The British Library offers over a million free vintage images for download

These centuries-old copyright-free images include everything from from book illustrations to photos – and cover subjects from flowers to cycling and children's books to maps.


Need some vintage visual inspiration – or a real antique elements for an illustration, design or motion project? Then check out the British Library's collection of over a million copyright-free images that essentially you can do whatever you like with. Read also: 9 great sites for free images

The British Library's collection of images on Flickr are taken from books it has its collection from the 17th, 18th and 19th Century – so well out of copyright – and are vaguely arranged by theme: such as book covers, cycling, illustrated lettering, comic art, ships or children's book illustration. There's also a collection of 'Highlights' that's a good place to start if you just want a general browse.

That there's any sense of order to the collection is a testament to the volunteers who have catalogued images posted to Flickr by the library's Mechanical Curator – a bot that randomly picks and posts images from the all of the books the library has digitised since 2013.

Both photos and illustrations are included, though unfortunately many of their creators aren't credited – merely the authors of the books they appear in.

Image: Illustration by Stanley Llewellyn Wood from Doctor Nikola, etc by Guy Newell Boothby. Found in the Highlights collection.

Illustration from The Sacred Gift. A series of meditations upon Scripture subjects by Charles Benjamin Tayler. Found in the Ships collection.


Illustration from The Sportsman and Naturalist in Canada, or notes on the Natural History of the Game, Game Birds, and Fish of that Country by William Ross King. Found in the Highlights collection.

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Book cover from The Aldine “O'er Land and Sea. Found in the Book covers collection.


Book cover from Caledonian Railway. Tours in Scotland. Found in the Book covers collection.


Illustration from Funny Books for Boys and Girls. Struwelpeter. Good-for-nothing Boys and Girls. Troublesome Children. King Nutcracker and Poor Reinhol. Found in the Chlidren's Book Illustration collection.

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Illustration by Mrs John Charles Melliss from St. Helena: a physical, historical, and topographical description of the island by John Charles Melliss. Found in the Flora collection.


Magazine cover from The Modern Bicycle. Found in the Cycling collection.


Book cover from The Coming of Father Christmas by Eliza F Manning. Found in the Christmas collection.

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Map from Cassell's Illustrated History of the War between France and Germany, 1870-1871 by Edmund Ollier. Found in the Maps collection.