Historical Prints & Ephemera
Historical Print Collection
Graphic images have long been valued for their ability to pictorially document the past, but it is only in the last quarter century that printed images have been regarded by historians and other scholars as important historical sources in their own right. More recently prints and other visual material have been understood as contributing to the way we remember the past. The Huntington’s extraordinary historical prints collection invites scholars to explore prints in this light, and to further their understanding of the ways in which the visual is reflective of cultural perceptions, preoccupations, and change over time.
The historical print collection at The Huntington consists of over 250,000 images which depict aspects of British and American cultural and political life between the 16th and 19th centuries. Depicted in separately issued prints and in extra-illustrated books are portraits, historical scenes/events, political and social caricatures, theatrical and literary history, illustrations to Shakespeare’s plays, Biblical illustrations, British and American views, and British and American trade cards.
The print collection is also rich in portraiture and iconographic figures, and is representative of the history and technical development of printmaking processes through the mid-20th century. This includes a selection of tools and equipment involved in early printmaking. Finally, the work of various well-known engravers and the output of key American, British, and European publishers is available for study.
Organization of the Historical Prints Collection
Caricatures, British Social and Political
Caricatures, Thomas Nast
Caricatures, Vanity Fair
Engravers Tool and Plates
Fine Early Engravings
Historical Events, American (17th century – 1925)
Historical Events, British (1625 -- 1935)
Illustrated Newspapers, including
- Frank Leslie’s Weekly
- Godey’s Ladies Magazine
Illustrated London News
Illustrations and Figure Pieces
Maritime Prints and Portraits
Prang Color Separation Examples
Shakespeare, portraits and illustrations to plays
Theatrical Scenes and Portraits
Trade Cards, British
Views, American or Architecture
Views, British or Architecture
Additionally, 1,000 extra-illustrated book sets feature prints on a wide variety of subjects. Particularly rich are the Kitto Bible, which contains 30,000 prints illustrating the Old and New Testaments, and Granger’s A Biographical History of England, 1769-1774 which numbers 14,000 portraits of British notables.
Printed ephemera, that body of material which was produced for a one-time, limited purpose, can be understood generally as transient documents of everyday life. It is often compelling visually, speaks with a particular directness while at the same time contains multiple layers of meaning.
The Huntington’s collection of ephemera is an expansive archive of several hundred thousand pieces. The variety of subjects and formats represented in the larger collection support historical research in the fields of American and British cultural studies. The collection emphasizes Western history and culture, especially that of Southern California.
Formats include but are not limited to citrus labels, campaign buttons, scrapbooks, maps, sheet music, promotional literature, postcards, birds-eye-views, playbills, and posters. Subjects include but are not limited to American politics, the development of Southern California, theatre and performing arts history, 20th century American railroads, commerce and advertising.
Noteworthy collections include the L.E. Behymer Archive of early Southern California cultural events, Citrus Labels, and California Promotional Literature. Significant collections with a more national scope include Korzenik Art Education Ephemera, Trade Cards, and Kemble Maritime Ephemera.