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Copyright Office, What We're Reading

The BenzClaire Tatro is an intern this summer with the Copyright Office here at Michigan Publishing. Claire is a student at the University of Michigan School of Information (M.A. 2014). This is her final blog about books in the public domain from HathiTrust.

Early versions of cars have helped shape the lifestyle and world we know today.  Light Motor Cars and Voiturettes written by John Henry Knight in 1902 depicts the early twentieth century equivalent of today’s compact or sub-compact cars.

John Henry Knight has a rich history with cars, inventing both a steam powered and a petrol powered car.  Along with cars, he invented a variety of other devices such as an early type of speedometer, a radiator, and wooden vehicle tires.  He also founded the Automobile Association, still active today as an insurance company, which helped rid England of the Red Flag Acts.  The Red Flag Acts were laws passed during the late nineteenth century, that limited driving speeds due to concerns about the safety of these new vehicles on British roads.   While a car was driving through a city, a person with a red flag had to walk in front of the vehicle as a warning.  Knight was a firm opponent of the Acts, and had the dubious honor of receiving one of the first speeding tickets in England.

There are many different light motor cars discussed within this book; including the Benz which was one of the earliest luxury cars which still survives today as the Mercedes-Benz.  Mechanics of Knight’s time found his descriptions of the Benz in this book particularly useful for repairing many gears, chains, and at least two different brakes.  Owning the Benz was not a cheap proposition; ice buildup was a major threat to the cylinder and could cost the owner around 5 pounds which is close to 360 pounds or 552 dollars today.

Mr. Knight also includes some interesting facts about steam-powered cars.  Steam cars were invented around the same time as the petrol powered cars, but were rejected because it was difficult to get enough water to fuel an excursion. Whether you’re a mechanic, car collector, or even someone who knows next to nothing about cars, Light Motor Cars and Voiturettes offers some interesting anecdotes about the first generations of car enthusiasts and their beloved vehicles.

The copyright status of this book was reviewed for the Copyright Review Management System (CRMS) project, a collaborative effort of 14 universities made possible with the support of a National Leadership grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).


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