Bring Zing to Your Posts with Public Domain or Creative Commons Images

Cacao from Flore Medicale by Chaumeton et al, 1820.08 Heade - Hummingbird and passionflowers DT2080 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Unswept floor mosaic from ancient Rome Owl person drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 387 Tacos for 89 cents from Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr Banana, from Flora de Filipinas by F.M. Blanco, ca 1880 Winslow Homer Gulf Stream - from the Metropolitan Museum of Art DP140858 Hiroshige woodblock print - Fugu and Inada Fish, from the series Uozukushi DP123586 "Her Bitter Awakening", book cover from the British Library Passenger Pigeons by Audubon 1840-1844 from NYPL digital collections

Main Reading Room at the U.S. Library of CongressSoon after I started blogging 10+ years ago, I learned about Creative Commons licenses, which some creators apply to their own work so it can be shared with certain restrictions (note that this blog is currently licensed with a CC BY-NC-SA 2.5, and my Flickr collection also has a CC license).  After figuring out the mechanics, I started using CC-licensed items to add visual elements to my blog posts (the first CC image I used was a lovely black and white photo of a crow in flight from Mark Lorch’s collection for my random musings about a Los Angeles street).  I continued to use Creative Commons art, mostly from Flickr, when I wanted a picture of a carrot, or a wheel of cheese, or something similarly relevant to my post.

As time went on, new collections of images appeared and I learned about existing collections, and started to use them as sources of the art for my blog. Eventually, however, my tastes changed slightly and I started being attracted to the ‘vintage’ material in the archives. I liked adding quirky or unusual images to my posts — instead of a picture of a finished dish that I was writing about, I’d include something from an old seed catalog or a fairy tale (as in my post about turnip pickles and turnip greens).

In the spirit of the Creative Commons, I’ll share a few of my favorite sources and list some of their good and bad characteristics:  Flickr Commons, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons CCSearch, and Google Books/Hathi Trust.

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Another Batch of Vintage Book Covers

"A Man's Man", book cover from the British Library

While browsing the amazing and often confounding Flickr Commons, I was entranced by a collection of late 19th century book covers from the British Library. The majority of the nearly 900 covers are “pulp novels,” but you’ll also find travel books, text books, and other miscellany. Last month I shared a batch of six vintage book covers, and this post has six more in the image gallery that have interesting art or a lurid title.  (Click any one of the images to expand the image and navigate through the collection.)

 

Image Credits
All book covers from the British Library’s Flickr Commons collection, in the Book Covers found by the community from the Mechanical Curator Collection. No known copyright restrictions.

The Cowboy Clan, or the Tigress of Texas
Dark Dashwood, the Desperate; or the Child of the Sun
Mad Tom’s Mission; or Crushing the Silver Scorpions
The Texas Tramp, or Solid Sam the Yankee Hercules
A Man’s Man
Cloven Hoof – The Demon Buffalo of the Border Vultures

More Sketches by W.M. Thackeray

Thackerayana has too many enchanting sketches to be limited to a single post of Thackeray sketches, so I’m highlighting ten more sketches (this time as a “slider,” instead of a tiled gallery).  In the gallery you’ll find struggles with umbrellas, fencing vegetables, dancers, and more.

Big hair, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 325
Big hair, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) – page 325

I want to highlight one of the sketches, which I call “big hair.”  To accompany the drawing, Thackerayana has a long quote from a publication called the ‘World’ on May 3, 1753, which I assume held the big hair sketch in its margins.  It’s a conversation between a father, mother and daughter about hair styling:

“But how do you like my pompon, papa?” continued my daughter; “Is it not a charming one? I think it is prettier than mamma’s.”

“It may, child, for anything that I know; because I do not know what part of all this frippery thy pompon is.” [said papa]

“It is this, papa,” replied the girl, putting up her hand to her head, and showing me in the middle of her hair a complication of shreds and rags of velvets, feathers, and ribands, stuck with false stones of a thousand colours, and placed awry.

“But what hast thou done to thy hair, child, and why is it blue? Is that painted, too, by the same eminent hand that coloured thy cheeks?”

“Indeed, papa,” answered the girl, “as I told you before, there is no painting in the case; but what gives my hair that bluish cast is the grey powder, which has always that effect on dark-coloured hair, and sets off the complexion wonderfully.”

“Grey powder, child!” said I, with some surprise; “grey hairs I knew were venerable; but till this moment I never knew they were genteel.”

“Extremely so, with some complexions,” said my wife; “but it does not suit with mine, and I never use it.”

Reference

Thackerayana: Notes and Anecdotes, illustrated by nearly six hundred sketches by William Makepeace Thackeray, depicting humorous incidents in his school life, and favourite scenes and characters in the books of his every-day reading, by Joseph Grego, published by Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly (London), 1875. Full text at Archive.org. No known copyright restrictions.

Vintage Book Covers from the British Library

"Seth Slocum, Railroad Surveyor, or The Secret of Sitting Bull", book cover from the British Library "The Skipper of the Seagull", book cover from the British Library "Lance and Lasso! or Adventures on the Pampas!", book cover from the British Library "Buffalo Bill - The Buckskin King, or the Amazon of the West", book cover from the British Library "Tiger Dick the Faro King, or The Cashier's Crime" from the British Library on Flickr Commons "Her Bitter Awakening", book cover from the British Library

"Seth Slocum, Railroad Surveyor, or The Secret of Sitting Bull", book cover from the British LibraryOn my journeys through the amazing Flickr Commons, one of the more exciting finds is a collection of late 19th century book covers from the British Library. The nearly 900 covers are primarily what we today call “pulp novels” written for the mass market, but there are also travel books, text books, and other miscellany.  In the image gallery in this post, I’ve included some of my favorites, covers with interesting art or a lurid title — “Her Bitter Awakening” is a special favorite right now.  (Click any one of the images to expand the image and navigate through the collection.)

I’d love to read “Seth Slocum, Railroad Surveyor, or the Secret of Sitting Bull” — how often do you see an adventure story about a surveyor, an important but not glamorous job? I suspect that the story is about a surveyor working in the western territories who gets mixed up in conflicts between settlers and Native Americans.  Unfortunately, the book is available as a PDF download and the text quality is rather poor, as the screenshot of two pages from the digitization below show.  It would not be easy to read this book on a computer or mobile device.  (But here’s something worth trying: use Acrobat Pro to extract the Seth Slocum part of the PDF as images, then use an image editor to sharpen the text.)

Pages from Seth Slocum, Railroad Surveyor, digitized by the British Library
Pages from Seth Slocum, Railroad Surveyor

 

Image Credits
All book covers from the British Library’s Flickr Commons collection, in the Book Covers found by the community from the Mechanical Curator Collection. No known copyright restrictions.

Her Bitter Awakening
Buffalo Bill – The Buckskin King, or the Amazon of the West
Lance and Lasso! or Adventures on the Pampas!
Seth Slocum, Railroad Surveyor, or The Secret of Sitting Bull
The Skipper of the Seagull
Tiger Dick the Faro King, or The Cashier’s Crime

Sketches by W.M. Thackeray, a Master of the Quick Sketch

Self portrait, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 492 Moon observer, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 211 Owl person drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 387 Flying witches, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 212 A reader, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 264 Faces, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 107 A Wayside Sketcher, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 473 Sitting for a portrait, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 432 Napper, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 194 Falling foul of the skirts, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 488 Self portrait, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 455

Rainy weather and stressed umbrellas, drawing by W.M. Thackeray from Thackerayana (1875) - page 460 - BWhile searching for something or other in Flickr Commons, the wave of images included some attractive sketches of people struggling with umbrellas in a storm, elegantly attired dancers, and various other everyday happenings.  I soon discovered that they were from Thackerayana: Notes and Anecdotes, a book published in 1875. The book is tribute to William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), a writer known for the novels Vanity Fair and The Luck of Barry Lyndon (this was the foundation for Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 film Barry Lyndon).

The 500+ page book highlights Thackeray’s skill as an artist — he was a master of caricature and the quick sketch — by pairing facsimiles of drawings found in the margins of books in his library with relevant writing (sometimes the text near his drawings, sometimes text relevant to the drawing).  His drawings can be charming and inventive, and the gallery above shows some of my favorites.  The images could make a fun coloring book.

[Click “Continue Reading” to see an image gallery.]

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19th Century Plant Paintings

Flore médicale, by François Pierre Chaumeton, Jean Louis Marie Poiret, and Jean Baptist Joseph Anne César Tyrbas de Chamberet. Published by Panckoucke, 1833 (on Google Books from various libraries).

426 hand-colored plates.  Illustrated by E. Panckoucke and P.J.F. Turpin.