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Popular Graphic Art Prints at the Library of Congress (1600s-1970s)

Searching & Viewing

A large proportion of the popular graphic arts prints can be viewed online, but more are available for viewing on site. Provided below is information about how the collections are arranged, what can be viewed online and how on-site researchers locate and view original prints.

Arrangement of PGA and PAGA 7

When the Library of Congress began to organize its popular graphic art prints in the 1940s, two collections were formed. One collection has approximately 15,000 prints arranged primarily by the names of notable lithographers or publishers and uses the call number PGA. The other collection has approximately 50,000 prints arranged by broad subject and format categories and uses the call number PAGA 7. The acronym PAGA stands for Popular and Applied Graphic Arts because the PAGA 7 collection includes examples of such utilitarian materials as advertisements, calendars, certificates, designs and patterns, fashions, games, and wallpaper.

When you need to search comprehensively for a particular printmaker or specific subject, it is important to check both the PGA and PAGA 7 collections. So many thousands of prints were being sorted to similar prints wound up in both collections. Described below are methods for searching the two collections and arranging to view them in person.

  • The Popular Graphic Arts prints (PGA) are described and indexed in the online catalog. These prints have been prepared for ready on-site service.
  • The Popular & Applied Graphic Art prints (PAGA 7) have records in the online catalog for the 5,000 large-size items. Access to prints not online is provided by making an appointment in advance.

Searching for Prints

Online Access

Card Catalogs for PGA

Prior to the creation of online catalog records, most of the prints in the Popular Graphic Art (PGA) Collection were described in two card catalogs. However, neither card catalog lists all of the prints in the collection. The online records contain the most up-to-date information. The cards can be useful for understanding how a print was previously described or where it was formerly stored.

  • PGA card catalog: Begun in 1946, this catalog's cards are arranged generally by publisher. Other names have sometimes been used, including the artist, delineator, engraver, lithographer, or printer. For instance Peter Duval published John Adams, 2nd president of the United States, which was drawn by his best portraitist, Alfred Newsam. That print is filed as PGA - Newsam--John Adams (A size). The entries may include such information as print measurements and subject tracings (suggested subject headings for where a card should be filed in the division’s subject-oriented card index). When no attribution to a creator has been made, the print may either be filed by title or under “unattributed.”
  • PGA shelflist: Produced in the early 1980s, this card file is a brief inventory. In the early 2000s, these cards were the source for making basic online catalog records. The cards are filed by the call numbers of the prints. See notes above for variations in the name selected for use in the call numbers.

Looking at Prints in the Reading Room

Popular Graphic Arts (PGA) prints

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.

Popular & Applied Graphic Arts 7 (PAGA 7) prints

  • Items cataloged online: (same as PGA prints noted above)
  • Items not cataloged online: The smaller size prints in the collection are being inventoried and prepared for ready reference service. Researchers wishing to have access to smaller size works in this collection may request information or an appointment in advance by filling out an Access to Unprocessed Collections Form.