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Scope of the catalogues

These catalogues provide access to original photographs from all departments of the British Library and to texts (manuals, journals, technical literature, etc) associated with the history of photography. Please note that these catalogues are part of a long-term documentation project and do not yet represent a comprehensive listing of all photographic material held in the British Library. If you cannot trace material which you believe to be part of our collections, or if you have other enquiries relating to photographs in the British Library, please contact photographs@bl.uk for further information or guidance. Please also note that at present these catalogues provide a text-only guide to the library’s holdings: it is planned to provide reference images for selected collections in due course.

Asian photographs: The existing catalogue of photographs in the former India Office Collections will also shortly be transferred to these catalogues. The listings of these photographs at http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/indiaofficeselect/welcome.asp will continue to be available until this process is complete and users requiring Indian and Asian material are requested to also check this catalogue until all records have been transferred.

Photographic material can be searched for in a number of ways:

1. Simple keyword search.
2. Advanced search for individual photographs.
3. Advanced search for photographically-illustrated books.
4. Advanced search for photographic texts.

Simple keyword search

This search, on the main page, locates matches for entered keywords from any part of the catalogue record. Thus, entering ‘Thomson’ will return records by photographers named Thomson, works authored by Thomson, portraits of individuals named Thomson and any records where this word exists in indexes, captions or notes. Records returned by this search can be filtered by type (photographic prints, photographically-illustrated books, portrait subjects, etc), by selecting from the ‘Filter by’ drop-down list.

Searching can be carried out by:

Shelfmark

Searches for known shelfmarks should include punctuation, i.e. 1787.d.7, not 1787d7.

Boolean logic

entering more than one keyword is automatically interpreted as a Boolean ‘and’ search. Thus entering ‘Cyprus autumn camera’ will by default search for records which contain all these words. Precise phrases can be searched for by the use of double quotes (") at the beginning and end. Thus, entering "photography made easy" will search for the exact phrase in the catalogue. The simple search also supports the Boolean search term ‘OR’ (uppercase), but it does not support ‘not’. A word can be excluded from the search by the use of the ‘-’ sign: thus, ‘Cyprus -camera’ will find all records containing the word ‘Cyprus’, but not the word ‘camera.’

Truncating terms

Parts of words (3 characters minimum) can be entered in conjunction with the asterisk key (*). Thus ‘Thom*’ will return all records containing Thomas, Thoms, Thompson, Thomson, etc. Truncation can only be used at the end of words.

Advanced search for individual photographs

Individual photographs in the collections can be located to a greater degree of precision by using this search, in which material can be traced by creator, subject matter, period and other physical and technical characteristics. To access this catalogue from the main page, click on ‘Advanced search -> Photographs’ to bring up the search page and enter criteria in the relevant fields. A single field may be selected, or may be combined with additional terms for more specific or complex searches. To clear data entered in these fields, click ‘Reset.’

The following searchable fields and indexes are available:

Collection

By default, the catalogue search includes all British Library collections. Searches can, however, be restricted to specific departmental or other named collections by selecting from the drop-down list of options.

Caption Enter a word or phrase to locate matching text in a photograph caption or title.
Boolean searches on captions Entering more than one keyword is automatically interpreted as a Boolean ‘and’ search. Thus entering ‘custom house Barcelona’ will by default search for records which contain all these words in the caption. Precise phrases can be searched for by the use of double quotes (") at the beginning and end. Thus, entering "Corso from Piazza Colonna" will search for the exact phrase in a photograph caption. The simple search also supports the Boolean search term ‘OR’(uppercase), but it does not support ‘not’. A word can be excluded from the search by the use of the ‘-’ sign: thus, ‘Barcelona -custom’ will find all records containing the word ‘Barcelona’, but not the word ‘custom’ in the caption.
Notes Enter a word or phrase to locate matching text in the catalogue notes appended to a photograph. Boolean search terms apply as for the caption search (see preceding note).
Shelfmark When searching for a known British Library shelfmark, text entered in this field should include punctuation, i.e. 1787.d.7, not 1787d7.
Photographer To find photographs by known photographers, select a name from the drop-down list of identified photographers.
Other reference nos This field allows material to be located by significant alternative reference numbers, such as an original reference number allocated to an image by the photographer. Thus, Samuel Bourne’s view of Government House, Barrackpore, numbered 1746 in the photographer’s published catalogue, can be traced by entering this number in the Photographer reference field.
Date range Photographs from a specific period can be found by entering start and end years in the date range fields. Photographs from a single year can be found by entering the same year in both fields.
Photographic process Select the relevant photographic process from the drop-down list. The indexing of photographic processes is arranged hierarchically from broader terms to narrower. Thus searching on ‘Albumen print’ will return records for all forms of albumen print (hand-coloured albumen prints, albumen prints from calotype negatives, etc); use of narrower terms, such as ‘hand-coloured albumen print’ will exclude all other forms of albumen print.
Original negatives Searches can be restricted to material for which the original negative is held by the British Library by clicking this box. Using this search will return records both for prints for which the negative is held and the record for the negative itself. Please note that this box must be used in conjunction with other search criteria.
Format This drop-down list enables the user to identify material contained in collections of a specified format, for instance, loose collections of prints, photographs contained in albums, printed books, etc.
Genre This is intended as a broad rather than precise guide to various genres of photography. It should be noted that in many cases images could fall into more than one category. It is often useful, however, as a preliminary search tool for identifying general categories of material, such as portrait photography from a particular area or period.
Buildings photographs of identified buildings can be located by selecting an entry from the drop-down list of named buildings.
Portraits photographs of identified people, whether individual portraits or in groups, can be located by selecting an entry from the drop-down list of identified sitters.
Historical event Selecting an entry from the drop-down list of historical events (arranged chronologically by year), allows photographs associated with a specific historical event to be traced.
Place

The search field for tracing photographs from specific locations is designed to allow the user to select the required location where more than one place with that name might exist. Searches can be made at various levels of precision, from broad continental areas (‘Asia,’ ‘South Asia’), by country (‘Brazil’), administrative units (‘Hampshire’), down to specific places (‘Naples’).

Please note that the place index incorporates the comprehensive ISO world database of countries and administrative areas, not all of which are represented by photographs in the library’s collections. Searches on some terms will, therefore, return a negative result. The terminology of the ISO database also reflects internationally accepted current usage. Where this might create confusion in relation to historical place names, former usage has also been incorporated: thus searches for either ‘Bombay’ or ‘Mumbai’ will return the same data.

To use this search, enter the required place name in the upper box and click find. Matching entries will appear in the lower box. If more than one entry is returned, select the required place name by clicking on it.

Example: Entering ‘Kingston’, will return entries for Kingston (Ontario), Kingston (Somerset), Kingston upon Hull, Kingston upon Thames. The required choice should be clicked on before running the search.

Subject indexes photographs of particular subjects can be traced by selecting the appropriate term from the drop-down list of available topics. The list can be navigated by typing in the initial letter.

Search results for photographs:

Brief display

After entering the appropriate search terms, click ‘Submit.’ Photographs that match the search criteria will appear in the form of brief records, listing photograph title, photographer, portrait subject (if applicable) and date of photograph. If desired, this list can be weeded by clicking the ‘Tag’ button next to photographs of interest. After selecting records in this way, clicking on ‘Show Tags’ to the left will remove all untagged records; clicking on ‘Show all’ will restore the full list and ‘Clear tags’ will remove the tagged selection.

Full display To view a detailed catalogue record for individual prints returned by a search, click on the ‘Full’ link to the left of the brief record. Full records list collection area, shelfmark, print number, photographer, photographic process, dimensions, notes and additional information for each photograph. From this page it is also possible to view records for the complete collection of which the photograph is a part, by clicking on ‘Display Collection’ at the bottom left. This will open a page listing of all photographs in the collection and, at the top of the page, a detailed description of the collection itself.

Advanced search for photographically-illustrated books.

Until the advent of half-tone printing processes in the early 1880's (and indeed for several years after their introduction), it was common practice to illustrate published works by pasting in original photographs. Such works form an important chapter in the history of photography and the British Library holds a major collection of such books. This catalogue provides a detailed search tool for locating such material and provides bibliographical and descriptive details of such works, as well as listings of the photographs contained within them. To access this catalogue from the main page, click on ‘Advanced search -> Photographically illustrated books’, to bring up the search page and enter criteria in the relevant fields.

A single field may be selected, or combined with additional terms for more specific or complex searches.

Collection

By default, the catalogue search includes all British Library collections. Searches can, however, be restricted to specific departmental or other named collections by selecting from the drop-down list of options.

Shelfmark When searching for a known British Library shelfmark, text entered in this field should include punctuation, i.e. 1787.d.7, not 1787d7.
Author / Contributor Authors of photographically-illustrated books can be selected from the drop-down list.
Title Enter a word or phrase from the title of the required work.
Boolean searches on titles Entering more than one keyword is automatically interpreted as a Boolean ‘and’ search. Thus entering ‘photographic abbeys Yorkshire’ will by default search for records which contain all these words in the caption (in whatever order). Precise phrases can be searched for by the use of double quotes (") at the beginning and end. Thus, entering "photographic album for" will search for the exact phrase in a book title. The simple search also supports the Boolean search term ‘OR’(uppercase), but it does not support ‘not’. A word can be excluded from the search by the use of the ‘-’ sign: thus, ‘photographic -abbeys’ will find records for all books containing the word ‘photographic’, but not the word ‘abbeys’ in the title.
Publisher and place of publication Books issued by specific publishers can be located by selecting from the drop-down list of available names. Place of publication can also be searched by selecting a place or country from the drop-down lists. Please note that only one selection can be made from these three options, either publisher, or place of publication, or country of publication. If selections have been entered in more than one field, the search will be run only on the last selection made.
Publication date Enter a start year and an end year to search for works published within a particular period. If searching for a specific year, enter the same year in both fields.
Photographer Photographers’ work included in published works can be traced by selecting a name from the drop-down list.
Photograph date range In many cases, the date at which photographs were taken differs, sometimes substantially, from the actual publication date of the work in which they appear. Photographs from a date range or specific year, irrespective of the publication date of the book, can be located by entering the required start and end years.
Photographic process Published works containing examples of specific photographic processes can be searched for by selecting terms from the drop-down list. Please note that this list includes all processes found in the library’s photographic collections. A number of these are not found in published works and will not therefore return a result.

Returned searches are displayed in the form of a brief record, listing title, author and date of publication. To view the complete record, click on ‘Full’. From this page, records for the photograph contained within the work can be accessed by clicking on ‘Display collection.’

Advanced search for photographic texts.

In addition to collections of original photographs, the British Library’s holdings provide a major resource for the study of photography, in the form of histories, technical manuals, catalogues, journals and other textual material. Please note that this catalogue is in the process of compilation and at present represents only a small proportion of material available in the library and also contains some incomplete entries: data will be added and updated as resources allow. To access this catalogue from the main page, click on ‘Advanced search -> Photographic Texts’, to bring up the search page and enter criteria in the relevant fields. A single field may be selected, or combined with additional terms for more specific or complex searches.

The following fields, either singly, or in combination for more complex searches, are available for locating works of this nature:

Shelfmark When searching for a known British Library shelfmark, text entered in this field should include punctuation, i.e. 1787.d.7, not 1787d7.
Author Authors of works on or relating to photography can be selected from the drop-down list of names.
Title Enter a word or phrase from the title of the required work.
Boolean searches on titles Entering more than one keyword is automatically interpreted as a Boolean ‘and’ search. Thus entering ‘photography manual’ will by default search for records which contain both these words in the caption (in whatever order). Precise phrases can be searched for by the use of double quotes (") at the beginning and end. Thus, entering "photography made easy" will search for the exact phrase in a book title. The simple search also supports the Boolean search term ‘OR’(uppercase), but it does not support ‘not’. A word can be excluded from the search by the use of the ‘-’ sign: thus, ‘photography -photogenic’ will find records for all books containing the word ‘photography’, but not the word ‘photogenic’ in the title.
Publisher and place of publication Books by specific publishers can be located by selecting from the drop-down list of available names. Books published in specific locations can also be traced by selecting a place or country from the drop-down lists. Please note that only one selection can be made from these three options, either publisher, or place of publication, or country of publication. If selections have been entered in more than one field, the search will be run on the last selection made.
Publication date Enter a start year and an end year to search for works published within a particular period. If searching for a specific year, enter the same year in both fields.
Category Books relating to broad subject areas can be located by selecting a relevant term (such as ‘journal,’ ‘manual,’ ‘history of photography’) from the drop-down list of available topics.
Subject This field supplies a more detailed subject index to matters dealt with in various works, such as specific photographic processes, styles, etc. Select a topic from the drop-down list of available subjects for searching.

Returned searches are displayed in the form of a brief record, listing title, author and date of publication. To view the complete record, click on ‘Full’.


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