The British Library have this week released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. TheseĀ images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books in their collection, digitised and then released into the Public Domain via the Flickr Commons site.

The images themselves cover a wide range of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more.

In fact there are so many images, and such a varied range of sources, that the Library is not completely sure about all the images and they’re going to be using crowdsourcing to find out more. They plan to launch a crowdsourcing application at the beginning of next year, to help describe what the images portray. Their intention is to use this data to train automated classifiers that will run against the whole of the content.


British library

The images are all on Flickr and although a little overwhelming, it is possible to use the Flickr search to narrow down the field.The images themselves have been tagged to aid browsing and to provide new views on the works themselves. They are tagged by publication year, by book, and by author – and hopefully once the crowdsourcing project takes off there’ll be other useful tags to help find photos quickly.

The full gallery of scanned images can be found here. There’s also a set of highlights from the collection here. Teachers of History and Geography will find lots here of interest, but other subjects too.

You can find out more about their plans at the British Library website.