THE BRITISH LIBRARY Catalogue of Photographically Illustrated Books
Detail from Catalogue of Photographically Illustrated Books
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About the collection


The British Library holds one of the largest and most comprehensive collection of photographically illustrated books with original hand - produced prints and all forms of photomechanical processes and separate collections of individual photographs. The work of early inventors, scientists and practitioners is well represented and comprehensively documented in the form of photographs and manuals, handbooks, guides and patents of photography, in many languages from every continent in the world.

Collections of the magnitude of the British Library are acquired over many years and provide a rich resource for research into British and foreign histories of photography. The multi-disciplinary nature and use of photography as a form of illustration is reflected in the collections, spanning multifarious fields of subjects, ie. anthropology, archaeology, astronomy, architecture, topography, natural science, portraiture etc.

The impact and influence of photography in the nineteenth century was immense. George Poitonee referred to the new invention as " important as an auxiliary in all sciences, based on the direct observation of nature …[photography]..has given to the world, one of the most important discoveries of all time."

The British Library now provides access into these unique collections, by way of a comprehensive, detailed and high quality database, which will soon be available. Over 5,000 photographically illustrated books, texts, manuals and single collections of photographs are included; the project is on-going and the identification and collation of information is still in progress.

The final outcome of the database project, which has taken six years, will stand as a testament to the vision and determination of the nineteenth century pioneers and practitioners of photography and the foresight and dedication of the staff of the library who were responsible for the acquisition and creation of the collections.

See more on the history and scope of this collection

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