This eclectic collection of free nautical images includes ships, lighthouses, flags, maritime-related individuals, mythical creatures, and patents. This post is for those marine enthusiasts and history lovers with a collection of captivating vintage nautical imagery in the Public Domain.
Within these images, you will find ships navigating the open sea, majestic lighthouses perched atop rocky cliffs. The proud display of flags represents the rich history of maritime endeavours. Additionally, we’ve included depictions of sailors, and legendary sea monsters, adding a touch of mystery and adventure to the collection.
I’ve had several requests to feature free vintage nautical images on the site. I hope you artists, historians and decorators find inspiration in this comprehensive collection of marine and maritime-themed vintage illustrations.
The Vintage Nautical Images & Illustrations
To download the illustrations you want, click on the title above that print, and a higher-resolution image will open in a new window in your browser. You can then save or print these images.
All the vintage maritime prints featured ar in the Public Domain. Free public domain images are not subject to copyright protection or limitations. This means they can be used without obtaining permission from the original creator or worrying about copyright infringement.
Vintage Maritime Images of People
These first set of nautical images of the past are of sailors and fishermen.
Print 1: Lord Horatio Nelson
A cartoon from the magazine, ‘Punch’, 18 October 1905, acknowledging the British debt to Nelson in the centenary week of his death. The artist shows Nelson standing on the shore of England, looking out over a fleet of British warships of the 1905 period. The image conveys that Nelson’s legacy remains even though the ships protecting Britain are no longer sailing vessels, and acknowledges the debt the contemporary navy and the nation still owe him.
Print 2: Sailor
A 1900 seaman in walking out dress.
Print 3: Naval Officer and Marine
Painting of a Naval officer and marine on the quay side, 1832.
Print 4: Mexican Sailor 1890
From The Vinkhuijzen collection of military uniforms
Print 5: Fisherman
Advertising material for Lifebuoy Soap contains the tagline “For Preservation of Health” and is captioned “A Picture of Health.” The image features a young girl sitting on a harbour wall near a box of Lifebuoy Soap while a fisherman holds up an actual Lifebuoy, framing the girl’s face. In the background, there are sailing boats.
Vintage Maritime Paintings of Ships
Print 6; Edward Lears “Deir Kadige noon”
A watercolour painting of various Egyptian boats, including dahabeahs and gyassis. Some vessels are portrayed individually on a stretch of calm, reflecting water. At the bottom of the sheet is a view of the river with a mosque on the far bank. Edward Lear appears to have taken the scenes from aboard a ship while travelling along the Nile between noon and 1 pm on 2 January 1867.
There is also a collection of Edward Lear parrot paintings on the Pictureboxblue.
Print 7: Constrution of Warship
An 1800 Polish drawing of the design of a wooden warship.
This is from the National Library of Poland
Print 8: The yacht “Sappho” of New York
The yacht “Sappho” of New York: leaving Sandy Hook July 28th. 1869 bound to Europe by Charles R. Parsons and Lyman W. Atwater. From the collection at the Library of Congress.
Print 9: Whaling Ships
The following two vintage maritime paintings of ships are from the MS220 Log 347 of the ship Nauticon, 1849. This journal was written by Susan C. Austin Veeder, which documents her experiences in the whaling industry and contains some beautiful illustrations of vessels from this period.
Print 10: Whaling ships 2
Print 11: Chart of Types of Sailing Ships
From the French illustrated dictionary Nouveau Larousse illustré.
Print 12: Chart of Steamships
Illustration again from Nouveau Larousse illustré.
Vintage Lighthouse Prints
No collection of vintage nautical images is complete with out a few lighthouse illustrations.
Print 13: Dutch Design Of A Lighthouse
A sheet with construction drawings with the title ‘Plan and elevation of an iron coastal light tower 1849’.
Print 14: Bogskär lighthouse plan
1878 plans for a lighthouse in Finland.
Print 15: Lighthouse Painting
The Cordouan Lighthouse at the mouth of the Gironde by Charles Mercereau painted in the 1860’s.
Print 15: Eddystone Lighthouse
A photochrom print of the Eddystone Lighthouse, Plymouth, England, 1890.
Vintage Nautical Images of Flags and Knots
Print 16: Marine Flags
A chart of marine flags from the French illustrated dictionary “Nouveau Larousse illustré” 1898.
Print 17: Knots
A chart of knots from the Larousse illustrated dictionarys.
Print 18: Nautical Navigation Flags
A chart of nautical flags from the French illustrated dictionary “Nouveau Larousse illustré” 1898.
Print 19: Navigation Signals Chart
Another vintage nautical chart from Larousse.
Print 20: Table of Nautical Flags 1781
This vintage nautical illustration is by Louis Joseph Mondhare. The translated title is “Table Of All The Flags That Lon Arbore On The Vessels In The Four Parts Of The World With An Explanation Of All The Agres And Maneuvers Of The Vessels 1781.“
Vintage Illustrations of Sea Creatures
There are already many collections of vintage sealife images on Pictureboxblue. These include Adolphe Millot sealife posters, the fantastical fish paintings of Louis Renard and coral reef illustrations, to name a few.
Below are a few more wonderful vintage illustrations of sea creatures and monsters to add to the Sealife library.
Print 21: Sea Monster Chart
Sebastian Münster’s sea monster chart is a map of the world’s oceans that was published in his “Cosmographia” in 1544. It features illustrations of a variety of sea monsters, as well as sailing ships, compass roses, and other decorative elements.
The map reflects the beliefs and fears of the time, when many people believed in the existence of sea monsters and other mythical creatures. The monsters depicted on the map range from the relatively tame, such as giant squid and whales, to the more fantastical, such as creatures with multiple heads, serpent tails, and fearsome teeth.
Print 22: Kraken
“Le Poulpe Colossal” (giant octopus) by malacologist Pierre Dénys de Montfort, 1801, from the descriptions of French sailors reportedly attacked by such a creature off the coast of Angola.
Print 23: Mermaids
The hand-coloured engraving from 1817 by John Paas is titled “Mermaids Exhibited Successively in the Years 1758, 1775, & 1795.” The print features three different illustrations of mermaids, each purportedly exhibited during the respective years mentioned in the title.
The print reflects the enduring fascination with mermaids in popular culture and the tendency of people to believe in mythical creatures even in the absence of concrete evidence. It is also a fascinating historical document, as it shows the evolution of mermaid depictions over a relatively short period.
Print 24: Whale
A Japanese woodblock print of a whale from the Edo period, exhibited at the Tokyo National Museum.
Print 25: Narwhal
“White Whale, Narwhal” illustration from “British Mammals” by A. Thorburn, 1920
Vintage Maritime Patents
A collection of some fun vintage nautical images of maritime related vintage patent art.
These are original patents for marine objects. There is a patent for a canoe in this collection of camping patents.
Print 26: Anchor
A patent for a ships anchor.
Print 27: Mariner’s Compass
A patent fro a Mariner’s magnetic compass 1892.
Print 28: Ship’s Wheel
Print 29: Marine Telegraph
More commonly known as engine order telegraph or Chadburn. It is a communications device used on a ship for the pilot on the bridge to order engineers in the engine room to power the vessel at a certain desired speed.
Print 30: Stellar Compass
A patent for a stellar compass and great circle course projector.
“My invention relates to navigation and is designed to enable the mariner to steer a true course at any time of the day or night without the compass and lay a direct great circle-course between any two points.“
There are some stellar compass illustrations with this collection of vintage constellation posters.
Print 31: Ring Buoy
Pin for later!
Other Vintage Images To Check Out
Another fun collection of cultural prints to check out are those in the Index of American Design.
If you liked these wonderful nautical prints then you’ll probably like the following posts.
- Vintage airline posters and maps
- Old Eductational Posters
- Vintage Geographical Posters
- Mountain sketches and diagrams
If you fancy, you can Buy Me A Coffee Here.
Cara ~ Vintage Style Gal
Friday 19th of May 2023
Oh my! Thank you for sharing Claire. I have an octopus rug in our entryway. I made a picture last year, but I am tired of it already. I have been thinking about giving it a makeover, and now I am going to! I just cannot decide which picture to choose! I cannot wait to get started on this one.
Saturday 20th of May 2023
Thank you. I love the sound of your octopus rug, I bet it’s beautiful.