British printed
images to 1700

Project leader


  • Professor Michael Hunter, Birkbeck, University of London
    Dr Stephen Pigney, Birkbeck, University of London
    Dr John Bradley, King’s College, London

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council

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The project - organised jointly by the British Museum, Birkbeck, University of London and King’s College, London - created an online library of more than 10,000 printed images from early modern Britain. Most of the images come from the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, but images from the Victoria and Albert Museum and other collections are also included.

Online cataloguing and digitising of images for the project began in May 2006 at the British Museum. At the same time work on the website and indexes was initiated at Birkbeck and King’s College. The website was launched in August 2006 with information about the project, a “print of the month” with extensive catalogue information, contact details, information about forthcoming events, and a list of links to major collections of British printed images of the period. The library of images went online in the autumn of 2010 at and a small display of 16th- and 17th-century prints celebrating the completion of the project was shown in Room 90 at the British Museum. 

Contemporary images, fully catalogued, are available free of charge. They are searchable by the names of the subjects depicted, the names of those involved in the production of the images - engravers, designers, publishers, print dealers - and by subject, date and technique.

Contextual information is provided for understanding British printed images in the 16th and 17th centuries: a description of techniques; a brief history of printmaking in early modern Britain; descriptions of the main genres of printed images; a survey of the main historiography on British printed images to 1700; a directory of the most important printmakers from the period; and a directory of publishers and printsellers, based largely on the research of curators and cataloguers at the British Museum's Department of Prints and Drawings, above all that of Antony Griffiths; a list of references used throughout the site; and a list of links to print collections and other useful online resources

The website provides a resource for a wide range of users from historians of every sort, to genealogists, teachers and school-children researching subjects from the Spanish Armada to the Gunpowder Plot, the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution.


Michael Hunter (ed.) Printed Images in Early Modern Britain: Essays in Interpretation (Ashgate, May 2010), a collection of essays based on conferences organised as part of the project at Birkbeck on 13-14 July 2007 and at the Victoria & Albert Museum on 12-13 September 2008

The Embleme of Englands distractions, engraving

William Faithorne after a drawing by Francis Barlow, The Embleme of Englands distractions, engraving, 562 x 462 mm, 1658 (PD 1848,0911.242).