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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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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Pictures from the 2015 V&A Illustration Awards

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From Monday night’s V&A Illustration Awards ceremony… some glam shots of the evening. Congratulations to all our winners: Sterling Hundley (Best Illustrated Book and Overall Winner), Yehrin Tong (Best Book Cover Design), Simon Pemberton (Best Editorial Illustration), Daphne Christoforou (Student Illustrator of the Year) and Dan Ungureanu (Student Runner-Up).             […]

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Temporary National Art Library store closure

The National Art Library Toshiba Gallery Store will be closed from the 30th May 2015 until mid-October 2015. This is so that essential work can take place to ensure that the site continues to provide suitable storage for our collections into the future. Unfortunately this will affect the retrieval of the following pressmarks currently stored […]

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V&A Illustration Awards 2015 Shortlist

villa collage

  With just over two weeks to go before the winners are announced, the judges of the 2015 V&A Illustration Awards have whittled down the entries from nearly a thousand to just three in each category. On the 18th of May we’ll find out the winners of the awards for:

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Here be Dragons

244:3, Leaf from choir-book with initial S in red pen-work on green and blue ground depicting a dragon. Netherland. late 12th century, © V&A Museum.

When we think of the Middle Ages we often imagine a world full of knights, castles and, of course, dragons. Sightings of dragons appear periodically in medieval chronicles such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of AD.793 which mentions ‘dreadful fore-warnings…whirlwinds, and fiery dragons flying across the firmament”. This 15th century illustrated version of Pliny’s ‘Natural History’ […]

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The couturier who fell from grace

Evening gown by Paul Poiret Gazette du Bon Ton no. 7 NAL 42.NN.7

  A brilliant, controversial designer, innovator and pioneer of fashion whose influence has been more fully appreciated since his death. Not Alexander McQueen but French couturier Paul Poiret. Like McQueen he was seen as a maverick, confronting established fashion rules and unafraid to break away from traditional couture techniques. He was one of the first […]

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Searching for Don Quixote in the NAL

Frontispiece to 1620 version of 'Don Quixote' NAL: Dyce 2000. ©V&A Museum.

In Spain, there are efforts afoot to discover the exact location of the grave of one of the country’s greatest writers, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Despite the instant popularity of his masterpiece ‘Don Quixote’, he died in poverty and was buried somewhere in the Convent of Trinitarians in Madrid, but the exact location is unknown.  […]

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Figure Training

Flexura Boots  ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 “From the earliest periods of the world’s history down to the present day it has been found necessary to employ systems of restraint and correction calculated to adapt the unformed and unfashioned figure”. Figure training or art the handmaid of nature by EDM was published in 1870, partly as a vindication of altering the human […]

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National Art Library Christmas Holiday Opening Times

Christmas card with robin motif

    The National Art Library is open as usual today (Tuesday 23rd) from 10.00 to 17.30. After that, we close for a Christmas break until Tuesday 30th December when again, we’re open during normal opening times, 10.00 to 17.30. Readers are asked NOT to submit online requests through the NAL catalogue between 24th and […]

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Every Lady Her Own Drawing Master

Brachycombes by Geoge Brookshaw

One of the main pleasures of taking up a hobby is surely acquiring all the necessary equipment, preferably new, with everything matching and on a professional scale. Women taking up watercolour painting in 1797 obviously felt the same “Every lady who has a taste for painting, furnishes herself with a box of colours, probably eighteen, […]

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