Saturday, March 13, 2010

An Antique Treasure Chest

Illustration from medieval French manuscript

I love how I can always rely on the web for interesting discoveries and pleasant surprises.
 From awesome artists I had never heard about, to wonderful blogs and information 
resources, I can find it all in the comfort of my studio, at any time I please, for the small
 price of an ADSL connection. I try to remember not to take this for granted, and to be 
grateful to the countless people who in their personal way contribute to this incredible 
and ever growing public repository of knowledge and art. Having worked in the past as an
 iconographic researcher in the publishing field, I know well how hard it used to be to 
find images for specific projects without having to pay high prices to agencies or spend 
hours looking around in dusty bookstores (by the way, I do enjoy dusty bookstores).

Medieval illustration from beekeeping manuscript

Blue kingfisher and lilies from Livre de Fleur, 1620

Illustration by Mark Catesby from History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, 1780

This morning, when thanks to Tumblr I came upon, I reacted with 
the classic "How come I haven't seen this before?". The website, as the name implies, 
hosts a huge collection of downloadable and printable public domain images. The animal
 section alone contains hundreds of variously catalogued images, from medieval
 bestiaries to Buffon, from Japanese prints to 1960s stamps. The kind of stuff one can 
usually find in Dover books, great for collages, crafts, and overall inspiration, but in a 
free digital format. The project is the brainchild of Swivelchair, a biopharma professional
 with the hobby of curating out-of-copyright scientific illustration.

Elephant and Zebra from Infants cabinet of Birds and Beasts, 1820

Echidna from Complements de Buffon, 1838
Ink wash illustration from Jean Baptiste Vérany's
Mèmoire sur deux nouvelles espèces de Céphalopodes trouvées dans l'océan, 1839

Butterflies from Oriental Entomology by J. O. Westwood, 1848

Indian snake charmers, 18th-19th century

Plate from Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur, 1904
(one of my favorite illustrated books ever)

Cover of A Cat Alphabet by Louis Wain, 1910

Brothers Grimm German stamp, 1963

All images in this post are a semi-random selection of things found at vintage printable.
Go take a look and try not to get lost; there's a lot more to see.


  1. Hi!

    I was wondering if you could share your primary source for the bee picture posted here.

    I am a beekeeper and study Medieval beekeeping. I collect images and information and sometimes write papers for a group I belong to. I'd like to be able to cite the primary source of the image.


  2. Hey Sarah,
    I am also looking for the primary source for the bee image, have you had any success? Thanks, Melissa



Related Posts with Thumbnails