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!


Free Vintage Illustrations of Wild Animals, Insects, and Marine Life from Antique Children’s Science Book

I’ve been wanting to do a wild animals post for a while, but hadn’t found the right content I was looking for until now. Published in 1895, A Popular History of Animals for Young People¬†was like an early version of Scientific Britannica for Kids. Rather than cartoonish animal figures, this book features animals drawn in that classic scientific illustration style. I love reading through old informational resources and encyclopedias and spotting outdated information and the changes in views, psychology, zoology, and more subjects. But those antique book illustrations never go out of style! These images are no longer under copyright, so they’re free to use in all your animal-themed projects. Furthermore, these free images are great for book covers, placemats, postcards, t-shirt designs, posters, Etsy crafts, and more creative projects. Plus don’t forget to check out some quick zoological history facts at the end of this post!

Fun Facts about the History of Zoology

  • Zoology is also known as animal biology, which is the branch of biological study that deals with just the animal kingdom and how animals interact with their environment. Examples of different subjects in animal biology/zoology¬†include: embryology, classification, ecology, evolution, molecular biology, and extinction.
  • Zoological study was first introduced in ancient Greco-Roman times
  • Pioneering naturalists like¬†Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon and¬†Carl Linnaeus were among the first people to start documenting animal biodiversity and animal classification.
  • Charles Darwin’s famous work about natural selection, The Origin of the Species, shook the zoological world in 1859.
  • Aristotle wrote extensively about living things, encouraging the emerging study of zoology
  • Ancient Roman scholar, Pliny the Elder, wrote a 37-volume zoological book called¬†Historia naturalis¬†(Natural History) – this is often credited as the first written scientific encyclopedia. While this book did not discern between scientific facts and assumptions from the scientific community of the time, this book nonetheless served as the predominant text on natural history (in the western world) for centuries.

If you’re posting these images on your website or social media pages, please link back to this site, FreeVintageIllustrations.com.

FREE Charming Vintage Clipart of Animals for Your Projects

It’s been a lot of fun sifting though pages of colorful vintage images from these publisher pictorial archive books. ¬†It inspires so many possibilities for craft projects, fine art, accessories, and even animation and online products. ¬†I’m slowly but surely scanning and playfully editing them to create more totally free vintage inspired clipart for everyone to enjoy and use. ¬†Cut them up for paintings, add to your blog posts or website, turn them into charming storytelling flashcards, create digital collages, or use in your commercial works!


 Playful Victorian Clipart

The Victorian-era animal clipart above is totally free to use in your personal and commercial projects.  I placed all my vintage inspired clipart in the public domain. These images were scanned and edited by this site, FreeVintageIllustrations.com.  Keeping watermarks is not required. If posting/sharing online or using in a commercial work, Credit to this site is appreciated.

Free Vintage Illustrations of Bees & Honey

Well, San Francisco seems to be back to its traditional gloomy summers this year, but there have definitely been some sunny days sprinkled in here and there.  Seasons inspire so many creative ideas, and there are tons of public domain and vintage-inspired illustrations to match.

I’ve had that spring classic “bees & honey” combo on my brain lately, so I decided to beat the fog down and comb through the web to curate another spring-themed post. ¬†Bees & honey are charming themes for baby showers, summer birthday cards, gardening themed crafts, and more. ¬†These illustrations really stood out to me, plus I also threw in some modern yet retro-inspired ones in there too. ¬†Enjoy!

Easy Decorative Ideas For Your House Plants

Free vintage images of bees and honey set the stage for some serious garden-inspired crafts. ¬†I used to make fun, crafty decor for my grandmother’s potted plants all the time. ¬†Plus it’s a creative yet subtle way dress up your home for a special occasion without going too gaudy. ¬†AND they’re super easy to make!

  • You’ll need the following: ¬†Long wooden picks for kabobs, access to a color printer, colored card stock, glitter glue (and other decorative supplies of your choice) and varnish
  • Simply print out your favorite images above and carefully cut them out.
  • Paste your cut-outs onto the colored card stock of your choice. ¬†This will create a stronger backing for your image.
  • I suggest using quality serrated crafts scissors to create a unique pattern on the edges of your cut-out. ¬†Regular sharpened scissors work fine too. ¬†Quick tip: use serrated scissors to create a cool postage stamp-like pattern for your cut-outs!
  • Once your mounted cut-outs are ready, use a glue gun to fasten them to your kabob sticks. ¬†Add two or even three cut-outs to create some real elaborate plant decor.
  • Don’t forget to add some of your favorite decorative elements, like hints of glitter, nail polish, and crayon
  • The last thing you have to do is varnish your work to protect it better from damage. ¬†I prefer use both a spray sealer and glossy Modge Podge Varnish. ¬†Crackling varnish with a touch of food coloring or nail polish looks great too!