Courtauld Book Library Archive

Book Library closure period

The Garden of Earthly Delights: The Third Day of The Creation of the World (closed position) - Hieronymus Bosch

The Garden of Earthly Delights: The Third Day of The Creation of the World (closed position) – Hieronymus Bosch. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Please be aware that the Book Library will be closed from the 1st of August through to the 1st of September, inclusive. The library staff can still be contacted via the Booklib email address. Courtauld Institute of Art staff and students are reminded that they are entitled to membership of Senate House Library, which remains open during this period.

Copac update

The latest addition to Copac (the National, Academic and Specialist Library Catalogue) is the Henry Moore Institute Research Library. This means that you can now cross-search their holdings of over 20,000 volumes specialising in British sculpture post-1850 at the same time as searching almost all the university libraries and many of the specialist libraries in the UK.

The Copac home page

Copac’s homepage currently lists a number of specialist art libraries available through their catalogue, including but not limited to; The National Art library, The Tate Library, The National Portrait Gallery Library and, perhaps most importantly, The Book Library at The Courtauld Institute of Art. Among the very few exceptions of which we are aware are the libraries of the University of the Arts London are not yet searchable via Copac.

Courtauld staff and students are reminded that if they require a book of which no copies are available in London they may be able to request it as an inter-library loan.

An FAQ about Copac can be found here. Other similar services that may be of use to Courtauld staff and students are which searches libraries internationally and which searches journal holdings across research libraries in the UK. If you would like any help using any of these resources please contact a member of library staff.

Exploring the Wilde bequest: offprints and beyond

Wilde offprints

Having this week completed a reorganization of fifteen boxes of offprints from the Johannes Wilde bequest; I thought I would write a few words on the material preserved within these boxes. This fragment of Wilde’s legacy collection, significant in size and content, is yet to be catalogued on the library’s OPAC, but can be searched by card index (see below). The main bequest of books and manuscripts, as well as his archive of teaching materials, is fully catalogued and kept in the library’s special collections – both can be consulted on filling in a CABS request form.

Wilde drawer

What began as a vast swathe of offprints has now been streamlined into a shipshape assemblage of just over 600 texts, most of which have personal inscriptions to Wilde. There is a broad scope of material chiefly published in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, but going as far back as a volume Jahrbuch der Königlich preussischen Kunstsammlungen from 1893. Written in several languages (chiefly German but also English, French, Italian and Hungarian), it contains a lot of Wilde’s own writings, as well as a good amount on Michelangelo – as you might expect – Renaissance art, and architecture.

As well as official offprints from periodicals such as Oud Holland, The Burlington Magazine, the Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, and Athenaeum, the collection also contains some full issues of journals; festschrifts for scholars such as Julius Schlosser, Paul Clemen and Max Friedländer; and ephemeral items including business cards, compliment slips, newspaper and magazine clippings, and proofs.

Gerard Frankl

Most of the items are marked with Wilde’s distinctive handwriting, either denoting the author’s name at the top of the page (as above on a clipping from The Listener entitled ‘How Cézanne saw and used colour’ by Gerard Frankl), or with his notes or corrections alongside the text. There are also a great number of personal inscriptions written from the various authors, such as this affectionate example from Antoine Seilern to Julia and Johannes Wilde, from his piece on ‘An ‘Entombment’ by Rubens’ (The Burlington Magazine Vol. 95, No. 609, December 1953).

Seilern letter

What is interesting is the network of figures that emerges from these inscriptions, giving you a tangible picture of the who’s who of art historians and scholars from the first half of the twentieth century, with a particular emphasis on the ‘Vienna School’ and on émigrés such as Wilde, Seilern, Charles de Tolnay, Erwin Panofsky and many others. It is an interesting piece of Courtauld Institute history in itself, demonstrating how professors, peers and students influenced one another and continued to correspond throughout their careers. Below you can see an envelope addressed to Professor Wilde from Katherine Freemantle, containing a proof copy of some biographical particulars and a bibliography of Professor Jan van Gelder.

Wilde letter

For more information on the Wilde Collection, see the Special Collections page of the book library website. Further archive material on Wilde is held at UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies. If you want to have a look at the offprints collection, we have a holdings list behind the issue desk in the book library.

Harriet Lam

New Books: London & UK Exhibition Catalogues

New Book Display

We’ve got a very fetching new books display at the moment, with the UK exhibition catalogues cutting a particularly fine figure as the summer shows are unleashed – most recently the Courtauld’s own Collecting Gauguin: Samuel Courtauld in the ’20s, curated by Karen Serres.

Elsewhere the Tate have been busy, with solo exhibitions from both Ellen Gallagher and Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair at Tate Modern, and a retrospective of Gary Hume at Tate Britain. I’m afraid we didn’t quite have space to fit in Tate Liverpool’s catalogue of Chagall: Modern Master too, but it is in stock at Z5079 ZUR KUN; and the Patrick Caulfield catalogue will be with us soon!

The Estorick Collection are showing Giorgio Casali: photographer / domus 1951-1983, a collection of his striking and stylish photographic work of Italian architecture and design originally shown in Domus magazine. And opening soon, we have Jockum Nordström: All I Have Learned and Forgotten Again at the Camden Arts Cenre from 26th July with free entry.

Old news for some, but keeping a stalwart presence on the new books display is David Bowie Is, the V&A’s showcase summer exhibition; alongside Man Ray Portraits – formerly at the National Portrait Gallery, now up at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, so if you missed it the first time around there’s still time to catch it a bit further north until 22nd September.

Finally, it’s last call for this year’s Deutsche Borse Photography Prize at the Photographer’s Gallery; and Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan – a free exhibition at the Wellcome Collection and well worth a visit before they close the gallery space on for redevelopment over the summer months. Both shows close on 30th June.

That’s it for now, but there will be an update soon on some more recent acquisitions in the book library, featured in our last display of this academic year.

Harriet Lam

New Online Resource: Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives Film Collection

The Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) at Dunbarton Oaks have recently made available online fourteen films from their collection. Of greatest interest to Courtauld staff and students will be those dealing with the restoration and conservation, during the first half of the twentieth century, of Byzantine art and architecture at the Red Sea Monastery of Saint Anthony near Cairo and Hagia Sophia and Kariye Camii in Istanbul.

A film still showing restoration of a mosaic at Hagia Sophia

A film still showing restoration of a mosaic at Hagia Sophia

The restoration work was carried out by the Byzantine Institute of America under the direction of the archaeologist and scholar Thomas Whittemore. The work at the Hagia Sophia and Kariye Camii was enabled by Whitemore’s friendship with Mustafa Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey. At the Hagia Sophia, many mosaics previously thought lost in the earthquake of 1894 were uncovered and Laurian Douthett suggests that this may have led to the conversion of the mosque into a museum.  The films provide a fascinating early use of the medium to document the restoration process as well as giving a glimpse of life in Turkey in the 1930s and 1940s.

Thomas Whittmore at Hagia Sophia

Thomas Whittmore at Hagia Sophia

Whittemore’s four volume preliminary reports on the mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul can be found in the Book Library at classmark A3780 BYZ. An exhibition catalogue from the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University detailing the Byzantine Institute restoration at Kariye Camii can be found at Z5020 NEW WAL (2004).

Another film gives an insight into the history of the garden at Dunbarton Oaks. The aging 16mm films were themselves in need of urgent conservation which resulted in their digitisation and publishing on the Dumbarton Oaks website.

All images are courtesy of the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA)  at Dunbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Featured Book: Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene

Choosing a ‘favourite thing’ from the Book Library is very difficult because we have such a wealth of items in our Special Collections and also on our main shelves.  Since I began working here I have come across tiny, fragile exhibition catalogues from 1900 onwards, letters written by Roosevelt, a completely square book in its own box, a scrapbook of fashion plate cuttings and much more.  It’s hard to whittle down these items to just one, but eventually I chose our two volumes of the 1895 edition of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, edited by Thomas J. Wise, with wonderful illustrations by Walter Crane.

Title page

The Title Page

The Faerie Queene (1590-1596) sometimes known as Faery Queen, is the best known work of the poet Edmund Spenser (c. 1552/3 – 1599.) It is an epically long, allegorical poem that, although never actually finished, was intended to span twelve volumes. It contains many allusions to members of the Elizabethan court, and can be seen as a celebration of Elizabeth I’s might and Elizabethan culture. It encompasses knights, damsels, magicians, (even Merlin!) monsters and mythical beings. In the poem, Spenser uses a unique rhyme scheme, now known as a ‘Spenserian stanza,’ which was later adopted by Romantic figureheads such as Byron and Keats.

But what makes these particular volumes stand out for me is the illustrations by Walter Crane, especially as I have been an admirer of his work for some time.  Walter Crane (1845-1915) was an Arts and Crafts engraver and illustrator. He is best known for his whimsical, finely-executed illustrations of children’s books, including Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1873) Baby’s Own Aesop (1887) Arthurian Legends and Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince and Other Stories (1888).

An illustrated page

One of the illustrated pages

Crane’s illustrations for Faerie Queene are stylized, painstakingly detailed and vivid in colour and execution, even after all these years. The cover illustration for both volumes features a graceful woman in a stylized garden, standing next to a lion against a bold red background.  Each blade of grass and each trailing leaf of the foliage behind her can clearly be seen, and the style bears strong echoes of William Morris’s work. This may not be a coincidence, as Crane was involved in the Arts and Crafts movement and was also friends with Morris. (Morris even turned one of Crane’s designs into a tapestry.) His illustrations also appear to be influenced by the style of medieval and illuminated manuscripts, with pensive, chivalrous figures and intertwined flowers decorating their margins.

Our volumes are from the library of the fashion designer Stella Mary Newton, and this fashion angle can arguably be seen in Crane’s cover depiction of the intricate folds of the woman’s gown, corresponding with the thick drapery of the lion’s mane, and the fish-scale or amour-like embellishments on her sleeves. Crane himself was also interested in fashion, and designed dresses, costumes and even sandals. You can really see the imaginative quality to Crane’s work, especially in the whimsical expressions and gestures of his figures and their stylized androgyny. The frontispiece for Part VIII even depicts a rather forlorn-looking unicorn!

George Allen Publisher's bookplate

The bookplate of George Allen Publisher

The rarity of these volumes is suggested in its limited run of just 1000 copies, and in the use of unbleached, handmade and rather delicate paper. I think it is amazing that this work has remained in such good condition, and I hope that it will be continue to be used and appreciated by Courtauldians for many years to come.

Bibliographic Info

Spenser’s Faerie Queene edited by Thomas J. Wise ; illustrations by Walter Crane. Part VII and Part XIV. Published by George Allen, 1895-97.

Classmark: CABS Z7483 SPE OVERSIZE. (Reference Only.)

Related items from our collections

  • The Allegory of The Faerie Queene by M. Pauline Parker, 1960. (Z7483.SPE PAR: criticism and interpretation)
  • Walter Crane: the arts and crafts, painting, and politics, 1875-1890 by Morna O’Neill, 2010. (D497 CRA SPE.)
  • Edmund Spenser’s ‘The Faerie Queene’ -an exhibition on the occasion of the four-hundredth anniversary of its publication (Z5020 PRI UNI: exhibition catalogue)
  • Walter Crane by Isobel Spencer, 1975.

Related Websites

Spenser Online: Cambridge University’s Edmund Spenser Webpage:

Spenser’s The Faerie Queene on Project Guttenberg:

Edmund Spencer biography at The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: (Athens login details needed)

The Walter Crane Archive Project at the University of Manchester:

Walter Crane Biography and Image Gallery:

Walter Crane biography at Grove Art Online: (Athens login details needed)

Featured Resource: Name Index of Artists

The Library’s card indexes are no longer heavily used and understandably, as they have not been updated since 1992.  Nevertheless, if you aim to gather as much information on a specific artist as possible, it would be unwise to ignore the name index of artists located to the left rear of the space occupied by the photocopiers and online public access catalogues (OPACS).

Although the Aleph online catalogue should always be your first option, do remember that some of the library’s pre-1992 non English language material has yet to be added.

The Name Index to Artists

As an A-Z name index, it enables you not only to quickly locate the required artist, but also indicates whether the artist worked in more than one medium, and if so, where (approximately) on the shelves you might find a relevant book.

To summarise, you would not expect to find mention of Grayson Perry, Ai Wei Wei or Banksy in the name index but suppose you were researching the Dutch artist Anton Mauve (1838-1888).  The Aleph catalogue gives you two references to exhibition catalogues but no reference to the book at D653 M by E.P. Engel.  This demonstrates the value of searching both name index and online catalogue.

An index card

As a general rule, the more obscure the artist and the less written in English, the more likely the name index will help.  For certain artists, only the name index will work, e.g. Jan Wouwerman (Dutch) or Boguslav Zivkovic.

Andrew Gifford

Assistant Librarian (Cataloguing / Short Loans)



New Art History Resources Online

Several resources of art historical interest have recently become available online, with a special relevance to those studying British art history.

The Royal Academy Winter Exhibition catalogues from 1870 to 1939 have been digitised and are now available on the Royal Academy of Arts Collections website. When the Royal Academy moved from Somerset House (the same premises now occupied by the Courtauld Institute of Art) to its current home in Burlington House it initiated the series of winter loan exhibitions to complement the already well-established summer exhibition. It was these winter exhibitions that would eventually grow into the current blockbuster exhibition programme.

The Royal Academy Winter Exhibition Catalogues website

Browsing this online resource allows you to see the evolution of the catalogues from simple lists of works to fully illustrated publications with scholarly introductory essays as well as sometimes fascinatingly of-their-era advertisements.  The interface is intuitive and you can search the full text of each catalogue, cross-search all the catalogues at once or consult the cumulative indices. The Courtauld Book Library also has a large number of the original exhibition catalogues in hard copy.

The cover of the 1919-20 winter exhibition catalogue


The Walpole Society have recently published their guide to British Art History Resources. The guide spans both well know resources, such as the Burlington Magazine online index, and the more obscure, such as a blog about British picture frames. While not comprehensive, the guide is a useful starting point which gives a clear and well-structured overview of a range of important sites for individual artists, thematic research, collections, sales catalogues or aids for finding primary materials, such as archives of art historical interest. The guide includes only resources that are freely available on the internet so does not cover some of the Courtauld’s relevant subscription resources, such as the Bibliography of British and Irish History or the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

The Understanding British Portraits website


One of the resources highlighted by the guide is the newly launched Understanding British Portraits website, the product of a research network of professionals working in the field. Among the most useful sections are a selection of toolkits giving guidance on interpretation and how to research portraits as well as providing guidance for museum professionals on developing learning and participation programmes. Other features include a blog, events news, and research funding opportunities as well as an enquiry service where users can upload an image and receive expert advice as to attribution, sitter identity and provenance. The ability to browse through previous enquiries as well as the inclusion of links to case studies and research papers make this a valuable addition for researchers at all levels.

These and other freely available resources that may be of interest to Courtauld staff and students are listed on our useful links page. If you’d like to make a suggestion please send it to serials (at) Courtauld (dot) ac (dot) uk.

Good news for Raphael lovers…


Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1838, plate 1

Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1838, plate 1

The cataloguing of the John Shearman library is proceeding apace and a jewel of the library is his Raphael collection. The Raphael books number just over 250 volumes and are, except for the occasional stray volume, fully catalogued. The collection encompasses second copies of many of the books we already have but, more importantly, there are a lot of titles for which I was unable to find other copies in the UK and, in very rare cases, was not able to find other copies anywhere.


There are multiple editions in English, French, Italian and German of staple 19th-century Raphael biographies by Quatremère de Quincy, Passavant, Müntz, and Crowe & Cavalcaselle. There are early copies of Carl Ruland’s catalogue of Raphael works in the Royal Collection, as well as an 18th-century catalogue of engravings after the Raphael cartoons also in the Royal Collection.


Bellori’s 1695 Descrizzione delle imagini dipinte da Rafaelle d’Urbino nelle camere del Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano has an interesting provenance, having been part of the libraries of two reknowned 19th-century bibliophiles, Gustavo Galletti and Baron Horace de Landau at Villa-Landau-Finaly, both in Florence.

Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1838 title page

Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1838 title page

And the Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, published in 1838 in Rome, bears the evidence of provenance by at least 4 art historians – A.E. Popham, Jim Byam Shaw, John Gere and, of course, John Shearman. What a pedigree!

Shearman Raffaello Sanzio 1838 provenance markings

Shearman Raffaello Sanzio 1838 provenance markings

About 20% of the Raphael books were published before 1900, including my favourite paper binding, on the Elogio storico di Raffaello Santi, 1829, which complement our later editions and reprints. We are able to see how the views of scholars have changed and how earlier scholars’ own works have been reinterpreted in the 20th-century, gaining a fuller picture of Raphael scholarship almost right up to the present.


Elogio storico di Raffaello Santi, 1829 binding

Elogio storico di Raffaello Santi, 1829 binding

Where a Shearman book is a duplicate of reference books we have on the open shelves, we are making the open shelves copies available for loan, so some important texts can be taken home now, but we still have a reference copy in the Special Collections.

This collection is already being used, judging from the number of slips for books waiting to be reshelved and we hope it complements all our material on the artist and for the broader study of Renaissance art. If you are interested in viewing the records for the John Shearman’s Raphael collection on the library catalogue, you need to select the multi-field search option and use the drop-down menus to isolate search words such as Collection code – SPECL and Former owner, provenance – Shearman, and combine them with Raphael in the Any words field (see search below). Once you know the books you would like to see, you can complete request forms at the issue desk.

Searching the catalogue

Erica Foden-Lenahan
Special Collections Librarian
Shearman Project cataloguer

Benezit Dictionary of Artists Online

We are pleased to announce our subscription to the online version of the Benezit Dictionary of Artists.

Benezit Dictionary of Artists


Benezit comprises approximately 170,000 artist entries. In addition to biographical information, many records also includes signatures, auction records, holding institutions and exhibition history. While Benezit aspires to universal coverage, it is especially strong on 19th and 20th century artists.

Only available in English since 2006, it is newly available online. Since its original publication in 1911 Emmanuel Bénézit’s Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs has been continuously updated and now includes biographies of artists working in all media. It is also noteworthy for its coverage of East Asian Art. As well as offsite access, advantages of the online edition include the availability of advanced search options, such as searching by gender, museum holdings or image searches for signatures and stamps of sale.

Claude Monet's signature

A sample signature from Benezit. Used with permission.

The site also includes thematic guides to subjects such as British Visual Satire, however these are much less numerous than the biographical articles.

Benezit complements our existing subscription to Grove Art Online (formerly the Grove / Macmillan Dictionary of Art). As Benezit is part of Oxford Art Online it is possible to cross-search it concurrently with Grove.

Please note that both French and English language print editions are also available in our reference section at Z40 BEN along with other major reference works such as The Dictionary of Art (ed. Jane Turner, Z31 TUR) and Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon (Z40 ALL).