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.

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Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Kitty-in-Boots

Unfinished illustration for The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, 1914. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London, with kind permission from the owner

Cats feature in several of Beatrix Potter’s best-loved tales. Tabitha Twitchit and her cousin, Ribby, are models of respectability but Tom Kitten is prone to scratching and the tailor of Gloucester’s cat, Simpkin, spits and growls – ‘I don’t consider cats thoroughly domesticated animals’. When the young Peter Rabbit encounters a white cat flicking his […]

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HOW TO WIN the V&A Illustration Awards! An interview with the judges

2016 VILLA shortlist

It’s an enduring mystery of art competitions: what exactly do the judges want? As the shortlist for the V&A Illustration Awards is announced, I caught up with the judges of the Student Prize, Rafi Romaya & Ruth Prickett, & quizzed them on their choices, trends in illustration & their views on why Student Competitions matter.

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National Art Library bank holiday weekend closure

A reminder to all our users that the National Art Library will be closed for the bank holiday weekend from 18.30 on Friday 29th April, and will re-open at 10.00 on Tuesday 3rd May. You can order your items ahead of your visit for when we re-open: advance orders received after 16:30 on the Friday will […]

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Copying on Trial

UScan UF-Series Universal Film Scanner

Our regular readers may have noticed that we are currently trialling a new piece of microform scanning equipment in the NAL reading room: the UScan UF-Series Universal Film Scanner. The UScan UF-Series can read, scan, print and save images from a wide range of film media such as roll microfilm, microfiche and slides. Digitised images […]

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Library closure Easter 2016

The National Art Library will be closed from 17.30 on Thursday 24 March.  We will re-open at 10.00 on Tuesday 29 March.  If you place an advance order after 16.00 on Thursday 24 March, your items will be available by 12 noon on Tuesday 29 March. Wishing all our readers a lovely Easter break!

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Tradition and transformation in 19th century bookbinding

Voyages de Gulliver dans les Contrées Lointaines / Jonathan Swift. Museum no. Circ-186-1948

The 19th century was a time of great change in European bookbinding. Social and educational reform of the previous century had led to increased levels of literacy which in turn resulted in a greater demand for books from a much wider public. The book industry responded to this demand by seeking cheaper and quicker methods of […]

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Saving Space at the National Art Library

Consolidation: before and after.

This year the National Art Library has begun a major project to increase the space in its crypt store, and as an apprentice arriving last October, I have been able to be a part of the work. Work began in October, meaning the crypt store has been unavailable to readers for four months. But, with […]

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Searching for the scarab: discovering the binding designs of A.A. Turbayne in the National Art Library

Buckinghamshire and Berkshire painted by Sutton Palmer, described by G.E. Mitton. Book, published London: A. & C. Black, 1920. NAL: L.603-1931. Buckinghamshire and Berkshire painted by Sutton Palmer, described by G.E. Mitton. Book, published London: A. & C. Black, 1920. NAL: L.603-1931©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

One of the pleasures of working with books is discovering eye-catching design in the most everyday of objects. The National Art Library has always acquired some books specifically for their artistic qualities (such as their illustration or binding), but there are many more hiding in our collection with the capacity to surprise and delight. I was […]

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The Icing on the Cake: Anne Anson’s cake decorating manuals in the National Art Library’s Trade Literature Collection

Cover of How to Decorate a Cake, let Anne Anson show you.

  Come next summer, Bake Off season will be upon us once more, animating home bakers across the country to try their hand at creating their very own show stoppers to impress family and friends. Any budding star bakers amongst the National Art Library’s readers may wish to take inspiration from the vintage icing manuals […]

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“Have you done something jolly with your hair?”: the Eugène Waver magazine in the National Art Library’s Trade Literature Collection

Winners of a Eugène Waver hairdressing competition.

By: Sarah Thiel and Julia Ward Avid watchers of Downton Abbey will recall the scene in which Sir Anthony notices Lady Edith’s stylish new 1920s finger wave coiffure, and observes that she has “done something jolly” with her hair. Like the ladies of Downton, women of the ’20s and ’30s began to reject the impractical […]

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