Highlights from Folger Shakespeare Library’s Release of almost 80,000 Images

Folger Shakespeare Library announced yesterday (12th August 2014), that they have released the contents of their Digital Image Collection under a Creative Commons Share-Alike (CC-BY-SA) license – basically meaning that the images are free to re-use for any purpose as long as you credit the Folger Shakespeare Library as the source and share under a similar license. This is a huge injection of some wonderful material into the open digital commons. Of course, there is plenty of brilliant Bard related content, but also many other gems from the history of theatre. Below you can find our highlights.

Folger Shakespeare Library
Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: Share-Alike
Download: Right click on image or see source for higher res versions


Wood engraving based on the Felton portrait, most likely from the 19th century – Source
A pair of spectacles, or, The London stage in 1824-5, by Charles Williams – Source
Shakespeare supported by Tragedy & Comedy, from the design for a frieze by H. Holiday exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, late 19th century – Source
Mr. Cooke in King Richard III, artist and date unknown – Source
Scene from “Macbeth” at the Lyceum Theatre, London, by Faustin, 1875 – Source

Print by S. Dreher of Crentacoste’s model of Ophelia, ca. 1898 – Source
Mrs. Liston as Dollalolla: “I’ll spit, I’ll squall, and tear the eyes out of you all …” in Tom Thumb by Henry Fielding, 1817 – Source
Wood engraving of Shakespeare’s statue under a tree with swans, artist and date unknown – Source
Francesca Auriol, artist and date unknown – Source
The actors John Kemble and François Joseph Talma, as depicted by Henry Edward Dawe, 1832 – Source

Opera reminiscences – 1829 – to be continued, Desdemona, Otello, dedicated to the admirers of William Shakespeare, by William Heath – Source
Portrait of the actor Edmund Kean most likely dating from the mid-19th century, artist unknown – Source
A midsummer-night’s dream: act IV, scene 1: Titania: Come set thee down upon this flowery bed, a lithograph from Currier & Ives, date unknown – Source
Mr. Ducrow as the Brigand Chief from M. & M. Skelt between 1837 and 1840 – Source
Caricature depicting a scene from Hamlet, according to one source by George Cruikshank, but quite possibly not – Source
Romeo and Juliet, the tomb scene, act 5, scene 2, artist and date unknown – Source
Monsieur Chabert, the fire king, circa 1829 – Source
Gabriel Ravel painted by J.W. Williams, engraved by J. Sartain, date unknown – Source
The seven ages of man,published by William Cole, early to mid-19th century – Source
Alas, poor Ghost! R.W. Elliston whipping the legs of the Ghost who is being lowered through a trap, Hamlet, act I, scene 1, by George Cruikshank, 1857 – Source
Copy of Margaret Mather’s great oil painting, “The death of Juliet”, [Romeo and Juliet: act V, scene 3], circa 1890 – Source
Skelt’s combat in Henry M. Milner’s Chevy Chase, circa 1837 – Source
Coriolanus: Mother? O me mother? you have won a happy victory for Rome, artist and date unknown – Source
Mr. Phelps as Sir John Falstaff, artist and date unknown – Source



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  • planxty

    This is fantastic, but I have to wonder whether the Folger Shakespeare Library is actually within its rights to stipulate that the images can only be re-used under a Creative Commons license. Since the images are in the public domain, can’t we make any use of them we wish (whether or not we credit the FSL), regardless of what the FSL thinks?

    • Baffled by Van Doren

      Perhaps, while the art itself may be in the public domain now, it is this particular set of high-quality digital reproductions, which Folger photographers and technicians put in time and effort to create, that is the Library’s, much as a Mozart symphony may be in the public domain, but a specific recording can be protected by copyright. Of course, I’m merely speculating; I’m certainly not an expert, and planxty may be right. In any event, I’m thrilled these inspired works have been preserved, and the images are available to us!

      • planxty

        The difference is that performing a musical work requires, by its nature, a creative reinterpretation of the written composition. A straight digital reproduction of a document or image doesn’t involve that kind of reinterpretation, so the law doesn’t typically recognize a “slavish reproduction” as a copyrightable work.

  • poorpigg

    Wonderful release. I am happy to credit FSL in order to share this remarkable resource with any and all.