More Than 3,000 Vintage Book Graphics Find a Home Online


The site From Old Books is a stunning example of curated creativity, with high-resolution images that anyone can reuse


Machines for Boring Holes in Castle Walls
From Charles Knight's Old England: A Pictorial Museum (1845)

Thanks to the tireless curators behind brilliant sites such as 50 Watts, BibliOdyssey, Paleofuture, and How to Be a Retronaut, to name just a few of the Internet's treasure troves, we now have collections of archival material that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago.

A newcomer to this stable of gems, From Old Books is similarly fueled by an individual's passion for preserving graphics, and so also the culture, of bygone eras. Its creator, a British web developer named Liam Quin, has assembled a stellar selection of over 3,000 images from—and of—more than 180 rare antique books.

From fantastically creepy momento mori to beautiful children's book illustrations, and enough examples of typography that you could take up whole days just browsing, From Old Books is a fantastic place to look for royalty-free inspiration. We've gathered a small handful of the site's weird and wonderful objects for your viewing pleasure.


Armillary Sphere
From Ebenezer Sibly's Astrology: A New and Complete Illustration of the Occult Sciences (1806)

"I have subjoined a plate of the Armillary Sphere, which is an artificial contrivance, representing the several circles proper to the theory of the mundane world, put together in their natural order, to ease and assist the imagination in conceiving the constitution of the spheres, and the vairous phenomena of the celestial bodies. For this purpose the Earth is placed at the center, pierced by a line supposed to be its axis."


Strange Machine
From T. Antisell's Handbook of the Useful Arts (1852)


Hour Glass
From William Andrews's Curiosities of the Church: Studies of Curious Customs, Services and Records (1891)

"Of the few remaining specimens of the hour-glass, a fine one is preserved in the church of St. Alban's Wood Street, London. It is mounted on a spiral column near the pulpit, and the minister can conveniently reach it when preaching."


From Sydney F. Walker's Electric Lighting for Marine Engineers (1892)

"It will be understood, of course, that there should be an ampère meter on each circuit, so that the engineer can see what is going on. This, however, is not always done. In many "tramps" not even one ampère meter is to be found."


The Sun Typewriter
Advertisement from Charles Scribner's Scribner's Magazine No. 11 (1903)

Enjoy more gems on From Old Books—but don't say we didn't warn you: Bibliophilia takes hold quickly, and as far as we know, there's no cure.

This post also appears on Brain Pickings.
Images: Via From Old Books

Jump to comments
Presented by

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



More in Entertainment

Just In