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Art Topics and Resources in the Manuscript Collections at the Library of Congress


Unknown artist. Gambling Table, California House, San Francisco, California. Vol. 2, July 3, 1854-Feb. 16, 1855. c. 1854. William Speiden Journals. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

Users will find many such treasures in the collections of the Manuscript Division related to the lives and work of many prominent artists, who represent a unique and diverse array of figures throughout history. The collections include the papers of artist and inventor Samuel Finley Breese Morse, illustrator T.M. Cleland, and painter Bernece Berkman-Hunter. Some of the treasures that can found within include James McNeill Whistler's notes and sketches, as well as correspondence, concerning the design and implementation of the peacock room, and the papers of the Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias, whose caricatures have been widely recognized and featured in publications.

A Note about William Speiden: William Speiden (1835-1920) served as the purser's clerk on the Mississippi during Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry's American naval expedition to Japan from 1852 to 1854. Speiden provided a detailed account of the expedition in a two volume set of journals, which include nearly fifty illustrations by Speiden, Edward McCauley, Anton Portman, William T. Peters, unknown Chinese and Japanese artists, and others. Notebooks like these that give researchers insight to the practices and thoughts of artists throughout history and around the world, and give unique context to events throughout history.

The below list spans a wide variety of artistic mediums, including cartoon drawings, paintings, watercolor, illustration, sketching, and more. Guide users will find cross-listings of individuals from other categories such as design and architecture, as it can be difficult to categorize these individuals under a single heading.

Many visual materials from the collections, including photographs, etchings, drawings, and others have been transferred to the Prints and Photographs Division. Patrons are advised to contact both the Manuscript Division and the Prints and Photographs Division for guidance on accessing these materials.


The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.