This year, a large number of well-known works entered the public domain, thanks to changes in copyright law over time. One of these books is a popular edition of “The Three Musketeers,” written by Alexandre Dumas (1802-70), translated into English by Philip Schuyler Allen (1871-1937), and illustrated by the well-known artist, Milo Winter (1888-1956).
Earlier English-language versions of “The Three Musketeers” have already been freely available. Books published in the United States up to, and including, 1923 are considered public domain material. One of these pre-1924 works was a translation by William Robson (1786-1863); its many illustrations by Maurice Leloir (1853-1940) were engraved on wood by Jules Huyot (1841-1921).
Both the illustrations and the style of translation vary appreciably between these two editions, one published before World War I (1914-18) and one after. Either way, the swashbuckling adventures continued to thrill readers.
Originally written and published in French in 1844, “Les trois mousquetaires” by Alexandre Dumas has been translated into many languages, including several English translations. Dumas, with his collaborator Auguste Maquet (1813-88), tirelessly produced works of popular fiction, including the equally popular “Count of Monte Christo.” Numerous play and film versions of “The Three Musketeers” have been produced over the years as well.
The main thread of the story, very loosely based on 17th-century historical figures, concerns a power struggle between the French King Louis XIII, egged on by his éminence grise, or behind-the-scenes adviser, Cardinal Richelieu, and the Spanish-born Queen Anne, who was promoting her powerful ruling family’s interests and was engaged in an extramarital affair with the dashing English Duke of Buckingham.
The hero, D’Artagnan, and his three musketeer friends, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, support the Queen and daringly extricate her from a plot designed to embroil her in a scandal. The devious, murdering seductress, “Milady,” with her secret, criminal past, is an accomplice of Richelieu.
It is fascinating to compare the abbreviated 1923 young adult “Three Musketeers” edition with the much longer 1911 one, with its rather awkward and quaint translation. There are no images of royalty in the 1923 version, and the evil temptress, Milady, looks almost amiable in Milo Winter’s pictures.
Duke University Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain has created a partial, but still extensive, spreadsheet describing the copyright history of the newly “liberated” works, which also include films and sheet music. The copyright law fair-use provision allows for limited use of copyright-protected material only for purposes such as scholarly or critical use. The expired copyright protection means that we can now freely use these materials in their entirety for educational, research, and creative purposes!