The Library’s collection of fine prints includes an estimated 60,000 works by of printmakers working from the 15th century forward, using such techniques as woodcut, engraving, etching, lithography, and screenprinting. Fine prints in the division's collections are arranged in a variety of ways, depending, in part, upon how they were received. This guide covers the largest body of fine prints in the division's collections -- approximately 44,000 prints that are organized by century and artist in the Fine Print filing series and items and groups of prints which have been individually acquired in recent decades up through the current day.
For a broad overview of all Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division fine print collections, please see our related online research guide: Fine Print Collections in the Library of Congress.
Since the Library’s Jefferson Building first opened in 1897, the Library of Congress has actively assembled, and made freely available to researchers, a world class collection of artists’ fine prints. The collection has been built primarily through a combination of selected gifts, purchases, and copyright deposits--the latter of which have included prints by such artists as Winslow Homer, Jacob Lawrence, and Bertha Lum. With the 1898 acquisition of the Gertrude and Gardiner Greene Hubbard Collection of European and American prints, the division further cemented its role as a national print cabinet. Between 1917 and 1937, a series of key donations came from Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell, including their substantial collection of James McNeill Whistler prints and drawings and the largest extant collection of Joseph Pennell’s own prints, drawings, and printing plates. The Pennell bequest to the Library also included provision for a special fund intended for the selection and purchase of modern prints and an ongoing acquisitions committee that included printmakers. Between 1943 and 1977, the Library organized a landmark series of national, juried print exhibitions which provided another important source for contemporary print acquisitions (for information about this source of acquisitions, see the research guide, National Exhibition of Prints (1943-1977) at the Library of Congress).