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

BoringMachine.jpg

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.

ArmillarySphere.jpg

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."

StrangeMachine.jpg

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


HourGlass.jpg

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."

Switchboard.jpg

Switchboard
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."

SunTypewriter.jpg

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

Presented by

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

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