Motion Pictures 1912-1939


Good grief. Rick Prelinger, of the Prelinger Archive, the sainted digitiser of so many good things now made freely available online, has just made the Library of Congress Motion Picture Catalogs available for download from The Internet Archive. Four volumes have been put up, in PDF and uncorrected but word-searchable text versions, covering 1913 to 1969, with the 1894-1912 volume in preparation. For our purposes, this includes all 1,256 pages of the 1912-1939 volume, which is sensational news for anyone interested in the study of silent film.

The Library of Congress Catalogs of Copyright Entries list all motion pictures registered for copyright in the USA (i.e. films not just made in the USA but shown in the USA). The entries give title, year, company, length, date of registration, and sometimes some credits. The printed volumes have long been the first port of call for anyone seriously engaged in identifying films from the silent period, but they have been restricted to a handful of research libraries. Suddenly they are available to all. The PDF is a huge size (157MB), but there is a 9MB text file of the word-searchable uncorrected OCR, and already there is talk of it being converted into a database. Wow.

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