Manuscript images at the British Library are “public domain”?

There is an interesting post at the British Library manuscripts blog, Images in the public domain.

Just a reminder that images from our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts are now available under a Public Domain mark. This means that they are available for download and reuse, on condition that certain basic principles are observed: (1) please respect the creators; (2) please credit the source of the material; (3) please share knowledge where possible; (4) please consider the efforts of the British Library in preserving and making such works available, should they be used for commercial or other for-profit purposes.

Now that is extremely interesting.  It is also very laudable — well done!  That is precisely what should be the case.

This seems to apply only to the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts material, tho.  That stuff is, really, not of much interest to me, as I am interested in texts.  But it is the sort of material that might have possible commercial value, and this makes the generous gesture all the more laudable.  On the link to the “public domain mark” are the following requests for those so using the material:

  • Please respect the creators – ensure traditional cultural expressions and all ethical concerns in the use of the material are considered, and any information relating to the creator is clear and accurate. Please note, any adaptations made to an item should not be attributed to the original creator and should not be derogatory to the originating cultures or communities.
  • Please credit the source of the material – providing a link back to the image on the British Library’s website will encourage others to explore and use the collections.
  • Please share knowledge where possible – please annotate, tag and share derivative works with others as well as the Library wherever possible.
  • Support the Public Domain – users of public domain works are asked to support the efforts of the Library to care for, preserve, digitise and make public domain works available. This support could include monetary contributions or work in kind, particularly when the work is being used for commercial or other for-profit purposes.
  • Please preserve all public domain marks and notices attached to the works – this will notify other users that the images are free from copyright restrictions and encourage greater use of the collection.

I think that is more than fair.  In particular supporting the public domain is precisely what this blog exists to do.  Again … well done!

This is the sort of thing that every national collection should be doing.  By making images available in a way that promotes reuse and the creation of derivative works, they enrich the culture of today.

6 Responses to “Manuscript images at the British Library are “public domain”?”


  1. Suburbanbanshee

    Oh, goodness. They’ve got the Silos Beatus in there, and now it’s all PD and everything.

    Well, that will be very convenient for people reading my ebook of Beatus. I can just shoo them over to look at Silos.

  2. Roger Pearse

    Well, you could actually embed the image as well in your eBook, you know? The license allows it; and of course it would be right to add a reference to the BL in the way they suggest.

    I deeply approve of this initiative. It’s precisely what a National collection should do and be; a national resource.

  3. Suburbanbanshee

    Kindle doesn’t handle pics very well. An epub would, and that would be very nice. But it does add another layer of complexity….

    The closer I get to finishing, the farther away it gets. It’s like Zeno’s Publishing Paradox. :)

  4. Suburbanbanshee

    I keep forgetting to tell you that I’ve decided to keep the translation of the Beatus public domain, even though I am going to self-publish it as an ebook and in some other formats. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to keep it copyrighted, and it will be a lot easier for people to use it, this way. I’ve got to release it in parts, though, because it’s soooo long.

    I’ve really got to get the blogged bits taken down, though. The translation’s gone through a lot of generations of editing since then, so it’s very misleading.

  5. Roger Pearse

    You could also use Creative Commons, you know?

    I never worry about older versions of things on the blog. :-)

  6. book circulation amid world of social distinctions

    [...] need to be encouraged to keep in practice their best fundamental values.  The British Library has made available in the online, world-wide public domain images of its illuminated manuscripts.  Three cheers for the British [...]



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