The Book Library at the Courtauld Institute of Art is a specialist library within the University of London, and a last-resort reference library for research in the field of art history. It is not a public library, but exists primarily to provide a service to the Institute's undergraduate and postgraduate students and academic staff, and to visiting academics, postgraduate research students and other scholars both from within and outside the University who cannot obtain the material they require elsewhere.
The Book Library
The Book Library collections cover the history of art in the Western tradition from classical times to the present day. The holdings of the Library are estimated at some 130,000 titles of which 20,000 at present have catalogue records accessible online. The stock comprises books, exhibition catalogues, theses, pamphlets, sales catalogues, rare books and, increasingly, material in digital and online format.
The periodicals collection comprises approximately 300 current and 300 closed titles.
The Courtauld Library's sales catalogue collection dates from 1722 to the present day. The collection is divided into several groups and stored in the following locations:
Catalogues from 1722-1911 are held in the Closed Access Book Store. Due to their age and fragility only photocopies of those catalogues dating from 1722-1825 are normally available to readers. No copying of original catalogues is permissible. Please apply to the Librarian if you wish to consult any item from this part of the collection.
Other assorted catalogues are stored in pamphlet boxes at the far end of the
periodicals hall. These are shelved as follows:
1912-1935, Assorted (including Sotheby's)
1935-1975, Assorted (not including Sotheby's)
1969-1985, Bonham's only
1984-1989, Phillips only
Bound volumes in the periodicals hall:
Christie's 1890 to date
Sotheby's 1935 to date
Copies of recent sales catalogues (Sotheby's and Christie's only) may be consulted, prior to being bound, and are kept near the trainee librarians desk on the lower level of the Library (please ask for directions at the issue desk). These mostly appertain to London sales of fine art (including illuminated manuscripts). Catalogues relating to jewellery and decorative art sales are not kept as they do not fall within the Library's subject area.
Accessing the sales catalogues
Records of sales catalogues are not held on Libertas or in the card catalogue.
A copy of the Répertoire des catalogues de ventes publiques, compiled by Frits Lugt, lists sales catalogues between 1600-1925. A reference copy of Lugt, marked up to indicate Courtauld holdings (in the range L1-L10910), is available for consultation in the Library at Z8629. Readers should note however that this listing has not been updated for some years and whilst acting as a general guide, cannot be relied upon to accurately represent all existing holdings.
Catalogues published after 1925 are shelved in chronological order in the periodicals hall. An owner index, covering the period c. 1900-1980 can be found at the back of the periodicals hall.
Other useful reference works for locating sales catalogues:
Index of paintings sold in the British Isles during the nineteenth century: provenance index of
the Getty art history information programme, Burton Fredericksen (ed.), Santa Barbara, CA and London: ABC-Clio, 1988. Z8620
George Redford, Art sales: A history of sales of pictures and other works of
George Redford, 1888, 2 vols., ill.
Based on catalogues from the British Library, Christie's records, and other sources. Also includes substantial essays on some of the important collectors of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, along with a historical account of auction sales. Z8620 CABS - Apply to the Librarian.
Algernon Graves, Art sales from early in the eighteenth century to early in
century, London: Graves, 1918-1921, 3 vols., ill.
Expands on the work of Redford, correcting errors and omissions that appear in Art Sales, described above. The arrangement is in alphabetical order by artist. The volumes list dates of sale, auctioneer, owner, lot number title, and purchaser, where known. Most of the sales are of old masters and early English prints. Indices are also included.
All sales catalogues from 1960 onwards include price lists. When searching for retrospective sales prices, the following publication is useful:
Art prices current: A record of sale prices at the principal London, Continental and
American Auction Rooms 1907/08-1915/16; 1920/21-1972/73 (the first few volumes deal with Christie's sales only but coverage is expanded in later volumes). Z8670
An alphabetical owner's index for Sotheby's and Christie's sales between c. 1901 and c. 1980 is located in the periodicals hall, adjacent to the fire exit at the west end. The following information is listed on the cards: seller's name, date of sale, title of sale (as given on catalogue), place of sale and name of auctioneer.
The National Art Library at the V & A has a more complete owner index, which also includes a subject index.
The Library has a number of Special Collections housed in the Closed Access Book Store (CABS). These consist of a number of bequests from former members of staff of the Institute and scholars who have been associated with the Courtauld over the years. These include:
Anthony Blunt (1907-1983)
Count Antoine Seilern (1901-1978)
Johannes Wilde (1891-1970)
Frederick Antal (1887-1954)
Thomas Sherrer Ross Boase (1898-1974)
The Library also has a general collection housed in CABS comprising rare or expensive items and materials susceptible to damage due to the format.
At the present time only the Blunt collection and the general collection are accessible through the card catalogue and the computer system, and readers wishing to consult items from the collections should request these in advance.
Witt Photographic Library
This library is a collection of photographs, reproductions and cuttings- largely black and white but with some in colour- of paintings, drawings and prints, covering Western art from about 1200 AD to the present day. The collection now contains over 1.8 million reproductions.
The material is organised by national section and then by artist in alphabetical order. All the reproductions are mounted on grey card and information about artist, title of work, provenance, location, size, medium, etc. is included on the mount. The amount of information varies considerably, but it often includes relevant and up-to-date catalogue entries from sale, exhibition and museum catalogues.
Conway Public Library
At present the library contains just under a million images. These are photographs and cuttings of architecture, architectural drawings and publications, sculpture (approximately 10,000 sculptors are represented), manuscripts, metalwork, ivories, seals, stained glass, wall paintings, panel-paintings and textiles. Included within the library is the Edward B. Garrison Collection, which is a specialist photographic collection devoted to early medieval Italian painting. The scholarly back-up to this collection, provided by the donor, has been updated thanks to a grant from the Kress Foundation. A CD-ROM of this collection is about to be produced. The Garrison Collection can only be visited by appointment.
Courtauld Institute of Art
London WC2R ORN
Tel.: +44 (0)20 7848 2777
Fax: +44 (0)20 7848 2410
N.B. Due to the large amount of junk mail received please ensure that your enquiry has CIBL in the subject line. All other messages will be deleted.
Courtauld Institute of Art
<http: www.courtauld.ac.uk>; accessed 12 November 2003.
N.H. Yeide, K. Akinsha, A.L. Walsh (eds.), AAM Guide to Provenance Research,
Washington: American Association of Museums, 2001, pp. 251.