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National Art Library special collections catalogues

In addition to the National Art Library's main catalogues, the following sources are available for material in the Special Collections:

Closed collections

The National Art Library holds a number of libraries put together by individuals, as well as collections relating to a single subject acquired at one time. These are preserved as distinct entities rather than integrated into the library's general stock. They are known as 'Closed Collections', meaning that they are no longer added to.

Each Closed Collection has a group-level description on the Library Catalogue, where the collection's history, contents and cataloguing position are made clear. Where they exist, ancillary lists and catalogues for each Closed Collection are mentioned. These lists and catalogues are being transferred to the Library's Computer Catalogue as resources allow.

The two largest Closed Collections are the Dyce Collection and the Forster Collection. Entries from these catalogues have now been transferred on to the Computer Catalogue as part of the National Art Library Heritage Project. Copies of the printed catalogues of 1869 and 1876, annotated with pressmarks, remain available for consultation near the Invigilator's Desk in the Reading Room.


A typescript list of the Library's collection of fine bindings, arranged chronologically by country and including an index of binder’s names, is available at the Counter in the Centre Room. An incomplete photographic catalogue of fine bindings, currently being revised and extended, is also available from the Counter.

For material catalogued from 1987 onwards, including the Clements Collection, the Library Catalogue provides detailed information.

Children's books

Entries for both current and older acquisitions can be found on the Library Catalogue, along with Beatrix Potter material and an increasing proportion of the Renier Collection.

Early printed books

Apart from the National Art Library's own Catalogues, the following short-title catalogues can be useful in identifying early printed materials held in the Library. All are described in the Library Catalogue.

  • The 'British Library Incunable Short-Title Catalogue', known as 'ISTC' and containing all European works printed before 1501. The catalogue is maintained on a database at the British Library to which libraries all over the world contribute. A print-out of National Art Library materials on the database is available at the Library Counter.

  • Pollard, A.W. & G.R. Redgrave, A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland and Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640. 2nd ed. in 3 volumes. London: Bibliographical Society, 1976-1991

  • Wing, D.G. A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and British America, and of English Books Printed in Other Countries, 1641-1700. 2nd ed. in 3 volumes. New York: Modern Language Association, 1972-1988

At a future date, it is hoped to enter details of the Library's 18th-century books onto the 'Eighteenth Century Short-Title Catalogue of Works printed in Great Britain and her Colonies and all Works in English' ('ESTC'). This is maintained as a database at the British Library and in the United States. A CD-ROM version of the database, published by the British Library in 1992, is held in the National Art Library.

Printers and publishers

This index of printers and publishers of books in the National Art Library published before 1801 is on a beige microfiche in the Centre Room. Based on this index is a Topographical Index, on clear microfiche, listing printers by town. The Library Catalogue gives access to printers and publishers of works catalogued from 1987 onwards, plus an increasing amount of earlier material.


Descriptions of the Library’s holdings of manuscript material can now be found on the Library Catalogue. Documentary manuscripts (including autograph letters), western medieval illuminated manuscripts, oriental manuscripts, typescripts and modern calligraphy can be located using a variety of search options on the catalogue. For example, senders and recipients of letters can be found by using the Name index and a list of examples of calligraphy can be found by using the Physical feature index.

Manuscripts are also found in the Closed Collections, notably in the Forster Collection and the Dyce Collection.


To locate material held in the Archive of Art and Design and for information on the V&A’s archival files, see Archives.

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