Unlocked Classics: 2022 and the Public Domain

by John

Since the beginning of 2019, opens a new window, a new set of books has come into the public domain, opens a new window on the first day of every calendar year. No longer possessing copyright, these works may be freely reprinted and directly interpreted without payment to or permission from the authors or their estates. This year’s entries feature a wide range of genres and styles. From a true classic of children’s literature to important early works in the careers of distinguished authors to a famous mystery yarn, the new year has many delights to offer. Join us as we explore some of the most influential books now in the public domain that you can check out from CRRL’s collection. You may be surprised and fascinated by what you discover.

Winnie-the-Pooh, the Original Classic

Perhaps the most anticipated public domain title of this year is A.A. Milne’s beloved Winnie-the-Pooh, opens a new window. In 2022 in the U.S., both this book and its illustrations by E.H. Shepard, opens a new window have become available for use by all. It should be noted that this public domain status only applies to the original Pooh book; any material created after its publication is still under copyright and controlled largely by Disney, opens a new window, including the irrepressible Tigger, who did not appear in the original Pooh and first showed up in 1928’s The House at Pooh Corner, opens a new windowPooh Corner will enter the public domain in 2024, and Tigger will finally join Pooh and his friends in the public domain. Elements of the story created by Disney, such as the distinct red-shirted “American Pooh” design (which looked different from Shepard’s art) will remain protected by copyright. 

Pooh first appeared in a 1925 short story “The Wrong Sort of Bees, opens a new window,” which Milne wrote for the London Evening News. Pooh was based on the actual stuffed toy owned by Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne. Christopher first called the bear “Edward” but renamed it after “Winnipeg Bear, opens a new window,” a Canadian black bear that lived at the London Zoo. A.A. Milne enjoyed tremendous popular success with the novel, as it sold 150,000 copies, opens a new window in its first year. But in time, Milne would come to see Pooh as more of a curse, opens a new window than a blessing. His formerly freewheeling writing career became consumed by public demands for more Pooh stories, and Christopher would come to resent how his exposure to the public had affected his life. The story of the Hundred Acre Wood and Pooh will live on forever, even if the reality behind the tale was more complicated.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Some classic literature for adults is also going public domain this year. One of the high points of literary fiction in 1926 was Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, opens a new window. Published very early in his writing career, opens a new windowThe Sun Also Rises was Hemingway’s first novel. The story of young people in the “Lost Generation, opens a new window” in the aftermath of World War I, who travel across Europe to see the running of the bulls in Pamplona, The Sun Also Rises is considered by some to be Hemingway’s best novel. The novel had an enduring appeal across the 20th century and retains cultural influence today, particularly in influencing European tourism. The running of the bulls has become an ever larger tourist, opens a new window draw since Hemingway’s day, even though the author never ran with the bulls himself, opens a new window

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