Boston Public Library

Print Department
Collections of the Print Department

3rd Floor, McKim Building, Central Library

About the Print Department

Public service in the Print Department is currently suspended in order to complete an inventory of the 320,000 item collection. The Boston Public Library anticipates that the inventory will be finished in Spring 2016, at which time public service will resume. Many images from the Print Department can be found on the Digital Commonwealth and Flickr. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Rue Transnonain, Le 15 Avril, 1834 Honoré Daumier, Lithograph

Street scene

Beginning in 1941-43 with the gift of the Wiggin Collection of 5,000 prints and drawings, the Boston Public Library Print Department has built collections by gift and purchase which today total over 100,000 prints and drawings and 650,000 photographs.

The Library owns one of the larger public collections of prints in the United States. Some of the outstanding holdings are: a small but interesting collection of Old Master prints and drawings, including works by Rembrandt (30 prints) and Durer (105 prints); works of other individual artists such as Rowlandson (221 drawings, hundreds of prints), Goya (complete sets of the Caprichos, Desastres de la Guerra, Proverbios, and Tauromachie, and two of the lithographs of The Bulls of Bordeaux); Daumier (3,022 of his lithographs, along with states of some and the only known impression of one print, D.3756); Toulouse-Lautrec (246 prints, 72 drawings). The Department also holds virtually complete collections of the graphic work of Fantin-Latour, Forain (along with five oils and 136 drawings) and George Bellows (52 drawings, 195 lithographs). There are large collections of the work of Charlet (750 prints, two drawings), Gavarni (1,535 prints, two drawings), Meryon (61 prints), Buhot (157 prints, eleven drawings), and Jacque Villon (104 prints, four drawings).

Many of these collections are available in the BPL's Flickr sets.


Billy Sunday, 1923, George Bellows. Lithograph

Billy Sunday

Among special strengths of the Department are the Boston Pictorial Archive, the largest public collections of photographs of Boston in earlier days; important collections of early photographs of the American West; Civil War photographs; and nineteenth century photographs of native peoples and local architecture from all over the world. Documentary collections of photographs, including the old Boston Herald Traveler morgue of 500,000 photographs from 1920 to 1972 and the Boston Pictorial Archive, are extensive.

Wiggin Gallery

Building collections for research, study, exhibition, and publication has been accompanied over the years by service as a center of information. The Wiggin Gallery, in which the Department mounts exhibitions throughout the year, is the city's only full-time free public art gallery. Please visit our hours page for current gallery hours.

Mother. Rembrandt Van Rijn. Etching


The Print Department is especially active in collecting drawings, prints, and photographs by artists with ties to Boston. In 1995, this program of work with Boston artists produced some memorable exhibitions in the Wiggin Gallery: Nan Tull: A Retrospective of Drawings was drawn almost entirely from the Print Department's own collection of works, as was the show Ken Beck, A Retrospective of Drawings, and Maud Morgan: Celebrating A Life in Art. To celebrate Boston's greatest poster year, 1895, and to remember Ethel Reed, the star among Boston postermakers of 1895, the Print Depatment held two exhibitions, Boston's Art of the Poster and Posters by Ethel Reed in May and early June 1995. In keeping with the Library's longstanding recognition of the talents of Boston's artists of today, Boston's Art of the Poster displayed the achievements not only of the postermakers of 1895, but also of Boston's present day poster designers.

Great Fire of 1872, Milk Street Opposite the Post Office.

Photograph by J.W. Black - November 1872. Boston Pictorial Archive.