The British Museum is falling down… err, putting stuff online

by Nick

The British Museum has recently launched a searchable database of its “flat art” – thousands of prints and drawings. It hasn’t been widely announced because they are still testing for glitches, but what’s there is an absolute treasure trove. Be prepared to waste LOTS of time as you bounce from one image to another.

Here for example is a wonderful satirical print collected by George Thomason as England went to war in August 1642:

The Sound-Head, Rattle-Head, and Round-Head


© The Trustees of the British Museum

It’s an attempt by a supporter of Parliament to deny the royalist slur of Roundhead and turn it against them. The real Roundhead on the right is a Catholic priest; in the middle is the “Rattle-head”, mixing both atheism and Arminianism; and on the left is the “sound-head”, a puritan divine. The churches on either side of the picture reinforce the message.

I have wasted lots of time on the search engine this evening – there is lots more I could have picked, but this image in particular really stuck with me.

And the best thing of all? Images can be downloaded and reproduced for non-commercial purposes. What a wonderful resource – thank you, trustees of the British Museum!