Free Coloring Books from The Public Domain Review: Download & Color Works by Hokusai, Albrecht Dürer, Harry Clarke, Aubrey Beardsley & More

Did you some­how miss that the Pub­lic Domain Review has got­ten in on the adult col­or­ing book craze?

If so, don’t feel bad. There were prob­a­bly a lot of oth­er news items vying for your atten­tion back in March of 2020, when the first vol­ume was released “for diver­sion, enter­tain­ment and relax­ation in times of self-iso­la­tion.”

By the time the sec­ond vol­ume made its debut less than two months lat­er, the first had been down­loaded some 30,000 times.

Tell your scarci­ty men­tal­i­ty to stand down. You may be late to the par­ty, but all 40 images can still be down­loaded for free, “to ease and aid plea­sur­able focus in these odd­est of times.”

It’s our belief that odd times call for odd images so we’re repro­duc­ing some of our favorites below, though be advised there are also plen­ty of calm­ing botan­i­cal prints and grace­ful maid­ens for those crav­ing a less chal­leng­ing col­or­ing expe­ri­ence.

Behold Saint Antho­ny Tor­ment­ed by Demons by Mar­tin Schon­gauer (c. 1470–75), above!

And below, the 13-year-old Michelangelo’s repro­duc­tion in tem­pera on a wood pan­el. Biog­ra­phers Gior­gio Vasari and Ascanio Con­divi both told how the young artist vis­it­ed the fish mar­ket, seek­ing inspi­ra­tion for the demons’ scales. Per­haps you will be inspired by the bare­ly teenaged High Renais­sance master’s palette, though it’s YOUR col­or­ing page, so you do you.

In “Fill­ing in the Blanks: A Pre­his­to­ry of the Adult Col­or­ing Craze”, his­to­ri­ans Melis­sa N. Mor­ris and Zach Carmichael recount how pub­lish­er Robert Say­er’s illus­trat­ed book, The Florist, “for the use & amuse­ment of Gen­tle­men and Ladies” was pub­lished with the explic­it under­stand­ing that read­ers were meant to col­or in its botan­i­cal­ly semi-inac­cu­rate images:

Com­prised of pic­tures of var­i­ous flow­ers, the author gives his (pre­sum­ably) adult read­ers detailed instruc­tions for paint mix­ing and col­or choice (includ­ing the delight­ful sound­ing “gall-stone brown”).

Per­haps you will bring some of Sayer’s sug­gest­ed col­ors to bear on the above image from Parisian book­seller Richard Breton’s Les songes dro­la­tiques de Pan­ta­gru­el (1565), a col­lec­tion of 120 grotesque wood­cut fig­ures intend­ed as a trib­ute to the bawdy writer (and priest!) François Rabelais, or a pos­si­bly just a can­ny mar­ket­ing ploy.

Next, let’s col­or this perky fel­low from Gio­van­ni Bat­tista Nazari’s famous alchem­i­cal trea­tise on metal­lic trans­mu­ta­tion, Del­la tra­mu­ta­tione metal­li­ca sog­ni tre from 1599. 

The “winged pig in the world” by Dutch engraver and map­mak­er Cor­nelis Anthon­isz doesn’t look very cheer­ful, does he? He’s on top of the impe­r­i­al orb, but he’s also an alle­go­ry of the cor­rupt world. Hope­ful­ly, this will get sort­ed by the time pigs fly.

As to Ambroise Paré’s 1598 ren­der­ing of a “cam­phur” … well, let’s just say THIS is what a prop­er uni­corn should look like.

Accord­ing to an anno­tat­ed check­list that accom­pa­nied the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Museum’s Clois­ters’ 75th Anniver­sary exhi­bi­tion Search for the Uni­corn, Paré, a pio­neer­ing French bar­ber sur­geon, claimed that it live(d) in the Ara­bi­an Desert, and that its horn can cure var­i­ous mal­adies, espe­cial­ly poi­son­ing.”

There’s a lot to unpack there. Think about it as you col­or.

Hoku­sai, Albrecht Dür­er, and Aubrey Beard­s­ley, are among the artists whose work you’ll encounter, “arranged in vague order of dif­fi­cul­ty — from a sim­ple 17th-cen­tu­ry kimono pat­tern to an intri­cate thou­sand-flow­ered illus­tra­tion.”

Down­load Vol­ume 1 of the Pub­lic Domain Review Col­or­ing book in US Let­ter or A4 for­mat.

And here is Vol­ume 2 in US Let­ter or A4 for­mat.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Free Col­or­ing Books from 101 World-Class Libraries & Muse­ums: Down­load and Col­or Hun­dreds of Free Images

A Free Shake­speare Col­or­ing Book: While Away the Hours Col­or­ing in Illus­tra­tions of 35 Clas­sic Plays

Down­load 150 Free Col­or­ing Books from Great Libraries, Muse­ums & Cul­tur­al Insti­tu­tions: The British Library, Smith­son­ian, Carnegie Hall & More

The Dro­lat­ic Dreams of Pan­ta­gru­el: 120 Wood­cuts Envi­sion the Grotesque Inhab­i­tants of Rabelais’ World (1565)

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.