography. One such book is the 1881 title, The art and practice of silver gelatin printing by Captain Abney and HP Robinson (shown above).

This book was announced today as the 25,000th public domain book to be digitized, subjected to optical character recognition and meticulously proofread by Distributed Reviewersa volunteer effort that helps add public domain books to Project Gutenberg.

A quick search in the Project Gutenberg library for the term ‘photography’ reveals a number of other public domain books – 37, to be exact.


Some of the books feature photographs taken centuries ago – color pictures of birdsfor example – while others deal with the technical aspects of photography.

One of the great names you will find in the collection is William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the fathers of photography. The collection includes his book nature’s pencil from 1844:


A search for “camera” also returns a handful of results.

Most of the photography-related stuff you’ll find in the digital library probably won’t be very applicable to the imagery you’re doing these days, but if you’re interested in the history and ancient techniques of photography, it’s worth really worth spending time rummaging through the collection.

“Photography” Books in Project Gutenberg (via Reddit)

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