The National Art Library holds the most extensive reference collection on fine and decorative arts in the UK, as well as special collections which chart the art, craft and design of the book, ranging from early printed works to contemporary artists' books, from fine bindings to comics and graphic novels.

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Highlights include no less than three Shakespeare First Folios (1623); nearly 200 incunables (books printed before 1501); the complete libraries of John Forster and Alexander Dyce – two accomplished 19th-century scholars; the Clements collection of heraldic bindings; a growing collection of artists' books and photobooks; outstanding holdings on the 1851 Great Exhibition and subsequent world's fairs; colourful pattern books and trade catalogues; art, fashion and design journals from the 18th century to the present day; a vast array of early and current exhibition catalogues; one of the largest collections of sale catalogues in the world, and much more. The collections can be consulted in the National Art Library reading rooms and many of our most remarkable books are on display throughout the museum.

Collection highlights


Header image:

Detail from An essay on a new theory of colours, and on composition in general, by M. Gartside, printed by J. Barfield, Wardour-Street, 1808, London. Museum no. L.1595-1940. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London