Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum - 7/22/09

On Wednesday, July 22, We had the great pleasure of touring The National Art Library. Our tour was excellent. Another one of my favorites so far! The National Art Library lives on Level 3 of the Victoria & Albert Museum (the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design). It is a public reference library that specializes in the fine and decorative arts. It contains over 750,000 books, and acts as the Victoria and Albert Museum's curatorial department for the art, craft and design of the book. The National Art Library also provides access to many electronic resources, including online bibliographic and image databases.

There are a few self-service reference books shelved in the reading rooms, but the majority of the library material does not circulate and needs to be ordered from the catalogs. Patrons are required to join the Library and obtain a reader’s ticket to consult library materials. The Library consists of two main public rooms, with 108 individual reader/study desks.

The National Art Library has material on many subjects. These include research essential to the work of the Victoria and Albert Museum and its collections, including: prints, drawings and paintings; furniture and woodwork; textiles, dress and fashion; ceramics and glass; metalwork; sculpture; art and design of the Far East, India and South East Asia; history of the art, craft and design of the book. It is also a great source of artist biographies.

The National Library splits their collection into two categories; General and Special. The general collection consists mainly of books on art history, architecture and painting, fine arts, decorative arts, furniture, and fashion. The type of material held in special collection are artists’ letters, book art, calligraphy, children’s books, early printed books, illuminated manuscripts and modern book and magazine design.

One of the great treasures in the library is the Codex Forster, some of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks. Some others that we were shown were a Shakespeare's First Folio, an early printed book in the humanist style, a coat of arms book referred to as an Armorial, a literary manuscript by John Keats, Charles Dickens original manuscripts, and some artist books.

Websites to look at:
Victoria and Albert Museum -
Victoria and Albert Museum - National Art Library -

Victoria and Albert Museum
*photo courtesy of

Victoria and Albert Museum - National Art Library
*photo courtesy of

National Art Library Reading Room
*Photo courtesy of

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