The Public Domain Review welcomes submissions for our essay series. While spanning a wide array of disciplines and periods, our essays all share a common focus on oft-overlooked subjects and attention to works now out of copyright due to age. We are seeking writing that, though often considerate of academic themes, engages both the expert and curious newcomer in discovering the stories preserved by the digital commons.

What We Are Looking For

We encourage submissions that highlight unorthodox ends of cultural spectra — forgotten theories, under-appreciated artists, and relegated histories in need of a new readership. Should the essay concern a well-known figure, we tend to favour against-the-grain angles and attentive crawls through lesser-known works. In addition to pieces that examine specific texts and images, we also welcome contributions with a broader historical focus, so long as they touch upon interesting public domain material.

To get a sense of our interests please take a look at past essays. For example: Patricia Mainardi on the art of J. J. Grandville; Richard Hamblyn on Gerard Manley Hopkins’ volcano letters; Yasmine Seale on the Prophet Muhammad’s enigmatic steed; Angus Trumble on the Pre-Raphaelites’ obsession with wombats; Jessica Riskin on the wondrous history of automata; and Erica X Eisen on the "killed negatives" of the FSA's survey of Depression-era America.

Other Considerations

Length: Most contributions come in at about 2500 words, though longer or short pieces are certainly welcomed.

Pitches: We review pitches as well as fully-drafted essays, with a slight preference for the latter. In inquiry emails, please highlight the material under consideration and why you are the right person to examine it. First-time contributors might include links to recent writing if possible. We respond to all pitches.

Background: Most of our contributors have an academic grounding somehow related to their essay topic but we always consider enquiries from authors with other forms of training, as long as a facility with their chosen subject matter can be demonstrated. We particularly welcome expressions of interest from potential contributors of minority ethnic groups.

Public Domain Requirements

An important requirement is that the work or group of works associated with the essay must be in the public domain (ideally worldwide). As a very rough guide, this often means material created prior to 1927. If you have an idea for something, but are unsure as to whether it qualifies, then please get in touch.

How to Submit

Please email a proposal — including a brief author’s biography — to: If you would like to submit a piece already written, then please email it as an attachment, in either plain text or in a word processor format (e.g. Open Office, Word). Feel free to include, as a JPEG/PNG attachment or link, any images which are relevant to the essay.

Please inform us if it is a simultaneous proposal. We respond to submissions within six weeks.


While historically we have not been in a position to pay contributors, thanks to the support of our Friends, we can now offer an honorarium for original essays we publish — a flat rate of $500 / £400.

Our Licensing

Due to the public domain nature of our project, most essays are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) licence. While the author retains all rights, this licence permits others to redistribute the essay, with credit to its creator, under the same terms. By submitting work to us you are agreeing to publish under a CC BY-SA licence.