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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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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Pictures from the 2015 V&A Illustration Awards

090

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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