British photographic history

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Wellcome makes thousands of images freely available

Wellcome Images has announced that over 100,000 high resolution images including manuscripts, paintings, etchings, early photography and advertisements are now freely available through Wellcome ImagesOut of copyright images are being released under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence.

This means that they can be used for commercial or personal purposes, with an acknowledgement of the original source (Wellcome Library, London). All of the images from the Wellcomes historical collections can be used free of charge.

The images can be downloaded in high-resolution directly from the Wellcome Images website for users to freely copy, distribute, edit, manipulate, and build upon as they wish, for personal or commercial use. The images range from ancient medical manuscripts to etchings by artists such as Vincent Van Goghand Francisco Goya.

From a photography perspective the images includes Muybridge, John Thomson, Beato and others. But one word of advice... don't use the 'technique' preset term for 'photography' as most of the photography images appear to have been categorised by process, so use: daguerreotype, collodion and albumen to find photography images.   

The earliest item is an Egyptian prescription on papyrus, and treasures include exquisite medieval illuminated manuscripts and anatomical drawings, from delicate 16th century fugitive sheets, whose hinged paper flaps reveal hidden viscera to Paolo Mascagni’s vibrantly coloured etching of an ‘exploded’ torso.

Other treasures include a beautiful Persian horoscope for the 15th-century prince Iskandar, sharply sketched satires by RowlandsonGillray and Cruikshank, as well as photography from  Eadweard Muybridge’s studies of motion. John Thomson’s remarkable nineteenth century portraits from his travels in China can be downloaded, as well a newly added series of photographs of hysteric and epileptic patients at the famousSalpêtrière Hospital

Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, says “Together the collection amounts to a dizzying visual record of centuries of human culture, and our attempts to understand our bodies, minds and health through art and observation. As a strong supporter of open access, we want to make sure these images can be used and enjoyed by anyone without restriction.”

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