Unlocked Classics: 2022 and the Public Domain

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 a 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 window. Pooh 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 window, The 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

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

A classic and influential mystery novel has entered the public domain as well. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, opens a new window is one of Agatha Christie’s best-known novels and is both famous and infamous for its twist ending, which many first-time readers cannot predict. This novel was published towards the beginning of Christie’s career and is only the third novel to feature Hercule Poirot. Christie’s career as a writer was so long and successful that it will take decades for all of her books to enter the public domain. Curtain, opens a new window, the last Poirot book Christie published, will go into the public domain in 2071 in the U.S.!

The Castle by Franz Kafka

Some important foreign-language novels have also become public domain in the U.S. in 2022. Originally published in German as Das Schloss in 1926, the version of The Castle, opens a new window in CRRL’s collection is the oldest English-language translation, opens a new window of the text, written by Edwin and Willa Muir and published in 1930. Expect more translations and interpretations of Kafka’s novel, such as The Castle graphic novel, to arrive now that the original text is in the public domain. Of course, we are very lucky to have any Kafka texts with us at all as Kafka suffered from a sense of self-doubt his entire life and ordered all his unfinished manuscripts (which included The Castle) destroyed, opens a new window at his death. Only because his friend and literary executor Max Brod saw his talent and disobeyed his wishes are they here today. You can find Kafka’s books, opens a new window and many other interesting treasures, in CRRL’s collection.