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Prints drawings & photographs search tips


For searches across all media, use the All Images search screen and enter search criteria in the relevant boxes. When searching both catalogues, records are listed first under photographs, followed by prints and drawings. Alternatively, the catalogues can be searched individually by selecting the relevant catalogue in the ‘Type of material’ heading.

Note, however, that the All Images search does not now cover P&D records catalogued after May 2006. See notes for more details.

Records retrieved from a search are listed in brief form: to view the full entry for each record, click on the shelfmark reference. Full entries for adjacent records can be viewed by clicking on the ‘next’ or ‘previous’ button. In the full entry screen, further information about the collections from which an individual item comes can be found by clicking on ‘collection details’ (for photographs) or ‘collection summary’ (for Prints and Drawings) in the left hand sidebar. Any resulting long descriptions can normally be searched using the method supplied by your browser (eg Ctrl-F in IE or Netscape). In the full record screen, clicking on any of the highlighted index terms will run a further search retrieving all records appropriate to that term.

To return to the full list of brief entries, click on ‘results list’ in the left hand sidebar. For combined searches, enter data into as many boxes as are appropriate.

Searching the Indexes

Index terms in the three subject fields (Topic, Portrait, Place) are governed by the authorised terms actually entered in the database, so that entering apparently relevant topics will not be successful unless that word coincides with a term used in the topic index. This type of search will be more successful using the keyword box (see below). Full lists of authorised terms used in the various indexes can be accessed from the indvidual 'Prints & Drawings' or 'Photographs' search screen, and users are advised to consult this to find suitable search terms. Truncation of terms and the use of the * wildcard can often be useful in broadening searches. For instance, entering ‘ship*’ will find records containing the words ‘ship’, ‘ships’, ‘shipping’, ‘shipbuilder’, etc.

To combine index terms in a search, enter the correct terms in the appropriate search boxes, using ‘or’ (to retrieve records containing either term) or ‘and’ (to retrieve records containing both terms). For details on how to use more complex search logic see the Advanced guide


Enter terms in this box to find images relating to specific subjects, eg ‘carpenters’, ‘agriculture’, ‘government houses’. Personal and corporate photograph collections (eg ‘Curzon Collection’) are also traceable through this index.


Enter search terms in this box for portraits of identified individuals. Entering names common to more than one subject will produce multiple hits, ie entering ‘Hastings’ will retrieve all portraits of Warren Hastings, the Marquess of Hastings, Captain Hastings Fraser, etc. Searches can be narrowed by including forenames, but these should either be entered after surnames, ie ‘Smith John’, not ‘John Smith’ or linked using 'and', ie 'John and Smith'. The latter option will pick up 2nd or subsequent forenames, eg Smith, George John and can be useful where titles are concerned, eg Smith, Sir John. Rulers and office holders of Indian states are entered under their state (Jaipur, Hyderabad, etc) and Mughal emperors under ‘India’. Portraits of British rulers are indexed under ‘Great Britain’ although individual rulers can be searched for by name (eg ‘Edward VII’).


Enter names of places to retrieve records of topographical views or photographs of that particular place (or streets or buildings within it). Place names have as far as possible been standardised using commonly accepted modern forms, but entering older spellings will also be successful in many cases. For instance, ‘Benares’ and ‘Varanasi’ will both retrieve records, but ‘Banaras’ will not. Entering ‘Hyderabad’ will retrieve images of Hyderabad (Deccan) as well as Hyderabad (Sind). If in doubt as to spelling, users should consult the full list of place names from the indvidual 'Prints & Drawings' or 'Photographs' search screens.


Entering surnames only can produce multiple hits, as in portraits. Thus, entering ‘Baker’ will retrieve records for photographs by F.W. Baker, William Henry Baker and Baker and Burke. Forenames or initials should be entered after the surname, eg ‘Bourne Samuel’. It is not necessary to enter all forenames for a search to be successful, but if forenames are entered, the first element must be included. Entering ‘Hooper Willoughby’ will retrieve all photographs by Willoughby Wallace Hooper; ‘Hooper Wallace’ will not retrieve records. Alternatively use 'and' as described under Portraits above.

Date Ranges

Entering dates (by year only) will limit the search to images produced within the range selected. To search for images from a single year, enter the year required in both the start and end boxes.


Keyword searches will be conducted across all the fields in the description areas of the record (image title and notes) but not within the various subject indexes (topics, portraits, places). This search can be useful for tracing images whose title contains a variant spelling which cannot be traced in the indexes above. Entering ‘Banaras’ for instance will retrieve records where this spelling is part of the caption of an image, or appears in the notes relating to it.

Detailed Searches

All the searches that are possible in the All Images search screen are possible using the individual 'Prints & Drawings' or 'Photographs' search screens, but catalogues can only be searched independently. This screen supplies additional search criteria. In the Prints and Drawings catalogue material can be searched for by collection, medium, style and shelfmark, while the Photographs catalogue has additional indexes for historical events (arranged chronologically), individual named buildings (ie ‘Taj Mahal’) and shelfmarks. As noted above, these detailed search screens also contain the full listing of the structured indexes, and users are advised to browse through these to identify the specific search terms which must be entered. Searches in these screen can also be initiated by clicking on an index term in the list

Please note that the 'Search' icon in the left hand sidebar links to the search engine for the British Library website. That search engine does not cover the India Office Select Materials Catalogues.

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