Electromagnetism by EM Purcell is a classic book on electromagnetism. Luckily in my college library I found all the three editions of this book. After many months of observation, I found that the first edition published in 1965 had many concepts, practice problems and explanations which were omitted in second and third editions. The author explains in preface to second edition that it was necessary as these subtle points were either not suitable or were presented in a tough way for first reading hence were modified or omitted.

However I realize that they are invaluable for someone who has done a course already to learn and ponder on new tricky arguments but I was not able to find any PDF for first edition on internet and the books in my library are already in torn condition and may get lost within years. In this case what can I do to get this edition preserved and people from my college may continue to benefit from it?

The first edition of this book was funded by National Science foundation and I read on Wikipedia that these books had some copyright relaxation, however I couldn't comprehend it. In this case, is it allowed to scan it and circulate its soft copy? - I thought of it or should I request the library?

PS: This is the copyright page from the first edition:

Purcell 1st edition

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    You might try to reach this person who shares your thoughts: physicsforums.com/threads/… Commented May 4, 2019 at 21:04
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    thanks , this is really helpful, all the text is there at github.com/bcrowell/purcell but i couldn't see any images. Can you please help me with location of images ?
    – Kutsit
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 22:56
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    The images are in the figs directories. GitHub fails to render some. I had no problem looking at the pictures after cloning the repository.
    – Rayne
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 10:57
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    @Rayne: Re the figures, I carefully redrew/reworked the ones in the first couple of chapters to achieve the best possible quality. I stopped at that point because that was when I started to realize how messed up the legal situation was. Cambridge University Press and Dennis and Frank Purcell are IMO behaving unethically here by refusing to honor the restrictions that were attached to the original development of the book with government funding. They want to make money off of the third edition, and it looks impractical to enforce Edward Purcell's agreement.
    – user1482
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 16:54
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    @Kutsit: I think you should consider changing the title of your question. Perhaps "Copyright Situation for Rare Textbook". Maybe others disagree, but I thought you were going to be asking about physical preservation techniques such as "keep book in a low humidity environment, etc". Good luck!
    – James
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 14:46

3 Answers 3


Discuss with the librarian - they may know what is available - ie it could be scanned while the book is refurbished and recovered.

And, take the opportunity to explain to the librarian why it is worth saving - you know why as a specialist in the subject...

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    There are explicit permissions in the US for this kind of archiving, but come with limitations on the consultation of the texts (for example, only at the library). But the library can absolutely do it Commented May 4, 2019 at 15:35

Someone (Benjamin Crowell) has actually tried doing this. Apparently the copyright status is not quite clear:

As of March 4, 2014, the project is on hold because of the cloudy legal situation. The copyright page of the 1965 edition says to obtain a royalty-free license from EDC, which still exists. EDC, however, no longer owns the copyright to the 1965 edition. That copyright has changed hands several times, and now belongs to Edward Purcell's sons, Dennis and Frank Purcell. Cambridge University Press has refused to tell me how to contact them, but has said they would pass on my request to them.

Regardless of copyright, I would recommend checking out Library Genesis. It is not legal, but it actually has a scanned version of the 1st edition.

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    Thanks, that serves my purpose its already there on library genesis !
    – Kutsit
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 4:29
  • Scratch that, the github this is such manual re-typesetting. <strike>By the way, I have seen some efforts on manual re-typesetting of classic books, those were out of copyright. I wounder what is the legal situation of not scanning, but re-typesetting this book. Probably, even more cloudy!</strike> Commented May 5, 2019 at 11:10

Possibly -- based on author name, book title, the publishers and year of publication provided by you -- there is an electronic copy of this book at the internet archive (here) in (encrypted) *.daisy, *.epub, and *.pdf format in the section of books to borrow. You need Adobe Digital Editions as management software since each loan is for fourteen days, and "the library card" of archive.org.

It is a scan created with ABBYY FineReader 8.0, so it is OCRed, too.

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    Odd that archive.org has hitched their wagon to a closed-source DRM application that doesn't run on linux. DRM is a disaster, and nobody should support it or waste their time on it.
    – user1482
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 22:35
  • @BenCrowell Are you saying, according to your experience this post (helpdeskgeek.com/how-to/…, with wine, in written in 2012) does not work anymore today (2019)?
    – Buttonwood
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 5:22
  • As an update: A step-by-step instruction for using ADE (if you don't mind, version 2.0.1 instead of the current 4.5.10) in a fresh installation of Ubuntu 18.04 as recently as by 2018-May-12: patdavid.net/2018/05/…
    – Buttonwood
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 15:57

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