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Royal Academy of Arts Library

Address. Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1V 0DS [Map]
Telephone. (020) 7494-5737
Fax. (020) 7494-5781
e-mail. [adamw@royalacademy.org.uk]
Internet. http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/

Governing body or responsible institution. The Royal Academy of Arts
Function. Research library, especially adapted to the requirements of the students and members of the Royal Academy.
Subjects. Fine Arts.

Access. Open to members, students and staff of the Royal Academy; also to researchers by prior appointment. - Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 10 a.m. - 1 p.m, 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Printed information. Royal Academy of Arts: Library and Collections [leaflet].
Special facilities. Photocopier, microfiche reader, photographic services.
Travel directions. Nearest underground stations: Picadilly Circus or Green Park. On several bus routes. - No parking.


1.1 The Royal Academy of Arts and its library, both founded in 1768, are the oldest fine arts institution in Britain and the oldest special library in the field. From the beginning, the main purpose of the library was to offer suitable material for the student's mind to work on once his hand and eye had been trained. The role of books vis-a-vis art had already been defined by the Academy's most famous founding Member, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), in his Discourses on Art: young artists should study most approved works of the great masters in order to develop their powers of imagination (Discourse II). Accordingly, the library had to contain books on every possible aspect and branch of the arts, as well as on every school and style and genre. This called not only for a library of books on architecture, sculpture, painting and relevant sciences but also of books on the applied arts, such as ornaments, costumes and ceremonies, instruments of war and arts etc. However, literature on the techniques of painting and drawing and drawing-books were excluded when they were considered to offer alternatives to the Academy's curriculum or to be based on ``systems' which might prejudice the students (for the acquisition policy see also below 4.2, Nicholas Savage).

1.2 The library first resided in a room in Old Somerset House in the Strand. It started with a nucleus of books essential for the practice in the Academy's school. By far the majority of books were acquired by purchase. It was almost certainly the first Treasurer of the Academy, Sir William Chambers (1726-1796), a man of deep theoretical and practical knowledge of architecture and the arts, who laid the foundations of the library. The Treasurer's Cash Book reveals the expenditure of considerable sums on books and prints; the Academy's supplier of foreign books at that time was Peter Molini of 18 Haymarket (appointed in 1769). Foreign books were often purchased for their documentary value, such as Hans Burgkmair's Kaiser Maximilians I. Triumph (Vienna 1796) (see also below 4.2, Savage).

1.3 There have been only two really significant bequests of books to the library, one a collection of books and engravings of old masters and classical antiquities from the library of Prince Hoare (1755-1834; Honorary Secretary for Foreign Correspondence), which was accessioned in 1835; and the other a small but important group of books on the history of painting techniques from the library of Sir Augustus Wall Callcott RA (1779-1844), received in 1845. Among the librarians Solomon A. Hart (1864-1881) needs to be mentioned, who was an avid collector of 16th and 17th-century continental illustrated books which he acquired on the Academy's behalf. Hart also published a catalogue of the library in 1877, which gives a good idea of its holdings in the late 19th century. During the 20th century the library concentrated on standard reference books, on British arts and artists, on the life and work of Royal Academy members, and especially on their contribution to the art of the book. As Solomon A. Hart put it, it should always be considered as ``a selection, not a collection' of the literature of art.


Chronological outline and analysis by language

2.1 The library comprises about 35,000 monographs (in addition to a major collection of drawings and engravings), ca. 10,000 of which were printed before 1871. There are no incunabula. No accurate breakdown (either chronological or by language) has been undertaken, but the number of German-language or German-printed books before 1901 may be in the region of several hundred. The majority of 16th to 18th-century books were printed in Latin and German, a few are in French or Italian.

Subject outline

2.2 From the beginning, the library collected works on historic and exotic costumes, ceremonies, civil and religious festivals, marriages, exequies and similar events (the correct representation of which was essential for the composition of history paintings). Examples from German-speaking countries are Hans Weigel, Habitus praecipuorum populorum (Nuremberg [1567]), Georg Rüxner, Anfang, Ursprung und Herkommen des Thurniers inn Teutscher Nation (Siemern 1530), Franciscus Modius, Pandectae Triumphales, sive, pomparum et festorum ac solemnium apparatum ... (Frankfurt a. M. 1586; vellum binding with armorial device of Antonius Fugger, 1586), Maurice, Landgrave of Hesse-Cassellis, Monumentum sepulcrale (Frankfurt a. M. 1638), or Emperor Matthias, Election et couronnement (Frankfurt a. M. 1612). Books on history, literature or natural history had obviously been bought because of their illustrations, such as Samuel Pufendorf, De rebus a Carolo Gustavo Sueciae rege gestis ... (Nuremberg 1696), Melchior Pfinzing, Die geferlichkeiten und geschichten des löblichen ...Ritters Teurdancks (Augsburg 1537), or Georgius Agricola, De re metallica libri XII (Basel 1591). These illustrated books, especially the collection on historical costumes, now are a prominent feature of the library.

2.3 The library is also strong in architectural books, a number of which were published in German-speaking countries. Prominent examples are Joachim von Sandrart, L'Academia Tedesca della

Architectura, scultura et pittura (Nuremberg 1675-1679), Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, Entwurff einer historischen Architektur (Vienna 1721), or Paul Decker, Fürstlicher Baumeister (Augsburg 1711-1716) and Johann Jacob Schübler, Beylage zur ersten Ausgabe seines Werkes [Synopsis architecturae Civilis eclecticae] (Augsburg [c. 1735]).

2.4 Theory of art and art history were considered important subjects as far as they supported the Academy's aims. Thus, Albrecht Dürer's De symmetria partium (Nuremberg 1532-1534), regarded as a basic work, is among the library's oldest books. Examples of art history reproducing the masterpieces of ancient, medieval and post-Renaissance European art were acquired as primary sources, such as Johann Dominick Fiorillo, Geschichte der Zeichnenden Künste (Göttingen 1798-1808), Johann Gottfried and Ridolfo Schadow, Erläuterungen der Abbildungen von den Bildhauer-Arbeiten (Berlin 1849), or Franz Theodor Kupler, Handbuch der Geschichte der Malerei (Berlin 1847). To this may be added a few treatises on art theory, such as A. Kestner, Ueber die Nachahmung in der Malerei (Frankfurt a. M. 1818). Finally, the library also acquired dictionaries as necessary tools, such as Charles Gottlob Küttner and William Nicholson, Dictionary of the German language for Englishmen according to the dictionary of J. C. Adelung (Leipzig 1805-1813).

2.5 In order to collect illustrative material for the students the library had always purchased works on galleries (``Galeriewerke') from the European Continent. German and Austrian galleries represented are Berlin, Braunschweig, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt a. M., Kassel, München, Schleißheim, and Vienna (3 items). Among 18th-century engraved works are Frans van Stampart and Anton Joseph von Prenner (eds.), Prodromus oder Vor-Licht des eröffneten Schau- und Wunder-Prachtes aller ...Kunst-Schätzen (Vienna 1735), Estampes du catalogue raisonné ...de la Galerie Électorale de Dusseldorff (Basel 1778) or Les principaux tableaux de la Galerie Royale de Dresde (Dresden 1836-1849).

2.6 Finally, a number of portrait works should be mentioned, e. g. Joachim von Sandrart, Iconologia Deorum (Nuremberg 1680), as well as a remarkable work on the Fugger family, Contrafehe der Herrn Fugger und Frawen Fuggerin (Augsburg 1620), or Hans Burgkmair, Images de Saints et Saintes issues de la famille de l'empéreur Maximilian I. (Vienna 1799). In addition, the library holds an important collection of engravings, including wholly engraved books, among which Dürer's series Apocalypsis cum figuris (Nuremberg 1511) is to be noted. Although early continental books mostly come from Italian or French presses, the library's collection of German-printed, mostly illustrated works represents a fine selection of German book production through four centuries.


3.1 Modern catalogues

Computerised catalogue

[for post-1993 accessions]

Card catalogue

[author and alphabetical subject]

3.2 Historic catalogues

Catalogues of the library, printed for private distribution to the members in 1802, 1821, 1841 and 1866

Hart, Solomon A.: A catalogue of books in the Library of the Royal Academy of Arts London. London 1877; Supplement 1901


4.1 Archival sources

Royal Academy Council minutes, 1769-1860

Royal Academy Treasurer's cash book, 1769-1795

Register of donations 1769-1840

Quarterly abstract of bills, 1796-1860

Royal Academy annual reports 1860-1981

4.2 Publications

Hutchison, Sidney C.: The history of the Royal Academy 1768-1968. London 1968; 2nd ed. 1986

Savage, Nicholas: The Academicians' library. A selection, not a collection. In: Apollo 128, no. 320 (October 1988) pp. 258-263; 297 [to which chapter 1 of this article is indebted]

See also: A directory of rare book and special collections ... 2nd ed. London 1997, p. 321

June 1999

Karen Kloth

Quelle: Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland. Digitalisiert von Günter Kükenshöner.
Hrsg. von Bernhard Fabian. Hildesheim: Olms Neue Medien 2003.