Prints and printmakers study guide

'The Parable of the lost piece of silver', wood engraving by John Everett Millais, England, UK, about 1864. Museum no. E.283F-1893

'The Parable of the lost piece of silver', wood engraving by John Everett Millais (1829–96), England, UK, about 1864. Museum no. E.283F-1893

The V&A's Word & Image Department houses an extensive collection of original prints, including fine art prints, commercial graphics, greeting cards, playing cards, fashion plates, posters and wallpapers, which can be viewed in the Prints & Drawings Study Room (P&D Study Room). Prints can also be found in the National Art Library (NAL) collections in, for example, artists' books, illustrated books (including children's books) and periodicals. Both the P&D Study Room and the NAL also provide substantial reference resources for studying prints.

This guide provides information on finding original prints in the V&A collections. It also describes a selection of resources and standard reference works useful for finding information on prints and printmakers. Except for a small number of works published by the V&A, it does NOT include reference works on the related fields of book illustration, artists' books or posters. All pressmarks for reference works refer to copies held in the NAL unless otherwise stated. Many of the major published secondary resources described, both printed and electronic, are also likely to be available in academic and public libraries that hold art and design collections.

Finding prints in the V&A collections

The Catalogues of the Prints, Drawings Paintings & Photographs Collections page provides a general overview of, and online access to, the Study Room catalogues up to 1986 for the collections of prints, drawings, paintings and photographs at the V&A. To search for original prints, click on the Search the Study Rooms Catalogue button and then either choose the Print catalogue from the drop-down menu or choose Global search to search all P&D Study Room catalogues simultaneously. It is possible to search by artist, place or subject.

Tip: For best results enter an asterisk before and after an artist's surname, e.g. *Durer*.

Tip: Subject headings used in this catalogue are taken from: Glass, Elizabeth, A subject index for the visual arts (London: HMSO, 1969) and are case sensitive.

A selection of images of prints (as well as other objects) held in the V&A collections can be found on the V&A website Search the Collections. Search by artist's name or object type, e.g. 'print' or technique, e.g. 'woodcut'. Clicking the Advanced search option allows you to combine search terms together to narrow your search.


Published catalogues of prints in the V&A collections

This section includes the most comprehensive publications based on the print collections at the V&A. It excludes monographs or catalogues on individual artists. As well as publications on fine art prints, it includes V&A publications on posters, wallpapers and playing cards in the V&A collections.

  • Beck, Hilary,Victorian engravings. London: H.M.S.O., 1973. Pressmark: 602.AD.1616. Catalogue published to accompany an exhibition of Victorian engravings from the V&A collections.
  • Faulkner, James, Masterpieces of Japanese prints: the European collections: Ukiyo-e from the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1991. Pressmark: ND.91.0444
  • Hamilton, Jean, Playing cards in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: H.M.S.O., 1988. Pressmark:  VA.1988.0013.
    Features examples of European playing cards from five centuries based on the collection in the V&A.
  • Lambert, Susan, The Image multiplied: five centuries of printed reproductions of paintings and drawings. London: Trefoil, 1987. Pressmark: RBR 760.28 LAM.
    Catalogue of an exhibition at the V&A examining 500 years of reproductive printmaking.
  • Lambert, Susan, Prints: art and technique. London: V&A Publications, 2001. Pressmark: 603.AB.1963.
    Based on the collection held at the V&A, this guide outlines the development and history of printmaking and describes the various methods of producing prints.
  • Miller, Elizabeth, 16th-century Italian ornament prints in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publications, 1999. Pressmark: NC.99.1016.
    A catalogue of the 16th-century ornament prints collections in the V&A.
  • Oman, Charles and Hamilton, Jean,Wallpapers: a history and illustrated catalogue of the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Sotheby in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982. Pressmark: 47.W.189.
    A history of wallpaper in England and France from the late 15th to 20th centuries, with short sections on American, German and Scandinavian wallpaper of the 20th century based on the collections of the V&A.
  • Saunders, Gill, Wallpaper in interior decoration. London: V&A Publications, 2002. Pressmark: 603.AC.0360.
    A social history of wallpaper drawing extensively on the holdings in the V&A collections.
  • Saunders, Gill and Miles, Rosemary, Prints now : directions and definitions. London: V&A Publications, 2006. Pressmark: VA.2006.0001.
    Based largely on the contemporary print collections at the V&A, this work surveys recent innovations in approaches to printmaking.
  • Timmers, Margaret, ed. The Power of the poster. London: V&A Publications, 1998. Pressmark: NC.98.0497.
    Catalogue of an exhibition of the same name held at the V&A; virtually all posters featured are drawn from the V&A's permanent collection.
  • Timmers, Margaret, ed. Impressions of the 20th century: fine art prints from the V&A collection. London: V&A Publications, 2001. Pressmark: 603.AB.1811.
    Catalogue of 20th-century prints by major fine artists held in the V&A collections.

Opinions service

Staff at the V&A are able to give opinions on prints brought to the Museum by their owners, and can sometimes give an opinion from a photograph sent by post or email. For more information, see the Opinions Service page.


Bibliographies of literature on prints and printmakers

  • Arntzen, Etta and Rainwater, Robert, Guide to the literature of art history, Chicago : American Library Association, 1980. Pressmark: REF Enquiry Desk 700.16 BIB.
    Indispensible bibliography that lists essential reference works as well as resources for the most advanced research in all areas of art history. Section N is devoted to prints and provides an excellent annotated bibliography of the major works in the field.
  • Marmor, Max and Ross, Alex, Guide to the literature of art history 2. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2004.
    Supplement to Arntzen and Rainwater (above) surveying the essential literature published between 1978 and 1998 with a few later key works also included; arrangement is the same as the previous work.
  • Mason, Lauris and Ludman, Joan, Print reference sources: a selected bibliography, 18th-20th centuries. 2nd ed. Millwood, N.Y: KTO Press, 1979. Pressmark: 94.V.111.
    A select bibliography of references on European printmakers from the 18th to the 20th centuries; includes articles in books and periodicals as well as exhibition catalogues and monographs; entries are not annotated.

Finding information on printmakers

Many printmakers are listed in the standard international dictionaries of artists such as Thieme-Becker and Bénézit, in dictionaries of national artists and in dictionaries identifying artists' monograms and signatures. For an extensive list of these, see the related guide on Finding Information about Artists. To locate articles about printmakers in journals, see the related guide on Finding Information in Journals.

  • Guide to exhibited artists: printmakers. Oxford: Clio Press, 1985. Pressmark: REF 769.92 PRI
    Directory of living European and North American printmakers, including contact addresses in many cases; information obtained from exhibition catalogues or announcements or the artists themselves.

Finding catalogues raisonnés of artists' prints

A catalogue raisonné, or oeuvre catalogue, is a catalogue of all of an artist's work and will often include a reproduction and bibliography for each work and sometimes information on its provenance. To find these on the NAL Online Catalogue, select either the Name (as Author or Subject) Browse or Name (as Author or Subject) Keywords search option and enter an artist's name. Depending on when it was catalogued, catalogues raisonnés may be listed under the artist's name, under the name plus qualifier 'catalogs', or most recently, under the name plus the term (in the plural) 'catalogues raisonnés', so it is best to look at the lists of works under all of these headings. Catalogues raisonnés frequently deal with an artist's output in a particular medium, e.g. graphic work, or time period, so it is important to check that the catalogue in question deals with work in the medium or period of interest.

The following sources are also useful for identifying catalogues raisonnés that have been published on particular artists:

  • Turner, Jane, ed., Dictionary of Art. New York: Grove, 1996. Pressmark: REF 703.DIC and available online in the NAL
    Bibliographies on artists frequently identify catalogues raisonnés of the artist's work in various media, including prints.
  • Riggs, Timothy A., The Print Council index to oeuvre catalogues of prints by European and American artists. Millwood, N.Y.: Kraus International Publications, about 1983.
    Pressmark: REF 769.922 RIG and online
    www.printcouncil.org/search.html
    Standard index to catalogues raisonnés or oeuvre catalogues of European and American artists; functions as an index to Bartsch, Hollstein and many of the other standard reference works in the field (see below). An expanded and up-to-date version of the printed catalogue edited by Lauren B. Hewes is freely available online on website of the Print Council of America.
  • Gordon's print prices
    Available online within the NAL
    Printed edition published: New York: M Gordon Inc, 1978-  Pressmark: PP.76.H
    As well as providing auction result for prints from 1985, also includes an index of catalogues raisonnés by artist, followed by full bibliographic descriptions arranged by author.

International catalogues of prints and printmakers

  • Bartsch, Adam von, Le Peintre-graveur. Leipzig: J. A. Barth, 1808-1821. Pressmark: 94.E.20-27
    The first standard work for the study of Dutch, Flemish, German and Italian painter-engravers up to 1700. Although now superseded in places by later works it is referred to universally in the later literature; contains a general essay on each printmaker and a description of their prints.
  • Bartsch, Adam von., The illustrated Bartsch. New York: Abaris Books, 1978– Pressmark: REF 769.92 ILL
    Ongoing international project to supply illustrations for all entries in Bartsch's Peintre-graveur (above), and correcting all errors of attribution and omissions; comprises illustrative and commentary volumes; also includes a supplementary series of volumes of additional material covering areas such as 15th-century German book illustration, and 19th-century French printmaking not originally covered in the original Bartsch. Each volume carries 2 numbers on the spine; the top number represents the unique number in The illustrated Bartsch series, the lower number represents the volumes in the original Bartsch it illustrates or revises.
  • Le Blanc, Charles, Manuel de l'amateur d'estampes, contenant le dictionnaire des graveurs de toutes les nations …. Paris: É. Bouillon, 1854–89. 4 v. Pressmark: 94.C.138-141
    A standard work on international engravers and their works covering the period 1550-1820 based on the collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.
  • Portalis, Roger and Béraldi, Henri, Les graveurs du dix-huitième siècle. Paris: D. Morgand et C. Fatout, 1880–82. 3 v. Pressmark: 94.C.71-73
    Important source for the study of 18th-century prints.

Catalogues of British prints and printmakers

  • British Museum Dept. of Prints and Drawings, Catalogue of prints and drawings in the British Museum: Division I: political and personal satires. [London] : by order of the Trustees, 1870–1954. 11 v. in 12. Pressmark: 94.H.19-30
    Vols. 5-11 have title: Catalogue of political and personal satires preserved in the Dept. of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum.
    Extensive catalogue of satirical prints and drawings in the British Museum collections; includes those found in printed books.
  • Engen, Rodney K., Dictionary of Victorian engravers, print publishers and their works. Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey, 1979. Pressmark: 769.92 ENG
    Dictionary catalogue featuring nearly 1000 metal engravers, etchers and lithographers derived from the catalogues of the Printsellers Association (PSA, later the Fine Art Trade Guild - see below) who stamped and listed engravings in strictly limited editions primarily after major Victorian paintings from 1847–1912; augments the PSA catalogues with engravings considered important enough to be exhibited at the Royal Academy and elsewhere. Part II lists publishers, printers and printsellers.
  • Engen, Rodney K., Dictionary of Victorian wood engravers. Cambridge; Teaneck, N.J. : Chadwyck-Healey, 1985. Pressmark: 769.92 ENG
    Companion volume to the above, featuring 2000 wood engravers working between 1800–1900.
  • Grant, Maurice Harold, A Dictonary of British etchers. London: Published for the author by Rockliffe, [1952]. Pressmark: REF 767.092 GRA
    Dictionary of British etchers, arranged alphabetically by artist.
  • Guichard, Kenneth M. British etchers 1850–1940. London: Robin Garton, 1977. Pressmark: 604.AC.0634.
    Well-illustrated survey of the etching revival in Britain, dealing primarily with British etchers from the years 1920 to 1940 and their precursors; includes dictionary-style entries for major artists and a list of minor etchers from the period.
  • Hunnisett, Basil, An illustrated dictionary of British steel engravers. Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1989. Pressmark: REF 769.92 HUN
    Dictionary of British steel engravers, whose work mainly appears in book illustrations; some artists are mentioned briefly in Thieme-Becker and Bénézit, but entries are augmented here.
  • Lister, Raymond. Prints and printmaking: a dictionary and handbook of the art in 19th-century Britain. London: Methuen, 1984. Pressmark: REF 769.941 LIS
    Dictionary of printmakers working in Britain between 1800 and 1900; also includes survey chapters of printmaking during the period.
  • Printsellers Association, Alphabetical list of engravings: declared at the Office of the Printsellers' Association. London: Printed for the Printsellers' Association, 1892–1912. Pressmark: 94.J.1-5
    An alphabetical list by title of published engravings declared at and stamped by the Printsellers' Association from 1847 to 1911. The Alphabetical list compiled by G.W. Friend, published in 1892 (with accompanying index), covers the period 1847 to 1891 and incorporates details from an earlier volume covering 1847 to 1875; the subsequent volume compiled by C.F. Duffell published in 1912, follows on from Friend's List and covers the period 1892 to 1911; the accompanying 1912 index volume is cumulative and provides an alphabetical index to painters and engravers for the whole period 1847 to 1911.

Catalogues of French prints and printmakers

  • Baudicour, Prosper de, Le Peintre-graveur français continué …. Paris: Bouchard-Huzard, 1859–61. 2 v. Pressmark: 94.C.62-63
    Supplement to Robert-Dumesnil (below) covering French printmaking from the 18th century.
  • Béraldi, Henri, Les graveurs du xix siècle : guide de l'amateur d'estampes modernes. Paris: L. Conquet, 1885–1892. 12 v. Pressmark: 94.B.34-45
    Essential dictionary and inventory catalogue of works of 19th-century primarily French printmakers.
  • Bibliothèque Nationale, Cabinet des estampes, Inventaire du fonds français : graveurs … .. Paris: M.Le Garrec, 1932– ; Pressmark: 769.92 FRA
    Indispensible guide in four series based on the collections of French prints in the Bibliothèque Nationale.
  • Delteil, Loys, Le peintre-graveur illustré. Paris: Chez l'auteur, 1906–1930. 31 v. in 32. Pressmark: 94.M.26-56
    Catalogues raisonnés including illustrations of prominent, primarily French graphic artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Robert-Dumesnil, A. P. F., Le peintre-graveur français, ou Catalogue raisonné des estampes gravées par les peintres et les dessinateurs de l'école française: ouvrage faisant suite au Peintre-graveur de M. Bartsch. Paris: G. Warée, 1835–71. 11 v. Pressmark: 94.C.51-61.
    Alphabetically arranged catalogue of French printmakers; Vol. 11 is a supplement by Georges Duplessis, containing additions, corrections and a general index to the complete work. Supplemented by Baudicour (above).

Catalogues of Dutch and Flemish prints and printmakers

  • Hollstein, F. W. H., Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts, about 1450–1700. Amsterdam: M. Hertzberger, 1949- Pressmark: REF 769.92 HOL
    Standard reference work on Dutch and Flemish prints up to 1700. Earlier volumes are updated in The new Hollstein Dutch and Flemish etchings … (below)
  • Veldman, Ilja M., The New Hollstein Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts, 1450–1700. Roosendaal/The Netherlands: Koninklijke Van Poll in co-operation with the Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1993– Pressmark: REF 769.92 HOL
    Revision of the early volumes of Hollstein's Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts, about 1450–1700 (above).

Catalogues of German prints and printmakers

  • Hollstein, F. W. H., German engravings, etchings, and woodcuts, about 1400–1700. Amsterdam: M. Hertzberger, [1954]- Pressmark: REF 769.92 HOL
    Standard reference work on German prints up to 1700. Earlier volumes are updated in The new Hollstein: German engravings … (below)
  • Jacoby, Joachim W., The new Hollstein : German engravings, etchings and woodcuts, 1400–1700. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sound & Vision Interactive, 1996– Pressmark: 769.92 HOL
    Revision of the early volumes of Hollstein's German engravings, etchings and woodcuts, about 1400–1700 (above).

Catalogues of Italian prints and printmakers

  • Dizionario enciclopedico Bolaffi dei pittori e degli incisori italiani : dall'XI al XX secolo. Torino: G. Bolaffi, 1972– 11 v. Pressmark: REF 769.92 HOL
    Well-illustrated biographical dictionary of Italian painters and engravers from the 11th to the 20th centuries; includes bibliographical references and some artists' signatures.
  • Hind, A.M., Early Italian engraving: a critical catalogue with complete reproduction of all the prints described. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1938–1948. 2 pts. in 7 v. Pressmark: 94.M.65-71
    Catalogue of early Italian prints, pt. 1 dealing with Florentine engravings and anonymous prints and pt. 2 dealing with other known masters; volumes of plates accompany the text volumes for each part; includes biographical entries for artists, concordances to other catalogues and an index of artists and subjects in each text volume.

Visual identification of printmaking techniques and inscriptions

  • Gascoigne, Bamber, How to identify prints: a complete guide to manual and mechanical processes from woodcut to inkjet. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004. Pressmark: REF 760.28 GAS
    Comprehensive guide on methods for identifying manual and photomechanical printmaking processes; includes section 48 'Words below the image: what they say' which includes definitions of terms and abbreviations found on prints.
  • Griffiths, Antony, Prints and printmaking: an introduction to the history and techniques. London: British Museum Press, 1996. Pressmark: RBR 760.28 GRI
    A survey of the history of printmaking; includes section on 'Abbreviations and Lettering' explaining abbreviations and other terms found on prints.
  • Goldman, Paul, Looking at prints, drawings and watercolours : a guide to technical terms. London: British Museum Publications; Malibu: In association with the J. Paul Getty Museum, about 1988. Pressmark: REF 760.014 GOL
    Dictionary-style arrangement providing definitions of terms commonly used in the literature to describe prints; Under the term 'Lettering' includes list and explanations of terms commonly found engraved on prints.
  • Lambert, Susan, Prints: art and techniques. London: V&A Publications, 2001. Pressmark: 603.AB.1963.
    Includes a useful glossary of technical terms and abbreviations found on prints.

Finding information on iconographic subjects in prints

  • ICONCLASS Indexes: Dutch prints. Leiden: Foleor, 1994–
    Provides detailed iconographic access to the Dutch prints in the first 7 volumes of The Illustrated Bartsch, and supplementary volumes 50-59.
  • ICONCLASS Indexes : Early German prints. Leiden: Foleor, 1995–
    Provides detailed iconographic access to German prints of the later 15th and 16th centuries in Bartsch vols. 1-10 and The Illustrated Bartsch vols. 8, 9 and 23.
  • ICONCLASS Indexes: Italian prints. Doornspijk: Davaco, 1987–
    Provides detailed iconographic access to Italian prints in A.M. Hind's Early Italian engravings and The Illustrated Bartsch.

Price guides

  • Mackenzie, Ian, British prints: dictionary and price guide. Rev. ed. [Woodbridge]: Antique Collectors' Club, 1998. Pressmark: REF 769.92 MAC
    Provides a list of British printmakers from 1650 to 1950, with brief biographical details, a description of their work and an indication of the market value of specific works or general categories of work; with an emphasis on more common types of prints rather than rare museum pieces.
  • Gordon's print prices
    Available online within the NAL
    Printed edition published: New York: M Gordon Inc, 1978–
    Printed volumes cover the years 1978, 1994–2000 at pressmark: PP.76.H and on CD-ROM from 1986–2001.
    Auction results for prints from 1985. Online version updated weekly, including back-loading data from historical catalogues from years past. Coverage includes fine prints, posters and books.

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Prints Now: Directions and Definitions

Prints Now: Directions and Definitions

Printmaking has changed radically in the past two decades: the fine art print now encompasses everything from billboards and badges to clothes, cakes …

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Event - In Black and White: Prints from Africa and the Diaspora

Sat 29 November 2014–Mon 06 July 2015

DISPLAY: This display features a variety of powerful graphic images from the 1960s to the present – prints, posters, books and ephemera – by notable artists as well as anonymous activists.

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