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American Women: Resources from the Prints & Photographs Collections

British Cartoons

The division's British Cartoons (8,500 prints, 1621-1832) include visual commentaries on British politics, culture and manners, as well as the developing American political consciousness. Women appear in the prints, often as symbols, but the prints also satirize courtship, marriage, fashion, and women's involvement in politics. Some feature women well known in social and literary circles at the time. Determining the degree of women's representation and its significance is a research challenge awaiting attention.

Philip Dawe, artist. A society of patriotic ladies, at Edenton in North Carolina. 1775. British Cartoon Prints. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Searching the Collection

Descriptions for all of the prints can be searched in the online catalog, where the collection has its own listing, "Cartoon Prints, British." A portion have been digitized, generally as a result of researchers purchasing copies. For images that have not been digitized, subject access relies on keywords in the title and summary, so it's helpful to try synonyms and terminology that would have been current at the time the prints were made. For example, "Criminal conversation" was apparently a legal term for adultery, sometimes shortened to "crim. con."—found in the descriptions of several prints.

The items in the collection are also listed in a combination of published and unpublished finding aids:

  • The publication Catalogue of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum: Division I. of Political and Personal Satires ([London] Printed by order of the Trustees, 1870-19) lists prints found in the British Museum collections. Staff have annotated the division's copy of this multi-volume, chronologically arranged checklist to indicate which prints are held by the Prints and Photographs Division (P&P). There is some limited subject indexing for prints dating between 1771 and 1832.
  • An unpublished finding aid, “British Cartoons Owned by P&P Not Listed in BMC” enumerates the prints in P&P holdings that are not found in the above publication. This unpublished checklist is in two volumes: vol. 1: Undated cartoons, listed by title; vol. 2: Dated cartoons, listed chronologically.
  • A card catalog in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room indexes the portion of the collection not found in the British Museum, with listings by title, artist, print seller and publisher.

Microfilm serves as a reference surrogate for the original prints.

For Further Information

Sample Images