Download for Free 2.6 Million Images from Books Published Over Last 500 Years on Flickr

flickr archive globe

Thanks to Kalev Leetaru, a Yahoo! Fellow in Residence at Georgetown University, you can now head over to a new collection at Flickr and search through an archive of 2.6 million public domain images, all extracted from books, magazines and newspapers published over a 500 year period. Eventually this archive will grow to 14.6 million images.

This new Flickr archive accomplishes something quite important. While other projects (e.g., Google Books) have digitized books and focused on text — on printed words — this project concentrates on images. Leetaru told the BBC, “For all these years all the libraries have been digitizing their books, but they have been putting them up as PDFs or text searchable works.”  “They have been focusing on the books as a collection of words. This inverts that.”

flicker reo speedwagon

The Flickr project draws on 600 million pages that were originally scanned by the Internet Archive. And it uses special software to extract images from those pages, plus the text that surrounds the images. I arrived at the image above when I searched for “automobile.” The page associated with the image tells me that the image comes from an old edition of the iconic American newspaper, The Saturday Evening Post. A related link puts the image in context, allowing me to see that we’re dealing with a 1920 ad for an REO Speedwagon. Now you know the origin of the band’s name!

venice flickr

I should probably add a note about how to search through the archive, because it’s not entirely obvious. From the home page of the archive, you can do a keyword search. As you’re filling in the keyword, Flickr will autopopulate the box with the words “Internet Archive Book Images’ Photostream.” Make sure you click on those autopopulated words, or else your search results will include images from other parts of Flickr.

Or here’s an easier approach: simply go to this interior page and conduct a search. It should yield results from the book image archive, and nothing more.

In case you’re wondering, all images can be downloaded for free. They’re all public domain.

More information about the new Flickr project can be found at the Internet Archive.

In the relateds below, you can find other great image archives that recently went online.

flicker gall

via the BBC and Peter Kaufman

Related Content:

Folger Shakespeare Library Puts 80,000 Images of Literary Art Online, and They’re All Free to Use

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Puts 400,000 High-Res Images Online & Makes Them Free to Use

New York Public Library Puts 20,000 Hi-Res Maps Online & Makes Them Free to Download and Use

The British Library Puts 1,000,000 Images into the Public Domain, Making Them Free to Reuse & Remix

The Rijksmuseum Puts 125,000 Dutch Masterpieces Online, and Lets You Remix Its Art

Where to Find Free Art Images & Books from Great Museums, and Free Books from University Presses

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Comments (10)
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  • thailand guest says:

    Had no idea Flickr has been publishing books for 500 years. That is amazing.


      Flicker has not been publishing books. They are similar to FaceBook, Twitter, and others in that Fliker is an image, picture, or graphic archive available to everybody, to upload graphics either for private or public use. Like weddings, birth days, or other occasions. Some artists have uploaded copies of their copyrighted art work. There is even some graphics that are how to, educational, or religious in nature.


    I can appreciate their desire to archive these graphics for posterity, but who has the patience to click or tap through over 26,000 pages of pictures?…

  • Mary Gemmato says:

    This sounds interesting.

  • Kid Cisco says:

    DAVID ALAN JONES RIDGE – No way “thailand” was serious. :)

  • Septimus Harding says:

    “thailand” was was poking fun at the ambiguously worded title.

  • Darlene Bishop says:

    What a tremendous work! Thank you. I’m sure I’ll never see them all, but it’s great to know they’re available.

  • Harpal Sangwan says:

    Super service, great job to make such a vast treasure for every body free.Thank you.

  • Christina Harris says:

    None of the ways described above or the links provided for searching the archive are working. Help!

  • pat says:

    None of the ways described above or the links provided for searching the archive are working. Help!


    Still don’t know how to search the archive????

    Please HELP

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