Digging through the archives of old libraries is a blast. Depending on the library, you'll find everything from dated architectural drawings to snippets of old children's books. You can just imagine the treasures to be found in the British Library's ancient archive. And, now, you don't even have to get your fingers dusty!
The British Library just uploaded over a million images from the 17th to the 19th centuries to Flickr Commons. Since the British Empire spanned the globe during this period of time, that means thousands upon thousands of old biological illustrations and more than one offensive picture of "natives" are now available to all through the internet. That's on top of all the weird old British political cartoons and an inordinate number of Abraham Lincoln portraits.
We combed through a selection of the new collection and pulled some of the more—well—we found some weird pictures, basically. The British Library presents them largely without context, and so we will, too.
From: The United States of America. A study of the American Commonwealth, its natural resources, people, industries, manufactures, commerce, and its work in literature, science, education and self-government.
From: The Middle Kingdom. A survey of ... the Chinese Empire and its inhabitants
From: Popular History of Egypt
From: Letters from the Land of the Rising Sun. Being a selection from correspondence contributed to "The Times" between the years 1886 and 1892 ... With seventy-six illustrations
From: The South Sea Islanders and the Queensland Labour Trade
From: History of Stafford and Guide to the Neighbourhood
From: Humour, Wit, & Satire of the Seventeenth Century
From: Na Lagunach
From: Estudios sobre Carolinas. La isla de Ponapé. Geografia, etnografia, historia
From: A Ramble round the Globe
From: When Life is Young: a collection of verse for boys and girls
From: Bolivia. Sept années d'explorations, de voyages et de séjours dans l'Amérique Australe
From: Gately's World's Progress. A general history of the earth's construction and of the advancement of mankind
From: Through Masai Land
From: The Far Interior: a narrative of travel and adventure from the Cape of Good Hope across the Zambesi to the lake regions of Central Africa
All images via Flickr / British Library