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Spotlight on the Public Domain, Biblio File, The Ticketless Traveler

Famous Literary Locales, Visualized


This is one of a series of blog posts related to the NYPL Public Domain Release: discover the collections and find inspiration for using them in your own research, teaching, and creative practice.

The New York Public Library recently threw open the doors to our digital collections, making 180,000 public-domain available to the public for free—and it’s opened up huge rabbit holes that you can’t help but fall down.

In Readers Services, we went hunting for images that evoke our favorite literary scenes, and oh the places you can go…

Here are some of our favorites.

John Steinbeck’s Dust Bowl America

dust bowl
Photograph of Dust Bowl refugees along a highway near Bakersfield, Calif., 1935. Image ID: 3999709

Gelatin silver prints from the Farm Security Administration Photographs collection show scenes from the era of The Grapes of Wrath.

Edith Wharton’s New York City

NYC apartments
Various NYC apartment buildings, 1908. Image ID: 1238851

When Lily Bart fell from grace in The House of Mirth, she did it in the elegant apartment buildings of Golden Age New York. Roam their interiors via the Apartment Houses of the Metropolis Collection.

Eloise’s Plaza Hotel

Detail of a menu at the Plaza Hotel, 1933. Image ID: 4016503

A detail shot from a menu at the Plaza Hotel—home of Kay Thompson’s indomitable little girl Eloise, who likes to “scamper to the Terrace room where those debutantes are prancing around.”

Catherine the Great’s Moscow

Jean-Baptiste Le Prince print of a gentlewoman in Moscow, 1768.

Gentlewomen such as this one may have roamed the streets of Moscow during the era of Catherine the Great, the subject of much literary fiction.

Oliver Twist’s London

“After the opera” print, London, 1840. Image ID: 5266918

Charles Dickens's serialized tale of the streetwise orphan was published serially, starting in 1837; this print depicts
“the lamplit colonnade of a theatre, where elegantly dressed patrons of the opera are seen departing after a performance... while a shabbily dressed man approaches a well-dressed trio, probably soliciting business for a hansom cab.”

Dracula’s Transylvania

Map of Transilvania, Walachia, Moldavia, Bulgaria, Bessarab, 1681. Image ID: 1503428

Adorn your wall with an art print of this 1681 map of Transylvania and its environs—where Bram Stoker’s Dracula roamed two centuries later.

Sir Walter Scott’s Edinburgh

Engraving by William Woolnoth, ca. 1800. Image ID: EM3952

The Scottish novelist wrote a series of novels in the early 19th century that center on the Old Tollbooth Prison in Edinburgh. This landscape, looking toward civilization, may echo what he saw. 

Salem of The Crucible

Old Witch House, Salem, Mass., 1898-1931. Image ID: 68677

The caption on this postcard reads, “where victims of witchcraft were condemned, 1692”—the setting for Arthur Miller's iconic play about the Salem witch hysteria.

Baudelaire’s Paris

View of Paris, 1861. Image ID: 1105551

The French poet’s notion of modernity was formed in Paris, presumably on streets that looked much like this pencil drawing.

Jules Verne’s flying machines

Drawing of dirigibles, 1901. Image ID: 1693495

Around the World in 80 Days featured an array of flying machines... perhaps some like these dirigibles drawn by Albert Guillaume “inspirée par les expériences de Santos-Dumont (1901).”

What other book and image pairings can you think of?

Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

Digital prints of literary locations

I want to see more.

illustrations from the archives

You never fail to impress me with the incredible acumen of the staff. You are all overworked and underpaid but provide one of the most positive experiences in New York City I hope your funding will be increased and that your salaries will be increased. I appreciate all that you and all the libraries of New York provide. I thank God for the resources that are provided free and for everyone. Thank you again for all that you do to make this city a better and more cultured place Henry Kane

NYPL maps and c

I concur with what Henry Kane said. Well said, and well done!

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