Did you know that the plural of octopus is octopuses? Not as I misbelieved octopi. Octopus is a Greek word, not Latin, which is why the plural doesn’t end in i. Here I have curated a fantastic collection of vintage octopus illustrations free to print.
All the octopus prints featured here are in the Public Domain; they are copyright free. The collection covers scientific octopus illustrations, black-and-white drawings and octopuses in art paintings and drawings.
I think my fascination with octopuses started when I first spotted one whilst snorkelling as a child. I just thought they were the most fantastic sea creatures.
If I remember correctly, octopuses did feature heavily in the illustrated books I read as a child. Often on illustrated alphabet charts, the ‘O’ is a big smiley octopus.
As an adult, my interest in octopuses has become more macabre because I love eating them. A treat every year when visiting my parents in Portugal is a trip to the famous Octopus restaurants of Santa Luzia in the Algarve.
Cool Free Vintage Octopus Prints
There are over 300 species of octopuses, and they are grouped in the same order as squid and cuttlefish. They live in every ocean, and different species have adapted to different marine habitats.
Scientists regard octopuses as the most intelligent of all invertebrates. That is because they can learn from experience and have short- and long-term memory.
But young octopuses learn nothing from their parents, as adults provide no parental care beyond tending to their eggs until the young octopuses hatch.
Octopuses have even been observed intelligently using tools. They are also brilliant at camouflage.
This collection of vintage octopus illustrations has been divided into three sections; colour, black and white prints and octopus in Japanese art.
Click on the title above the image to download a higher resolution of the vintage octopus illustrations. A larger image will open as a new window in your browser. If you click on that image, you can save it to your hard drive or print it.
Colour Vintage Octopus Illustrations
A beautiful vintage octopus illustration of the common octopus from the Gulf of Naples. The octopus drawing is from the book ” I Cefalopodi viventi nel Golfo di Napoli (sistematica) : monografia “ (Cephalopods living in the Gulf of Naples (systematic): monograph) by Comingio Merculiano published in 1896.
The common octopus ( (Octopus vulgaris) is the most studied of all octopus species. It’s a global species whose habitat extends from the Atlantic, the Mediterranean Sea and the southern coast of England.
The species’ diet consists of crabs, crayfish and two-shelled molluscs which it can break into with its beak. The common octopus hunts at dusk. The octopus can camouflage by changing colour to blend into its surroundings.
Another beautiful Mediterranian vintage octopus drawing by Comingio Merculiano. The species of octopus is the white spotted octopus (Callistoctopus Macropus).
The octopus feeds at night by wrapping itself around a coral and probing with its arms among the branches, looking for fish and invertebrates that seek protection there.
A plate illustrating octopuses from Ernst Haeckel‘s Kunstformen der Natur (1904). Ernst Haeckel was a German zoologist and artist who pushed the work of theories of Charles Darwin in Germany.
You can find many more of Ernst Haeckel’s art form illustrations of sea life on Pictureboxblue.
I’m sorry I don’t know much about this octopus print except that it is from the book “Die Cephalopoden” by Carl Chun 1910. It was such a lovely print I just had to include it in this collection.
An identification poster of Atlantic octopuses from the book ” Voyage dans l’Amérique méridional” (Travel in South America) by Alcide Dessalines d’Orbigny.
The spider octopus drawing is from the book ” I Cefalopodi viventi nel Golfo di Napoli (sistematica) : monografia “ (Cephalopods living in the Gulf of Naples (systematic): monograph) by Comingio Merculiano published in 1896.
A painting of a common octopus by the Japanese artist Kawahara Keiga from about 1823.
The octopus was first discovered off the coast of East Africa. It is from the book “Die Cephalopoden” by Carl Chun 1910.
A second illustration of the octopus above from the same book.
Jean Baptiste Vérany Octopus Illustrations
The next few vintage octopus prints are all from the same book “Mollusques méditeranéens; observés, décrits, figurés, et chromolithographiés d’après le vivant …” (Mediterranean molluscs; observed, described, figured, and chromolithographed from the living ) by Jean Baptiste Vérany (1851).
Another vintage octopus print of a Mediterranean octopus from Jean Baptiste Vérany 1851 octopus identification guide.
13. Eldon Genei
Eledone is a genus of octopuses, it’s mainly distributed in the northern and southern Atlantic Ocean
The musky octopus occurs on the sandy bottom of the continental platform, at depths up to 400 meters of the Mediterranean Sea and adjacent Atlantic ocean.
This is also known as the Atlantic Fourhorn Octopus and is found in deep water.
Another illustration of the common octopus, it’s one of the most studied of all octopus species, and also one of the most intelligent.
Also called the violet blanket octopus due to its beautiful colouring, it’s a large octopus found worldwide in the top surface of warm seas.
Black and White Octopus Images
Black and white vintage octopus illustration of a webfoot octopus by A. Pollock 1886.
This is one of my favourites and another one of Pollock’s vintage octopus illustrations 1886.
From the same collection by A.Pollock 1886
From the same collection by A.Pollock 1886.
From the same collection by A.Pollock 1886
The kraken is a mythological giant octopus sea monster originating in Scandinavian folklore. According to the Norse legends, the Kraken dwells off the coasts of Norway and Greenland and terrorizes nearby sailors.
This illustration of a Kraken attacking a ship is by the French naturalist Pierre Dénys de Montfort. He studied the existence of gigantic octopuses after being inspired by a description from 1783 of an eight-metre-long tentacle found in the mouth of a sperm whale.
This picture featured under sea monsters in this collection of vintage nautical images.
A black and white drawing of the underside of an octopus from the (1803) book “Denys Montforts allgemeine und besondere Naturgeschichte der Weichwürmer – Mollusques, als Fortsetzung der Bussonschen Naturgeschichte”. This translates as Denys Montfort’s general and particular natural history of softworms – Mollusques, as a continuation of Busson’s natural history.
A very old black and white sketch of a vintage octopus from the 1554 book “The History of Aquatic Animals“.
Octopus Images in Art
Octopuses are a common theme in Japanese art, especially in the old Japanese woodblock prints.
A female abalone diver wrestling with an octopus. Colour woodcut by Yoshitoshi, 1870s. This is from the Welcome Collection London.
This is a woodblock print by the famous Japanese artist Hokusai, it is famous for depicting a female shell diver in a compromising position with an octopus!
Warrior fighting octopus by Utagawa Kuniyoshi 1830. From the collection at the British Museum.
Tamatora has recovered the pearl from the palace of the Dragon King, while she was threatened by all sea creatures. A Utagawa Kuniyoshi woodblock.
A 1904 print shows a Japanese officer sitting on the head of an octopus which has captured ships disguised as fish in its tentacles. From the collection at the Library of Congress.
A cartoon depiction of Europe in 1878, using caricatures and monster kraken, from Library of Congress.
A 1904 satirical map of Asia and Europe again depicts Russia as an octopus. I think Russia is an octopus as it illustrates the country’s far reach across many countries and both continents.
There are more pictorial maps on Pictureboxblue.