Botanical and animal illustrations have been capturing the hearts and minds of nature lovers for centuries. When they first started being produced 300 years ago, they were the only scientific record we had of different plant and animal species. Today, they continue to capture the imagination for their demonstration of beauty and skill. One of the best resources for finding free, high-resolution animal and botanical illustrations is the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which has over 150,000 images available for download.
Since 2011, the open-access digital library has been building an archive on Flickr. By allowing users to gain access to these high-resolution images, they’re helping us understand how nature has been depicted throughout history. Of course, we’re not only talking about flower illustrations, there are also plenty of drawings that include wildlife in the mix.
If you’re looking for a specific image, you can search directly on the BHL website. Each entry will have a direct link to Flickr in the image description field. Or you can go straight to the BHL Flickr, where you’ll find albums broken up by publication. New material is constantly being added, so it’s well worth checking up every few months to see what’s appeared. In fact, since 2017 over 50,000 new images have made their way into the archive.
Newer entries include a 1901 manual to identifying mushrooms, an 1872 guide to Beautiful Birds in Far-Off Lands, as well as multiple volumes dedicated to watercolor paintings of North American and European plants. Anywhere you turn, there are treasures to be found; and by enabling high-resolution downloads, BHL lets viewers get close to the details of this precious material.