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

by | Permalink | Comments (10) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (10)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • 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

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.