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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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.

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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. […]

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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.

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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 […]

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Storing an ever growing collection

The National Art Library‘s collection grows at a rate of around 7000 items per year, meaning that we are constantly looking at ways of maximizing the space available in our stores. We currently store our books in seventeen different locations around the Museum, but with finite space available every inch counts! With this in mind […]

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Glass, hair, shoe laces and straw

'The Book of Nails'
Floating Concrete Octopus, 1992
Pressmark: X930037

Each year at the V&A, students, artists, book historians and anyone else with an eye for the beautiful, unusual and thought provoking come to visit the National Art Library’s rich and varied collection of over 5000 artists’ books.  Often unique works of art, many are displayed in galleries around the V&A as fine examples of […]

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Intrepid Artists – William Hodges and a voyage towards the South Pole

Crew of the Resolution collecting ice for drinking water

240 years ago, on the 30th July 1775, a remarkable voyage came to an end at Portsmouth.  Having set sail in 1772 the “Resolution” and its sister ship “Adventure”, led by Captain James Cook, had spent three years traversing the Southern Hemisphere, recording previously un-charted waters and islands and making contact with their inhabitants.  On board the “Resolution” was a […]

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Clouds of discovery

Elements of geometry by Euclid, by Sjoerd Hofstra, Netherlands (Amsterdam): ZET, 1994. NAL barcode: 38041995101904

Around every six months we update the selection of material we offer in our group visit packages here at the National Art Library. The latest refresh has been to our Book Art package. Read on for a taster of what you could expect to see if you were to book an educational group visit with […]

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Getting To The Point Of Medieval Shoes

9019b/1. Cutting from printed book of devotion. Initial O with three  youths and three ladies on a hillside with a town in the distance. Netherland, late 15th century. © V&A Museum

The V&A’s new Shoes exhibition showcases some of the craziest trends in footwear throughout history. One of my favourites is this extremely long-toed Medieval shoe from the Museum of London. In my previous post about ostentatious medieval headdresses I wrote about using manuscripts as a source for images of clothing, so couldn’t resist having a […]

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What to wear when you don’t have a halo

278:3, cutting from a choir book, initial D with a miniature of St. Agnes. Germany, 15th century. © V&A Museum.

Sometimes, when looking through medieval manuscripts, it seems that everyone is wearing a halo – page after page of holy families, saints and virgin martyrs! This beautiful image of Saint Agnes (with her lamb) has beautiful flowing hair, a shimmering halo, and a heavenly crown. But a mere mortal woman could not copy this look. […]

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