Free Digital Versions of Old Photography Books That Are in the Public Domain


Project Gutenberg is a digital library volunteer effort that takes old public domain and converts them into freely available eBooks for the benefit of the general public. Founded back in 1971, the library now has over 42,000 items in its collection.

Among the books in its 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 Printing by Capt. Abney and H. P. Robinson (shown above).

That book was announced today as the 25,000th public domain book to be scanned, put through optical character recognition, and meticulously proofread by Distributed Proofreaders, a volunteer effort that helps add public domain books to Project Gutenberg.

A quick search of 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 shot centuries ago — color photos of birds, for example — while others are about the technical aspects of photography.

One of the big names you’ll find in the collection is William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the fathers of photography. The collection includes his book The Pencil of Nature 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 imaging you do nowadays, but if you’re interested in history and old photography techniques, it’s definitely worth spending some time poking around in the collection.

‘Photography’ Books in Project Gutenberg (via Reddit)