Inside: A wonderful collection of vintage snowflake prints and drawings in the Public Domain and free to download and print.
Nothing used to create as much excitement in our house as a fresh dump of snow. It wasn’t just the prospect of no school; my boys couldn’t wait to get out and enjoy playing in it, from snowball fights to building snowmen and even igloos.
Where we live, snow isn’t guaranteed; it only snows a few days each winter. But we did travel to seek it out for a skiing and snowboarding holiday. This was when I discovered that not all snow is the same. It is effortless to build magnificent snowmen with wet British snow, whereas we struggled with the dryer, powdery snow we’d find in the alps. The skiing may have been excellent, but the snowballs and snowmen were rubbish!
When I came across this fantastic collection of vintage snowflake prints and drawings from an early classification of snowflakes by Israel Perkins Warren, I knew I had to share them here. They are great drawings for reference and provide a fascinating insight into the world of snow.
There are over 120 different drawings of real observed snowflakes in this collection.
A Few Fun Facts About Snowflakes
- Snowflakes are six-sided, as the molecules that make them up are hexagonal-shaped.
- Identical snowflakes have been made in the laboratory but not found in nature
- Snowflakes aren’t white; they are clear. It’s the reflection of light but the small crystals that make up the structure.
- Volume is deceptive; one inch of snow makes about 1/10 inch of water.
- Snow is drinkable, and 80 per cent of the freshwater is frozen as ice or snow.
- The shape of a snowflake is determined by the temperature and humidity when it is formed.
- It’s never too cold to snow
- Aomori City in Japan is the snowiest place on earth, with about 26ft (8 meters) of snowfall a year.
The Vintage Snowflake Prints
The vintage snowflake illustrations are from “Snowflakes: a chapter from the book of nature” by Warren, Israel Perkins, 1863. They are in the Public Domain, so they are copyright free.
Except for the first few figures on the first print, which shows the primary geometric forms of snow vapour crystals, the drawings are of actual snowflakes observed through a microscope and then sketched.
To download the print you want, click on the title above, and a higher-resolution image will open in a new window in your browser. Click on that image to save or print it.
The Book Title Page
Not only are the snowflake drawings in this book fascinating, but the vintage typography is lovely too. So I will share some of that as well, starting with this title page from the book.
Chapter 1: Snow Structure
In the book Warren groups snow crystals into three general classes.
- Prismatic, having three or six sides, usually the latter
- Pyramidal, either triangular or hexagonal. They are exceedingly small, only one-thirtieth of an inch in height.
- Lamellar consists of thin and flat plates, some stelliform, six points radiating from a centre, and some hexagonal.
Chapter 2: Unity in Diversity
“Amid the endless varieties of the snow crystals, a singular law of unity is apparent. It is the angle of sixty degrees or some multiple of it. This is one-sixth of the complete circle, hence the hexiform or six-sided configuration of its prisms and plates.”
Chapter 3: Perfection
“A STRIKING characteristic of the snow crystal is its perfection of form. Whatever be the type of its structure, that type is completed with the utmost regularity and nicety. Every angle is of the prescribed size, not a degree more or less. The number of parts is uniform. You will never see a star with five rays nor seven. With a precision which art would strive in vain to excel, the pattern is carried out in detail with the most exact symmetry and in the most nicely-adjusted proportions.”
Chapter 4: Purity
“PURITY is one of the most striking characteristics of the new-fallen snow. “It is,” says Sturm, ” a result of the congregated reflections of light from the innumerable small faces of the crystals.“
Chapter 5: Grace
“Look at the delicate snowflake. With what grace of motion has God endowed it! How childlike, gently, peacefully, confidingly the little creature comes down into our turbulent earth! It is not difficult to conceive that it comes as an attendant on some angel whose movements it imitates.“
Chapter 6: Beauty
“SNOW is the adornment of winter. Its beauty is compensation for the loss of the flowers and foliage of the milder seasons. When Nature has put off her green robes, when the fields have become bare, the streams and lakes ice-bound, and the hum of the bees and the songs of the birds are no longer heard,
then God opens his treasure house and brings forth jewels for the coronation of the year.”
Chapter 7: Weakness
“LIGHTNESS and weakness are symbolized by the snow. You can not draw near one of these delicate crystals without danger of destroying it. Your breath will melt it; nay, even the radiation of warmth from your person will, ere you are aware, crumble down the whole fairy structure so elaborately wrought.”
Chapter 8: Power
“IF anyone should ask what is the most harmless and innocent thing on earth, he might be answered, a snowflake. And yet, in its own way of exerting itself, it stands among the foremost powers on earth.”
Chapter 9: Gladness
“HOW delightful is the face of nature when the morning light first dawns upon a country embosomed in snow! The thick mist which obscured the earth and concealed every object from our view at once vanishes. HOW beautiful are the tops of the trees, hoary with frost !“
Chapter 10: Gloom
“The dark, fierce winter storm sweeps over the earth as the very spirit of desolation. The tiny flakes, charged with the mission which he gives them, fly forth in numbers infinite to buffet, to bewilder, to overwhelm whatever is exposed to them. Who can resist these ” treasures ” of the storm when let loose in their strength? ” Who can stand before his cold ? “”
Chapter 11: Beneficence
“THE great design of the snow is benevolent. It is appointed to water the earth, but not like the rain. That comes down and produces its effects and passes away and is absent just when the heat is at its height and evaporation is most rapid. But the snow comes down in the winter and lies upon the high mountain ranges all through the hottest weather, gradually supplying the streams and rivers on which human life depends.”
Chapter 12: Instruction
“JANUARY! Darkness and light reign alike. Snow is on the frozen ground. Cold is in the air. The winter is blossoming in frost-flowers. Why is the ground hidden? Why is the earth white? So hath God wiped out the past: so hath he spread the earth, like an unwritten page, for a new year! Old sounds are silent in the forest and in the air. Insects are dead, birds are gone, leaves have perished, and all the foundations of soil remain. Upon this lies white and tranquil, the emblem of newness and purity, the virgin robes of the yet unstained year!”
I hope you enjoyed these fantastic drawings of real snowflakes. Not only are they beautiful vintage snowflake prints in their own right, but they are an excellent resource for creatives.
As I mentioned with the collection of American Founders Type, I’m a bit of a typography nerd. I particularly liked the typography of the chapter headings in this book of snowflakes and have collected them together here.
If you are interested in typography and graphic arts, check out the other vintage art and design prints.
But if you plan to use these prints for winter decorations and crafts, check out the vintage Christmas prints on the site, including:
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