The National Art Library

The National Art Library section brings you news about exciting new service developments, throws a spotlight on our collections, displays and research projects and provides information about electronic resources with ‘tips and wrinkles’ for making the most of them.

The National Art Library (NAL) is a reference library, open to all visitors. The collection covers the fine and decorative arts, design and art history and contains books, periodicals, auction sale catalogues, exhibition catalogues, electronic resources and other formats of material. Amongst the treasures are artists’ books, illustrated books, fine bindings and rare and unique manuscripts.

Back to the blog front page

Calling groups seeking treasure from the NAL!

[Antiphoner cover.]
German binding, ca. 1500.
Buckskin; blind tooling; embroidered figure of Christ crucified; metal mounts; 2 large leather buckles with animals' heads; original title written on a strip of vellum.
NAL pressmark: Drawer 105

It’s time once again to update our ‘Treasures’ package from the rich variety of material within the special collections of the NAL. This package is one which you could view with your school, college or university group if you were to make a group booking with us. The NAL houses a wide variety of special […]

Keep reading

Easier to read than ‘War and Peace’ – Tolstoy’s tales for children

L. N. Tolstoy, ‘Dlya malen'kikh’ [For Little Ones], Illustrated by A. Pakhomov. Leningrad : Detgiz, 1954. Donated by Ronald Horton. NAL: 36.AA.141 / 38041800576498

The nation is gripped by the BBC’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic novel ‘War and Peace’. For some this is their first introduction to the work of Tolstoy but for Russian children he is one of the first authors they meet, through the many stories and educational books he wrote for them.   Although born into […]

Keep reading

BEST OF THE BEST: TOP 5 Illustration Award BOOK COVER Design winners

2010 Winner Cover Design Marion Deuchars Burmese Days

How do you sum up a 400 page novel in a single image? How do you design an object to be both a work of art and a consumer-good? Continuing with our Best of the Best series of V&A Illustration Award winners, here we list 5 of our favourite Book Cover Designs.

Keep reading

“And spare his golden bindings”: the enduring appeal of Robert Burns

The works of Robert Burns; with his life, by Allan Cunningham. Books, published London: James Cochrane and Co., 1834.

Robert Burns (1759-1796) is widely considered to be Scotland’s national bard. His poetry celebrates aspects of farm life, traditional culture, class distinctions, and religious practice (alongside an infamous love for the lasses and the drink). Burns Night is celebrated around the world each year on his birthday (25th January). Let’s join in these celebrations by taking […]

Keep reading

Cakes, Christmas, Bake Off and Mrs Beeton: a select bibliography of cookery books in the National Art Library

McDougall's Christmas Cheer 1935

During the festive season and following yet another successful series of The Great British Bake Off, you can continue to explore some of the baking and cookery treats served up, here at the National Art Library. Episode seven of this series of Great British Bake Off was Victorian week and saw the bakers attempting recipes […]

Keep reading

A Shifting Snow Maiden

The Little Daughter of the Snow, illustrated by G. I. Narbut, 1906, NAL pressmark 36.BB.1.

Anyone with small children will know that snow maidens have had a resurgence in popularity in the last few years thanks to a certain ubiquitous Disney film, but this is only the latest in a long history of snowy maidens in folk and fairy stories. In this blog I’m going to look at the Russian […]

Keep reading

Illustration Awards: Dame Jacqueline Wilson to judge 2016 competition


We are just thrilled to announce that the former Children’s Laureate, one of the nation’s favourite authors and a writer with as strong a claim as any to the title of “National Treasure” – Dame Jacqueline Wilson – will be judging the published categories of the 2016 V&A Illustration Awards.

Keep reading

St. Cecilia – divine musical inspiration

Gradual (Dominican). Page illustrating the Feast of Tiburtius, Valerian and Maximus.
NAL:KRP.G.6; NAL:MSL/1963/3691; NAL:f48v

According to legend, St. Cecilia lived in Rome around 230AD. She was a Christian who managed to keep a lifelong vow of chastity, despite an enforced marriage to a pagan nobleman. It is claimed that during her wedding St. Cecilia heard heavenly music in her heart, resulting in her status as patron saint of musicians. […]

Keep reading

BEST OF THE BEST: TOP 5 Illustration Award Editorial winners

Richard Parent Chernobyl 1988

With limited page space and tight commission deadlines, the editorial illustrator must demonstrate the flare and imagination to sum up complex ideas quickly. Here we list – in no particular order – 5 of our favourite winners of the V&A Illustration Awards Editorial category.

Keep reading

It Could Be You! 2016 Illustration Awards: Entry now open

Daphne Headshot

Last year, Daphne Christoforou – a final year student at the RCA – uploaded images of NO-THING, a sumptuous illustrated textile of astute, finely-detailed ink-drawings. NO-THING was one of nearly a 1000 entries submitted to the 2015 V&A Illustration Awards. Seven months later Daphne was crowned the Student Illustrator of the Year and took home […]

Keep reading