32GB of public domain Royal Society articles now available

18,592 public domain (i.e. pre-1923) scientific papers from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society are now available for anyone to download.

An extract from the README:

[…]

Several years ago I came into possession, through rather boring and

lawful means, of a large collection of JSTOR documents.

These particular documents are the historic back archives of the

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society — a prestigious

scientific journal with a history extending back to the 1600s.

The portion of the collection included in this archive, ones published

prior to 1923 and therefore obviously in the public domain, total some

18,592 papers and 33 gigabytes of data.

The documents are part of the shared heritage of all mankind,

and are rightfully in the public domain, but they are not available

freely. Instead the articles are available at $19 each–for one month’s

viewing, by one person, on one computer. It’s a steal. From you.

When I received these documents I had grand plans of uploading them to

Wikipedia’s sister site for reference works, Wikisource — where they

could be tightly interlinked with Wikipedia, providing interesting

historical context to the encyclopedia articles. For example, Uranus

was discovered in 1781 by William Herschel; why not take a look at

the paper where he originally disclosed his discovery? (Or one of the

several follow on publications about its satellites, or the dozens of

other papers he authored?)

But I soon found the reality of the situation to be less than appealing:

publishing the documents freely was likely to bring frivolous litigation

from the publishers.

[…]

—Greg Maxwell, July 20th 2011.


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