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Stunning Free Vintage Shell Posters And Images

Copyright-free Natural History Seashell identification Posters

I have just returned from a visit to my parents in Portugal. After collecting some beautiful shells from the local Portugal beach, I thought it would be great to curate a collection of shell posters and images.

Seashells found on the beach are the exoskeleton of marine mollusks. The shells mostly consist of calcium carbonate. It is the hard protective outer body of the sea creature (mollusk). Most of the shells found on the beach are empty because the soft part of the sea creature has died, or been eaten by a preditor.

Conchology is the study of seashells. Some conchologists collect shells for their beauty and aesthetic appeal. Whilst others collect them for scientific study. Many of the shell posters below are beautiful natural history illustrations from the 19th and 20th century.

These seashell posters would look fabulous framed on the wall in a summer house and anywhere with a nautical-themed decor. They would be also great to use in decoupage crafts.

To download the higher resolution image simply click on the title above the image.

vintage sea shells posters

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The Seashell Posters and Illustrations

The following shell posters are from the book “A Conchological Manual Plates” by George B. Sowerby (1839). George was a well known  British naturalist & illustrator. He came from a family of several generations of naturalists, illustrators, botanists, and zoologists. The Sowerby family was active from the late 18th century to the mid-twentieth century.

1. Nautilus Pompilius & Spondylus Americanus

This shell poster of George Sowerby features coiled Nautilus shells and the Atlantic Thorny Oyster (Spondylus Americanus).

Nautilus shells were a popular feature in a cabinet of curiosities, in both Renaissance and in Victorian homes. They were often mounted by goldsmiths on a thin stem to make extravagant nautilus shell cups.

sea shell poster

2. Barnacles and Other Shells Poster

Barnacles are marine creatures that live in shallow and tidal waters. They attach themselves to hard surfaces including the hulls of ships and boats.

They are even found glued for the body of whales, turtles, crabs and other sea creatures. Most animals are not even aware of barnacles on their body because they do not produce harmful effects. 

Barnacles and other shells poster

3. Goose Neck Barnacles

goose neck barnacles

4. Clams, Scallops and Oyster Shell Poster

Clams, scallops and oyster are all bivalve shells. They are all commonly farmed or harvested for food and they all also have the ability to produce a pearl of some sort.

As well as being harvested for food the shells of the bivalves have a commercial use for the production of glue, chalk, and varnish.

Clams scallops and oyster shell identification poster

5. Helix Spiral Shells

This is a shell poster of helix and spiral shaped gastropod seashells.

Helix shell posters

The next five shell posters are from the German book “Vergnügen der Augen und des Gemüths” by Wolfgang Knorr published in 1757. The title of this shell identification book translates as ” Pleasure of the eyes and the mind“. The shell illustrations in this book are beautiful that is why I have included them in this collection.

6. Scallops and Other Shells

scallops and other shells

7. Pretty Helix Shells

helix shell illustrations

8. Tropical Shells

free vintage shell illustration

9. Green Shell And Other

vintage shell posters

10. Variety of Shells

shell drawings

The next five sea shell posters are from the book “Index testaceologicus, an illustrated catalogue of British and foreign shells” by Sylvanus Hanley published in 1856.

Sylvanus Hanley was a British Conchologist. He inherited a fortune, which enabled him to devote a lifetime to the study of shells. He was especially interested in the bivalves, on which he was a leading authority.

11. Clam Shell Poster Identification Sheet

One of my favourite things to do whilst on my annual holiday to Portugal is to go out for clams. The Portuguese love their clams and cook them simply in coriander and garlic. In the Algarve, they are also well known for their pork and clam stew, which is delicious.

12. Scallop & Mussel Shell Poster

shell poster of scallops and mussels

13. Conical Shell Poster Identification Sheet

Conical shells

14. Cowry Shell Poster Identification Sheet

Interestingly, the word porcelain derives from the old Italian term for the cowry shell (porcellana). This is due to the shiny appearance of cowry shells which is similar to porcelain.

Cowry shells have historically been used as currency in some parts of the Indian ocean. The beautiful shiny shells are also used extensively in jewelry, and for other decorative crafts.

cowry shells

15. Spiky Shells and Others

Spiky shells

If you love these sea shell posters then you will probably love some of my other wonderful seaside-themed free vintage images.

Mary Dorman

Monday 5th of April 2021

I couldn't get the posters to print; I just got an ad box on most of the pages. I got only some of the information pages to print, but mostly I only got the title and nothing more. I would love to have these since I collect shells and could also use these to teach my youth group about shells. Is there a way to get the posters by email? Also, I noticed they have numbers to identify the shells. Is there an index for the numbers so I know what shell I'm looking at? Thank you so much for your website.


Tuesday 6th of April 2021

Hi Mary, sorry you are having trouble downloading the images. I have just tried all the links and they appear to be working on my end. When I right-click with my mouse on the title above the shell poster I want, I am given the option to save the poster to my hard drive. What browser are you using? I use Google Chrome. I'm sorry I don't have a key for the shell posters but they are grouped into clusters of the same types.


Monday 12th of August 2019

The shell posters are so lovely! Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm!


Tuesday 13th of August 2019

Thank you so much.

Julie Briones

Monday 12th of August 2019

Wow! So many amazing options, Claire! I just may need to use one of these in MWA! ;-)


Tuesday 13th of August 2019

Thank you, glad you liked them.


Sunday 4th of August 2019

These are pretty, I especially like the ones 11-15 with lots of shells, I can imagine them being great set of framed art for a bathroom or seaside home.


Tuesday 6th of August 2019

Thank you, I think they would be great for decoupage projects.

Susie Bentz

Thursday 1st of August 2019

These are wonderful! I have pinned you for future reference - thanks so much for sharing!


Friday 2nd of August 2019

Thank you