Fairies & Elves: Richard Doyle’s 19th-Century Fairyland Illustrations

Elves, fairies, and insects in Richard Doyle In Fairyland (1870)

I’m back from a long hiatus!

Thank you to everyone who visits and shares this website. I hope everyone likes this latest batch of free vintage illustrations.

So let’s get to it ūüôā

There are so many more things I want to add to this site, one of them being more elves and fairies.

I’ve been aware of Richard Doyle’s In Fairyland illustrations for a while now, so I got my hands on some from public¬†domain collections at¬†various libraries.

This guy is definitely a public domain stand-out.

You can learn more about Doyle’s In Fairyland series at the Met’s public domain page.

Three elves battling a giant grasshopper in Richard Doyle's In Fairyland.

Fairies and elves clash with nature in this fun, vibrant series. Originally published in 1870.

A vintage color illustration of an elf with owls and birds.

Richard “Dickie” Doyle was born in Cambridge Terrace, London, in 1824 to notable Irish political caricaturist, John Doyle. Richard had no formal art training outside of his father’s own studio and guidance. At an early age, he showed a particular fondness for the fantasy genre.

Two fairies flying through the sky with a butterfly leaf chariot.

5 Fun Facts About Elves and Fairies

According to Encyclopedia.com,

  • The word “fairy” comes from the Latin word, Fata or fate.
  • ¬†In folklore, they’re depicted as both helpful and potentially harmful to humans. But always mischevious¬†in manner!
  • “Fairy tradition” or “fairy culture” is strongest in the British Isles. However, fairies appear in stories from Africa to Asia as well.
  • Many fairy stories present fairyland as a place where time stops or slows down considerably. This is evidenced by humans (mortals) who’re kicked out of fairyland after a year, only to return to the human world where several years have passed.
  • In 1927, an actual Fairy Investigation Society was established to document and study possible fairy sightings.

A vintage elf and fairy kissing near a mushroom in Fairyland.

This last image shows two of Doyles infamous fairies kissing in Fairyland. Perfect for Valentines Day!


Vintage Book Illustrations of British Mammals

Free to use vintage book illustration of British Fox Free vintage book illustration of British Squirrel

I think it’s time to add more animals to this site, don’t you think?

Good because I found this awesome antique book packed with British mammal illustrations from the early 20th century!

Published in 1920, British Mammals features more than 50 color plates and pen ink illustrations of Britain’s most recognized mammals.

I picked out my personal favorites, a walrus, fox, hedgehog, squirrel, and wildcat, then made a few quick edits using Pixlr.

These illustrations are perfect for magnets, postcards, coffee mugs, school flashcards, posters, and images for your blog.

Keep reading to learn more about the book’s illustrator, Archibald Thorburn.

Free antique illustration of a British Hedgehog Antique book illustration of British wildcat - free to use

An antique book illustration of a British Walrus

About The Artist: Archibald Thorburn

  • Archibald Thorburn was born in 1860 in Hascombe, Surrey in the UK.
  • He was of Scottish descent and frequently visited Scotland to paint its floral and fauna.
  • His favorite place in Scotland to paint was the Forest of Gaick.
  • Archibald’s father, Robert Thorburn, was a miniature portrait artist and worked for Queen Victoria.
  • His work was frequently shown at the Royal Academy.
  • He regularly painted birds, and in 1899, he created the first official Christmas Card for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

FREE Vintage William Heath Robinson Graphics In Color

William Heath Robinson is one of my favorite artists of the public domain. While searching for new material to curate, I stumbled upon of series of WWI illustrations he created through 1914 and 1918 called¬†“Some Frightful War Pictures.” ¬†These unique antique illustrations feature imaginative cannons, contraptions, battlefields, and more imaginative war imagery. I decided to create a small digital art project with them, and I used free tools such as Pixlr and LunaPic to create colorful “pop” versions of these illustrations for you to use.

Use these free William Heath Robinson graphics as blog images, material for collages, stickers, postcards, prints, and more!


Attribution to FreeVintageIllustrations.com is required for online use. See terms for more details. 

Free Vintage Illustrations for Easter: Beatrix Potter’s Benjamin Bunny

This is one of my favorite posts! Beatrix Potter was one of my favorite childhood authors and illustrators growing up, and I was absolutely thrilled to learn a while back that her original works entered the public domain in 2014. Her whimsical critters and rabbits have always been perfect for Easter.  One Easter Sunday, I remember receiving a miniature book collection of all her stories, from Peter Rabbit to Mr. Fisher. For this post, I brought back one of her classics, Benjamin Bunny. This book and its iconic illustrations were originally published in 1904. I selected and edited some of my favorites from a very early version of the book found in the public domain. Easter is the perfect time to bring out this classic story and create Beatrix Potter themed decor, blog images, parties, coloring books, and many more creative Easter projects. To help inspire some ideas, I included links to unique Beatrix Potter themed crafts at the end of the post!


Craft Projects & Gifts Inspired By Beatrix Potter!

Make this Easter a Beatrix Potter themed day! I gathered a list a really cool craft projects and gifts online inspired by the one and only Beatrix Potter. Her classic stories and illustrations are ideal for DIY Easter projects, plastic easter egg fillers, decor, and themed gift baskets. I hope you find the creative inspiration you need in this post to whip up some real Beatrix Potter magic this Easter!

Inspired Craft Projects

Beatrix Potter Preschool Activities         Beatrix Potter Inspired Baskets

Tiggy-Winkle Napkins                               Peter Rabbit Garden & Baby Shower Ideas

Beatrix Potter Nursery Theme                 Beatrix Potter Easter Egg Roll Party

Beatrix Potter Spring Garden Party         Beatrix Potter Glitter Ornaments

Beatrix Potter Gift Tags

Buy Beatrix Potter Gifts for Easter

Receiving Beatrix Potter gifts on Easter was one of my favorite childhood traditions. From her lovely illustrations to her whimsical woodland stories, it’s safe to say that Beatrix Potter is simply timeless! Yes, I’m an incurable Beatrix Potter nerd. I still have¬†many of my past Beatrix Potter stuffed animals, book collections, and stationery from childhood. My mom would also stuff my plastic Easter eggs with Beatrix Potter stickers and other trinkets. Looking back, that’s was great alternative to candy!

If you’re looking for a creative alternative to wicker Easter baskets, you can always use foldable Beatrix Potter themed gift boxes. These have that extra element of surprise so you can create fun Easter mystery boxes. Stuff your Beatrix Potter mystery box with Peter Rabbit stuffies, stickers, decorated eggs, craft supplies, sweets, and more trinkets.

Beatrix Potter has proven that Easter isn’t just for bunnies. Hedgehogs, frogs, and guinea pigs are also perfect critters for the season. Speaking of, I found these charming Beatrix Potter gift tags featuring guinea pigs working in the garden. These would make cute add-ons to easter baskets and¬†presents wrapped in Beatrix Potter Gift wrap. You could really make a Beatrix extravaganza if you wanted to! My inner child sure wants to that’s for sure.

*While Beatrix Potter is in the public domain, due to licensing conflicts with a previous publisher, I strongly recommend just using these images for personal use. Learn more here: http://www.hbook.com/2013/05/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/peter-rabbit-and-the-tale-of-a-fierce-bad-publisher/

Free Vintage Illustrations of Ducks and Ducklings

I recently took a part-time job at a fabric and craft store. ¬†Now¬†I’m surrounded by even more inspiration for creative projects and this site. ¬†There are bolts of ¬†fabric prints that feature classic vintage illustrations in the public domain, plus racks of boxes, journals, and specialty craft paper printed with antique art. ¬†And after coming across a duck-inspired craft kit for kids, I’ve had duckies on the brain. ¬†Ducks and ducklings are great crafting subjects too for Christmas decor, Nature themed collages, baby room decor, DIY greeting cards, and many more creative projects.

This latest gallery is curated from a variety of vintage children’s books and scientific illustrations. ¬†Researching and sharing images in the public domain is super fun if you love history too. Many of these images were produced by renown illustrators like Arthur Rackham and writer/illustrator Beatrix Potter!

A Treasure Trove of Children’s Book Illustration in The Public Domain

I went exploring at¬†my favorite public domain sites¬†¬†today¬†to find some really good vintage children’s books and illustrations. ¬†I also find it helpful to google artists who published work before 1923 and those who passed away in the 1930s and 40’s to find even more illustrations. ¬†The unique work of classic illustrators like Joseph Clayton Clarke, Francis Brundage, Jessie Willcox Smith, and¬†Elenore Abbott also make appearances in this latest post.

There are quite a few classic children’s stories and books being represented here, like Mother Goose, The Royal Children of British History, Heidi, Cinderella, Oliver Twist, and The Three Bears. ¬†Share these cool antique images with your fellow history buffs, vintage crafters, and children’s book gurus. ¬†And don’t forget to check out your local garage sales, thrift and stores, and even estate sales to score some really great vintage books as well!

These public domain illustrations are handy for a variety of creative projects too.  Greetings cards for teachers, wall art, mixed media paintings and collages, flashcards, playing cards, print-on-demand mugs are just a few of the many possibilities with antique illustrations in the public domain.

Artists in the Public Domain: The Whimsical Illustrations of William Heath Robinson

I’m always on the look out for awesome public domain art to curate, so I check in to see who’re the latest artists to enter the public domain. ¬†2015 has already brought William Heath Robinson into the mix. ¬†I really love his imaginative illustrations and cartoons. ¬†A beloved British illustrator, Robinson illustrated Hans Christen Andersen Fairytale books, publications and newspapers, books, and became known for a series of whimsical drawings of imaginative Contraptions. ¬†With Robinson’s work in the public domain, this opens up a world of possibilities for fellow artists, teachers, designers, and anyone working on a creative project.

Who Was William Heath Robinson?

Fun Facts

  • Was born in 1872 to a family of artists
  • His father, Thomas, and both his brothers, Thomas Heath and Charles, all worked as illustrators
  • William Heath Robinson illustrated several classic children’s books, most notably ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’, ‘Twelfth Night’, and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales.
  • He wrote three children’s books of his own, The Adventures of Uncle Lubin, Bill The Minder¬†and Peter Quip in Search of a Friend.
  • He became particularly known for his¬†contraptions and inventions illustrations
  • Learn more about Robinson’s life over at Wikipedia!