Searching Google Print for Old Books on China

Google print, which is scanning thousands of books in major research libraries, is useful when you want to scan across many English language books for terms. It only offers you a few pages, but will show you all the hits for words in given books, the pages they are on, and what pages surround them. Many books are not yet available, and you will find that some important books on East Asian history, both old and new are frustratingly missing will less common works are there. However, instead of going to the index of books you own, if it is on Google Print we have an increasingly quick alternative to consulting indexes.

For example, didn’t Poshek Fu’s book on collaboration in wartime Shanghai mention an organization called the Shanghai Association of the Theatrical Circle for National Salvation? Ah yes, Google Print tells me that it is mentioned on page 74, and in a footnote on page 188. I can then login to my google account and view that page, and in many cases a few pages surrounding it.

You can also completely search the contents of a work by of our own Alan Baumler, the leading contributor here at Frog in a Well – China. His Modern China and Opium: A Reader is already scanned up by Google through the University of Michigan’s library.

Now, most of us know that Google has been scanning lots of books no longer protected under copyright. Thanks to this announcement, it is easier for me to get at them.

Go to Google Print and search for China related books, for example, with this search term:

china date:1500-1923

You can also use other search elements to limit by author for example (eg. author:smith) or title (eg. intitle:language).

This could develop into a very useful searching tool for us in the future, since every page of these public domain books can be searched and viewed through google.

Update: See more interesting examples of old google print text searching over at Cliopatria.


  1. Re the statement ‘image may be subject to copyright’ ; I wish to use a number of images of ‘ancient chinese paper money’ in a scholarly article. Each image has been noted on the website: …as above…with no further followup information. Many of these images have been used in other articles and books relating to this subject in a similar historical context. Under these circumstances, may I assume that I am not infringing on any copyrights of use and these images are in the public domain?I might add that many of the images are on public view in various university and museum collections.

  2. The rules for copyrights of images are a bit different I understand and often the copyright of images that appear in books are not owned by the authors but printed with permission of the owners. I think there may be 50 “p.m.a.” (post death of originator of copyright?) or 70 or even 100 years in some cases.

  3. Even though the original image itself is out of copyright (money, for example, is a government document, right) the photograph has its own copyright owned by the photographer: it’s an original creation. This is why I won’t (mostly) put scans from art books in my flickr collection, though I’m shameless about posting pictures of artworks that I take in museums.

  4. The fact of this new copyright gained for a photograph or scan of an image is, in my opinion, one of the great scams of the copyright system. These exact reproductions claim, but it is debatable (and I don’t know if this has been tested in the courts) whether they have – they certainly don’t deserve copyright protection.

    While artistic modifications which add some originality to the photograph, or which include something else, I think, should deserve copyright, exact reproductions, even if they require work and effort by the photographer I believe should not get copyright. This the same scam used by microfilm reproducers of government documents to claim a new copyright on uncopyrightable works, or of publishers re-publishing (without reformating or resetting) out of copyright books.

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