Beautiful butterflies! We couldn’t bring you all these gorgeous antique scientific images without devoting a whole gallery to vintage butterfly illustrations. Lepidopterology is the study of butterflies and moths, and while there’s no specific start date for this scientific research, it seems that the first documentation popped up in the 1600s. Pinning and preserving butterflies became common practice for scientific purposes and keen civilian collectors, but illustration was the most effective way to communicate their findings and simply share the wonder of butterflies with the world.

Books on butterflies were produced either with chromolithography (an early process of color printing) or hand-coloured lithographs (single-colour printing). Thanks to these early works there is now a rich archive of vintage butterfly illustrations in the public domain! Everything you see here came from old insect or butterfly books, scientific charts, and more. They’re all free for you to download and use any way you like. Enjoy!

50+ beautiful vintage butterfly illustrations to download free

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