New Searchable Database Containing Millions Of Historical Copyright-Free Images

The first couple million of an expected 14 million images that have been scanned from books dating back over 500 years have been uploaded to Flickr by Kalev Leetaru and his Internet Archive team. Leetaru is a professor and Yahoo! Fellow in Residence at Georgetown University. (Yahoo! owns Flickr.)

BBC says “the pictures range from 1500 to 1922, when copyright restrictions kick in.”

The photos have been uploaded into an area of Flickr called The Commons. Here’s the Internet Archive Book Images Photostream. The Internet Archive’s team is pretty excited about their work.

“We are suddenly able to view the world’s books not as merely piles of text, but as individualized galleries of one of the richest and most diverse museums of imagery in the world.”

The link for each image includes the title of the book from which it came, the year it was published, its publisher, authors, and best of all, the text that appeared before and after the image. And this is all searchable! They’re going to be uploading more images in the next few months. Here are a couple:

Diamond Walnuts, 1839, The Saturday Evening Post:


“Add to many meat and vegetable dishes, plump, wholesome nut meats lend a delicious savor, and add most appetizingly to the nutritive value, too. For of all the wonderful foods that nature has produced, Diamond Brand California Walnuts best combine nutriment with flavor. A pound of Walnut meats contains as many calories (the scientific measurement of food value) as six pounds of lean ribs of beef, or five pounds of eggs, or thirteen pounds of oysters.”

Here’s a page from The Canadian Grocer, July-December, 1895


“Rome is reached by many routes. Success is reached by many more.”

And that little classified ad:

“Dogs for Business Men … Irish Terrier Puppies for Sale – From stock that has won first prizes in leading British and American shows. They are now the fashionable breed in Great Britain. They are the the most faithful companions, best watch dogs (the Standard Oil Co. use them exclusively), for they will fight until the last drop of blood in their daring little bodies in defence of their master or his property. No rats can live where they are. They are excellent dogs for the woods, and very fond of water.”

Welp, what’s good for The Standard Oil Co. …

And since I was just talking about tea:


“… natives, who roll and prepare the leaves for market in their filthy huts, often mixing them with dirt.”

Wow. You’d never read anything like that today.

I could spend hours here.

2 thoughts on “New Searchable Database Containing Millions Of Historical Copyright-Free Images

  1. Bix Post author

    I think this enormous trove of historical images is a big deal. I searched CNN for just a mention of it and it’s not there. It’s not even a side story. It’s crazy that a major headline is a new Apple phone but “one of the richest and most diverse museums of imagery in the world” is, well, a big nothing. Crazy…


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