An item from the Library's Special Collections

Special Collections, Archives, and the Closed Access Book Store (CABS)

These collections are intertwined with the legacies of pivotal figures whose contributions have propelled research in art history, conservation, and curation both within The Courtauld and on a global scale. Within these archives lie the papers of notable Courtauld Institute founders, alongside their personal libraries. These volumes serve as tangible evidence of intellectual shifts, encapsulating the evolving interests and intellectual pursuits of their owners.

While art historians traditionally delve into provenance research for artworks, the custodial history of books has emerged as a burgeoning field of interest. Researchers meticulously examine the books within historical figures’ libraries, unraveling the intricate tapestry of ideas, ownership patterns, readership habits, and the nuanced interactions between owners and their literary treasures.

Beyond our library walls, The Courtauld Institute of Art extends its reach through three distinct external archives. Explore the National Wall Painting Survey, the Photographic Collections, and The Gallery Collection—also known as the collection of the Samuel Courtauld Trust—each offering unique insights into art history and cultural heritage.

Special Collections

Find the 7,706 books in our Special Collection through our catalogue.

Our Special Collections offer a window in to the intellectual pursuits and interests of academics associated with The Courtauld Institute of Art. Each collection of books, bears the distinguished name of its benefactor. Comprising an array of monographs, exhibition catalogues, journals, offprints, and both antiquarian and modern publications, sometimes annotated, these collections serve as a resources for both research and learning. The teaching and research papers of these academics, are stored in a complementary collection – the Library Archive.

  • We are in the process of publishing the descriptions for Atkins and Golding
  • We are in the process of accessioning bequests of books from Garrison, Hirst, Moody, and Skelton. These collections, however, will be added to the circulating collection rather than to Special Collections Books.
  • While the cataloguing of certain collections, such as Blunt, Seilern, and Shearman, remains ongoing, their significance to our academic community is undeniable.

Special Collections

Antal Collection

Find the books in the Antal collection in our catalogue.

Frederick Antal (1887-1954) studied under Max Dvorak in Vienna, and worked with Johannes Wilde in Budapest at the Museum of Fine Arts. He spent some time in Florence and Berlin before settling in England in 1933 where he occasionally lectured at the Courtauld. He was especially interested in the methods of art history and he developed a Marxist interpretation in the field. His international reputation was established with his book on Florentine painting of the 14th and early 15th century, published in 1948. Antal’s collection of books includes a fine selection of works on Hogarth, an artist to whom he applied his Marxist approach toward the end of his life.

Bell Collection

Find the books in the Bell collection in our catalogue.

Anne Olivier Bell (1916-2018) gave this collection of 45 books on British and Italian art to The Courtauld Institute of Art. She was an alumna of The Courtauld, and one of the Monuments Men who sought to preserve cultural artifacts in Germany following World War 2 and restore works of art stolen by the Nazis. Anne was also known as a member of the Bloomsbury Group and editor of Virginia Woolf’s dairies.

The collection consists mainly of works from the 16th to the 19th Century. Anne inherited the books from her father, the art historian Arthur Popham (1889-1970), who was Keeper of Prints & Drawings at the British Museum from 1945 to 1954. The books reflect his interests, focusing on both British and Italian art. The Courtauld holds a number of catalogues compiled by Popham.

Blunt Collection

Find the books in the Blunt collection in our catalogue.

Anthony Blunt (1907-1983) was Director of the Courtauld Institute between 1947 and 1974. Throughout this time he donated publications to the Library and after his death the Courtauld received most of the rest of his library. In the forty years between 1939-1979, Blunt produced a body of work which testifies to his importance in the field of art history. In 1940, his Cambridge fellowship dissertation was published as Artistic Theory in Italy 1450-5644. There then followed a stream of scholarly works focusing particularly on Poussin, French 17th-century art and architecture, Italian Baroque architecture and the Royal Collections. Blunt’s scholarship was indebted to the primary source material in his collection. The Library now holds his collection of early printed books, some 500 titles in total.

Boase Collection

Find the books in the Boase collection in our catalogue.

Thomas Sherrer Ross Boase (1898 -1974) was Director of the Courtauld between 1937 -1947. He had studied mediaeval history at Oxford and had a lifelong interest in the history of the Church. He turned his attention to the history of art during the 1930s and travelled widely throughout Europe and the Middle East. While based at Cairo during the war years, in charge of British Council activities in the Middle East, he developed an interest in the history of the Crusades and took the opportunity to study Islamic and Christian monuments in the area. He left the Library a collection of material about the history of the Crusades, architecture and travel in the Middle East.

Harris Collection of Textiles

Formed by Lionel Harris between 1876 and 1938, the collection contains fragments of Flemish and French tapestries, Spanish and Asian carpets, silks and embroideries and 15th and 16th century Spanish ecclesiastical pieces. It also includes woven fragments of Spanish, Italian and French silk velvets, damasks, brocatelles, brocades and trimmings dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Enriqueta Frankfort, Concita Wolff and Violeta Harris, Lionel Harris’s daughters, gifted the collection to The Courtauld in 1972 in memory of their brother Tomas.

Portfolio Collection

There is an extensive collection of portfolios that reflects the subjects contained in the book collections. They range from reproductions from museum collections to architectural series on chateaux in France; from Byzantine wall paintings to publications of the Dürer Society; from embroidery to the drawings of Hans Holbein. This collection is not on the online catalogue and requests require advance notice.

Seilern Collection

Find the books in the Seilern collection in our catalogue.

Count Antoine Seilern (1901-1978) bequeathed most of his collection of works of art, now known as the Princes Gate Collection, and his entire library to the Institute. After he arrived in England from Vienna in 1939, Count Seilern became a personal friend of Johannes Wilde by way of their shared interests. His art collection is the result of nearly fifty years of a scholarly approach to acquisition and ranges over some 600 years from an early Italian altarpiece through to works from the 20th-century. The book collection reflects Seilern’s art interests and particular strengths are Flemish and Italian art, especially Venetian artists of the 16th- and 18th-centuries. His collection about or illustrated by Rubens is probably one of the finest in existence. 

Shearman Collection

Find the books in the Shearman collection in our catalogue.

The Book Library received, through the Somerset House Art History Foundation, the library of Professor John Shearman, who was Charles Adams University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University when he died in 2003. He was a distinguished scholar of Italian Renaissance art and served as Deputy Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art from 1974 – 1979, and was made an Honorary Fellow of the Institute in 2000/2001. His library contains substantial resources about Renaissance and Baroque art, including catalogues raisonné of Italian painters and approximately 200 monographs about Raphael, about whom he collected any substantive books and articles.

A project, generously funded by the Foyle Foundation has made it possible to catalogue his bequest (although not entirely completed). This project complements the bequests of Anthony Blunt, Johannes Wilde (Shearman’s thesis supervisor) and Antoine Seilern, bringing the study resources for the Renaissance and Baroque periods up to the 21st century. His texts are often annotated and a large number have been inscribed to him by colleagues and peers, helping to build the picture of his network, his influence, and the regard his peers had for him.

Wilde Collection

Find the books in the Wilde collection in our catalogue.

Johannes Wilde (1891-1970) bequeathed his collection of drawings, engravings, books, photographs and manuscripts to the Institute. The Book Library holds his books as well as his collection of off-prints and archive material. Wilde’s association with the Institute began after WWII when he was appointed Reader in History of Art, becoming Deputy Director in 1948. Although his scholarly interests were wide ranging, his most significant contribution was the re-assessment of Michelangelo’s drawings as exhibited at The British Museum in 1953 and the catalogue published in the same year. His collection of books also reflects another of his great passions, 16th century Venetian painting. His lectures, addressed to students at the Courtauld during the 1950s, about Venetian painting, were published posthumously in 1974 followed by his lectures on Michelangelo in 1978. The Library also holds in its archives unpublished lectures concerning painting in Parma and Ferrara and Florentine art. 

Archives

Descriptive notes about the Courtauld Library Archives are on JISC Archives Hub.

Our Library Archives house invaluable papers bequeathed to the library by scholars and notable figures associated with The Courtauld Institute of Art. Spanning papers, letters, diaries, photographs, typescript manuscripts, and sketches, these collections offer insights into the lives and intellectual pursuits of their creators. Our Library Archives stand as a testament to the scholarly legacies enriching our academic community at The Courtauld Institute of Art.

The archives of Stella Mary Newton, Christopher Hohler, John Golding, Michael Hirst, Paul Levi, and Robert Skelton are still being processed.

Courtauld Institutional Archives

These consist of papers associated with the establishment and operation of The Institute. Other Institute collections include:
Conway archives
East Wing Collection
Friends
Galleries
Witt

Archive Contents

Anthony Blunt Papers (CI/AFB)

Blunt’s files of research notes, particularly those on Poussin, together with scrapbooks of cuttings of his articles published between the 1930’s and 1960’s. There is a small quantity of miscellaneous personal material; the majority of the material is scholarly.

Archive code: (CI/AFB)

A.J. Finberg

Read details about the Finberg archive in JISC Archives Hub.

Press-cutting books containing articles by the art critic A.J. Finberg, or relating to the art world in general. The volumes cover the years 1902-1914.

Archives code: (CI/AJF)

Art Related Newspaper Cuttings

Scrapbooks containing cuttings, some of which date back to the last part of the Eighteenth century. These scrapbooks are in a very poor state of preservation.

Augustus Wall Callcott

Read details about the Callcot archive on Archive Hub

The collection consists mainly of travel journals kept by Callcott on his extended honeymoon in Europe in 1827-28.

Archive code:  (CI/AWC)

Courtauld Institute Papers

Papers trace the Courtauld Institute’s history from foundation in the early 1930s to the present day.

There is a general finding aid for this collection but it has not yet been sorted or listed to any great degree.

The Devis Family

Read details about the Devis Family archive in JISC Archives Hub.

A small collection, consisting mainly of material collected by Sydney Pavière for his book “The Devis Family of Painters” (1950).

Archive code: (CI/DEV)

George Field Notebooks

Read details about the Field Notebooks in JISC Archives Hub.

Photographic prints of the pages of ten notebooks kept by the colour theorist and chemist, George Field, including ms drafts of his published works. There are also colour slides recording colour samples within the notebooks. The original books are held by Winsor & Newton.

There is no finding aid for this collection but it is available for use in consultation with the Librarian.

Hammelmann / Boase

Read details about the Hammelmann archive in JISC Archives Hub.

The material consists mainly of Hammelmann’s original files on Eighteenth century book illustrators, which were handed over to Boase on Hammelmann’s death in 1969. Boase attempted to pull Hammelmann’s notes together for publication. He had almost finished it when he died in 1974. The book “English Eighteenth-century Book Illustrators” was subsequently completed and published under their joint authorship in 1975. 

Archive code: (CI/HAH)

James Duffield Harding

A collection of journals, diaries and account books kept by Harding from the 1820’s until his death in 1861. The run is not complete, and many of the diaries deal more with Harding’s work-related commitments than his personal life. There are also one or two manuscripts relating to his work.

Archive code: (CI/JDH)

J.J. Foster

Read details about the Foster archive in JISC Archives Hub.

Manuscript material and cuttings regarding the study of miniatures and miniature artists. Foster published several volumes on various aspects of miniature painting, and a dictionary of miniature artists was produced posthumously, edited by his daughter, Ethel.

Archive code: (CI/JJF)

Johannes Wilde

Read details about the Wilde archive in JISC Archives Hub.

Wilde’s lectures on Michelangelo and Venetian painting, given in England after the War. The texts of his two main lecture series have now been published in “Michelangelo” (1978) and “Venetian Painters: Bellini to Titian” (1974). Further material includes lectures given in Vienna in the 1930’s, and correspondence with various people including A.E. Popham, dating from 1941 (when Wilde was in a Canadian internment camp) until the mid-1940’s (after his return to England).

Archive code: (CI/JW)

Lee of Fareham

Read details about the Lee of Fareham archive in JISC Archives Hub.

The papers, which came to the Courtauld after the dispersal of the Beaverbrook Library, comprise mainly Lee’s personal papers, some of which date back to his military career in the 1890’s. Material includes letters and documents related to his marriage, political career, the handing over of the Lees’ home, “Chequers”, to the nation in 1919, Lee’s art collection, and the founding and early administration of the Courtauld Institute. There is correspondence with the Roosevelt family, especially President Theodore Roosevelt, with whom Lee became friendly when he taught in Canada in the mid1890’s. There is also correspondence with many of the leading political figures of the early part of this century, including Lloyd George and Churchill, and with many members of the art establishment such as Duveen, Berenson and Kenneth Clark.

There is a general finding aid for this collection but it has not yet been sorted or listed to any great degree.

Paul Levi

A collection of letters from Johannes and Julia Wilde during the period they were interned and imprisoned by the British and Canadian authorities. The letters were gifted to The Courtauld by the son of the picture frame maker Paul Levi (whose family were also forced to leave Nazi-controlled Germany) and Paula Fuchs.

Percy Moore Turner

Read details about the Turner archive in JISC Archives Hub.

Percy Moore Turner Turner was Samuel Courtauld’s picture dealer. The collection includes files on various artists, and a large quantity of fragile newspaper cuttings relating to the art world, and/or Turner himself. 

There is a general finding aid for this collection but it has not yet been sorted or listed to any great degree.

Philip Webb Correspondence

Read details about the Webb archive in JISC Archives Hub.

A small collection comprised of correspondence with Giacomo Boni and George Wardle, although there are letters to and from one or two other people. There is also a small quantity of miscellaneous material.

There is a general finding aid for this collection but it has not yet been sorted or listed to any great degree.

Philip Wilson Steer

Read papers in the Steer archive in JISC Archives Hub.

The papers came to the Institute as the gift of Dorothea Hamilton, Steer’s niece and executor. Some of the material dates from the years after Steer’s death, but there are original letters, photographs and ephemera.

Archive code: (CI/PWS)

Sales Catalogues 1700-1825

A combination of original and photographic copies of auction catalogues. There is no list per se for these catalogues, but those held in the Institute are recorded in “Répertoire des catalogues de ventes publiques…1600 – 1925” by F. Lugt (1938 – 1987. 4 vols) [Book Library location : Z 8620 LUG] and available electronically through the Book Library’s Electronic Resources.

T.S.R. Boase

Read details about the Boase Archive on JISC Archives Hub

Relates to Boase’s interest in the Crusader Kingdoms, and should be viewed in relation to his bequest of books on this subject to the Library. The core of this collection is photographs of Crusader architecture in Greece, Turkey, Serbia and Croatia, taken by his friend David Wallace, in the years before the Second World War. The negatives of many of these photographs are now held in the Conway Library, and negative numbers for as many of the photographs as possible have been given.

Archive code: (CI/TSRB)

Closed Access Book Store (CABS)

Find the 4,094 books in CABS through our catalogue

Within the Courtauld Institute of Art lies a collection of antiquarian books, journals, and sales catalogues that date back to before 1850. This distinguished collection not only houses rare and valuable volumes but also preserves books with fragile or ‘unconventional’ binding, as well as those containing loose supplements such as maps, plans, and photographs—items prone to detachment, misplacement, or theft. Each of these invaluable artifacts has been either purchased or generously donated to us.

Just over 3,300 items in CABS have been fully catalogued with descriptive metadata, and a further 1,700 items have skeleton records— this includes title, author, and call number. Those with skeleton records are in the process of being fully catalogued to ensure their accessibility and preservation for future generations.

Consulting Special Collections Material

From October 2022 the library has restricted access to the Special Collections and Archives located at Somerset House, as we are preparing for the refurbishment of the library.

Some materials are available at Vernon Square, which we are glad to share with our visitors. Please email the library to request to see one of our books, or archives library@ courtauld.ac.uk

Readers are asked to take great care when handling items from the Special Collections as items are often in a fragile condition. All material must be consulted at the special collections table by the issue desk. Book rests are available in the Library and readers should only use pencil when making notes. Photographing from Special Collections material (without using a flash) is permitted for private research and study. Photocopying may be permitted on the advice of the librarian, depending on the age, condition and size of the item.

Copyright

We permit photographs to be taken of material in the archives and special collections only for private study. The Courtauld Institute of Art holds the copyright of the Anthony Blunt material held in the archives and we are able to grant permission for use in publication. However, that is the only copyright we hold and cannot, therefore, authorize publication of images taken from our archives or collections. We do not trace copyright for researchers. Publishers will expect authors to obtain copyright permission to publish and the responsibility to provide evidence of having obtained that permission lies with the author. It is also the author’s responsibility to obtain publication-quality images. We do not provide scans or transparencies.

The copyright holder determines how images are credited in publications. If you wish to acknowledge in a note that the material is held at The Courtauld Institute of Art, please use the following pattern Collection reference number, Book Library, The Courtauld Institute of Art, for example CIA/AFB/2/3, Book Library, The Courtauld Institute of Art.

Citations