Have a question? Need assistance? Use our online form to ask a librarian for help.
Fine prints in the division's collections are arranged in a variety of ways, depending, in part, upon how they were received. Substantial collections that were received from a single source in the past few decades are generally kept together as a cohesive collection, while prints received before then were incorporated into "filing series" that have particular arrangements and call number schemes. A growing proportion of the collection can be viewed online, but many more prints are available for viewing on site. Provided below is information about major collections and access to them, as well as general search tips and what to expect when coming to view materials on site.
More than 17,000 works, a relatively small portion of the full collection, currently have online, item-level records that can be searched from anywhere. Many are accompanied by digital images. Some images display only at small thumbnail size for those searching from outside Library of Congress buildings because of rights considerations.
The most effective strategies for finding materials in this collection include searching by artist name, artwork title, collection name (e.g. studio, workshop, publisher, donor), and/or call number or reproduction number. Subject indexing is currently limited and typically focuses on key features in the images themselves, categories such as portraits or landscapes, and such techniques as engraving or lithography, etc.
Several types of tools describe the contents of particular fine print collections that may not be represented comprehensively with online descriptions.
Card catalogs available in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room include the Fine Print filing series card catalog, arranged by century and artist, and various card indexes that include listings for fine prints and other materials for which researchers have requested reproductions.
Catalogue raisonnés describe the work of particular artists and, in some cases, have been annotated to indicate the presence of a given print in Prints & Photographs Division collections. Check the Library of Congress Online Catalog and the Prints & Photographs Division's Reference Collection card catalog for holdings of catalogue raisonnés.
Container lists itemizing individual prints are sometimes made as a collection is received or pre-processing occurs.The existence of the lists are generally indicated in the catalog record describing the particular collection or acquisition, and the draft lists are available by request.
Included below are the major groupings in which fine prints are found in the Prints & Photographs Division's collections. Collections for which all or a substantial portion are online are listed first.
Approximately 7,300 items, generally grouped by source, not yet fully prepared for service or integrated into processed groupings above. Unprocessed artists' prints which are most effectively searched by specific artist or collective/collection name. Samples, with links to descriptions and, where applicable, images, include:
The unprocessed collections also include printmaking matrixes. Examples include etching plates by Mary Cassatt, Joseph Pennell, and James McNeill Whistler; wood engraving blocks by Lynd Ward; and woodblocks by Gustave Baumann and Jim Dine.
Advance arrangements must be made to view unprocessed collections, which are served by appointment. For information about requesting unprocessed materials, follow the "Access to Unprocessed Materials" link below.
Researchers who are able to visit on site may request to view prints by submitting a call slip in the reading room. We generally request that for prints already digitized at high resolution, researchers first look at the highest resolution file (tiff file) to gain as much visual information as possible, before requesting to view an original, as retrieving and refiling fragile prints puts added wear and tear on them. Please contact us in advance if you want to see more than 15 prints on a single day.
For items with call numbers that begin with "PR 13," the items are not yet prepared for ready service. Request information or an appointment in advance by filling out an Access to Unprocessed Collections form.