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Dear Malaysian Designers, Here Are A Million Images From The 17th-19th Century Put Up For Free Use!
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Dear Malaysian Designers, Here Are A Million Images From The 17th-19th Century Put Up For Free Use!

by Tania KnuttJuly 28, 2015

Ever been a fan of 17th – 19th century manuscripts and illustrations but could never get a hold of them because:
1: They were kept in the British Library and you live at the other end of the world?
2: Permission was needed for copyright purposes?

Well, rethink that eventual trip to the UK to have a look at these pictures because you can now get them from the comfort of your home and you can get them for free.


It was two years ago when the British Library released about a million images from books written hundreds of years ago into public domain, making them free to reuse and remix.

Why old news?

First of all, we want our local visual artists and graphic designers to take note. Secondly, it was also two years ago when Lotus Five Star Cinemas instituted the ‘Couple Seat’ ban on non-mahram couples and this only made news last week.

But back to the main topic at hand, generally there are rules to follow when one wants to use content like these illustrations in their own work. Most commonly, authors and artists are required to seek permission.

In this particular case, the British Library had a legit reason to release a million vintage manuscripts into the world. It wants people understand and perhaps channel creative juices into these artworks.

We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose.  The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: there are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colorful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.



Librarians who were part of this venture said that they didn’t have a great handle on the images but they do know the books from where these originate. Though they recognize the pictures, they don’t exactly know how to decipher them, hence this major move – they’re now crowd-sourcing for more answers.

In fairly short order, the library plans to release tools that will let willing participants gather information and deepen our understanding of everything in the Flickr Commons collection.

Be it for designers or art enthusiast and iconographic analyst , this is a godsend. Make the most out of it!

About The Author
Profile photo of Tania Knutt
Tania Knutt
She enjoys her morning coffees with a spoon of Nutella and a bowl of 'Carpe Diem'. Tania Knutt is a writer for The Daily Seni.

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