I love this website of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Through this website, a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries have made available the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections.
So why is this so special? Well, to quote from their web page:
“These collections are of exceptional value because the domain of systematic biology depends, more than any other science, upon historic literature. Yet, this wealth of knowledge is available only to those few who can gain direct access to significant library collections. Literature about the biota existing in developing countries is often not available within their own borders. Biologists have long considered that access to the published literature is one of the chief impediments to the efficiency of research in the field. Free global access to digital literature repatriates information about the earth’s species to all parts of the world.”
I couldn’t agree more. The literature is available under the very permissive CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license. So go ahead and start browsing through the rich history of publications on biodiversity and related subjects. Or check out the gorgeous illustrations of birds, flowering plants and more they from their collections on Flickr.
And an example below (click on the image to go to the Flickr page):