A Free Library Of 12 Million Photos For You To Use


As part of a long-running project called the Internet Archive, millions of books that are out of copyright have been digitized and put online.  However, although the text was put through an OCR system and made easily available, the OCR systems were programmed to ignore any areas of the pages which contained pictures.  

Which resulted in a huge searchable archive of text from 600 million pages, but no easy way to look through the pictures that were on those pages.  Until now.

An academic in the US managed to write some special software which automatically trawled through those 600 million pages in search of pictures.  The software then tagged them with some useful metadata and uploaded them to Flickr.  So far, 2.6 million images have been uploaded. In total, 12 million images were found, and all of them are in the process of being uploaded too.

Because the scanned books were all out of copyright, dating from 1500 to 1922, all of the pictures are copyright-free too.  You can browse and download them as you wish, and use them for any purpose that you choose.  

To get started, point your browser at https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages to see what's available.




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For me, Flickr's search box seemed to work properly. This was my first visit to Flickr, so I'll be interested to learn more about how to use it, and whether a log-in would provide more features.

After clicking on Rob's link, I clicked on the first image that appeared, which was a Thanksgiving platter of roast turkey, copied from The Saturday Evening Post, according to the meta-data revealed by scrolling down on the photo's own page. Next, I backed-up to the main "Internet Archive Book Images" page (where Rob's link had led me) and typed the word turkey in the search box in the top-right corner; this gave me the drop-down option (which I chose) to limit my search to the current Internet Archive Book Images photos. The search-results page included the option to filter the results by type of license. After choosing "commercial use allowed," I re-opened that filter, chose "modifications allowed," and then saw that both of those filters were active. Subsequent searches from that screen retained the filter settings.

Yes, certainly, there were countless images in the search results. However, this "problem of plenty" doesn't seem all that different from what we have with a Web search of an unfathomably large number of websites. On Flickr, perhaps we don't have the benefit of algorithms designed to push popular results to the top of the search list, and the environment may be less familiar, and we probably have fewer refinement options available. Still, a similar image search through a standard Web search engine gave me a similarly overwhelming number of images.

Having said all that, though, we are not limited to using Flickr's search engine to search Flickr's images. From my image search on Google, for the words Thanksgiving platter roast turkey The Saturday Evening Post, I didn't immediately find that same photo that I'd seen first on Flickr. But, by adding site:Flickr.com to my search string, that image was the first of only 9 images in my search results!

Thanks ichabod!
For your detailed and useful comment.

I can't find any search device. Not useful without.

One solution is to use Google search.
Just type the topic that you are interested in, followed by this: site:flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages.
Example: type (without the quotes) in Google search: "indians site:flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages" to view images taken from books regarding indians.
The other solution is this:
Underneath every image you can see the metadata. On the right you can see some tags which include bookid bookyear bookdecate booksubject etc.
If you click on any of these tags you will be searching for this specific tag.
But you can also use these tags to find other subjects.
Example: In flickr search space, type booksubjectindians to see images of books regarding...well...indians.
Same applies for other tags e.g. if you type bookyear1842 you will find images from books from 1842.

Thanks, gem, for those gems of helpful info!

I don't see any way to search. 12 million photos at random will require more than one sandwich.

As these images are copyright free, can they also be used with
modifications of the image. Or can we only use "As Is"
I would like to modify for commercial purposes. I.E. Kindle,
blogs and other.

Thanks Rob.
This huge collection of images from 1500 to 1922, shows the magnitude of the information in the cloud, at our disposal.
In this case made possible by the free 1 TB in Flickr.