Prints Collections

Graphic material began to come into the Imperial Public Library (the former name for our library) from its foundation in 1795. Taken together from the middle of the 19th century, they formed the collection of the Art Department. In a further development of the Library, in the 1950s, the Art Department was incorporated into the newly created Prints Department.

The Library seeks to collect, as comprehensively as possible, all pieces of printed graphics issued in our country. Publishers in Russia have a legal obligation to send at least one copy of each publication to the National Library. Therefore, the Prints Department houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Russian graphic material. Items also constantly come to the prints holdings through acquisitions. Some valuable and rare works and collections were presented as a gift.

The prints holdings today number more than 1.26 million images. These include:

  • Russian and West European Prints from the 15th century to the present, in particular:
    Engravings and lithographs representing various subjects: Western European items from the 15th century to the 1930s, Russian items from the 17th century to 1917; limited edition prints since 1917 onwards; mass circulation prints from 1960 to 1980.
    Engraved and lithographed portraits depicting domestic figures from the 17th century to the present; those featuring foreign figures from the 16th century to today.
    Engraved and lithographed views of nature and towns in Russia and other countries of the world, dated from the 17th century to the present.
    The section is supplemented by all collections of the department, with the exception of collections containing applied graphics.
  • Albums from the 16th century to the present. Among them are:
    Russian and foreign printed, engraved, lithographed albums, photo albums, separate sheets bound into albums by collectors or the publishers themselves.
    Russian whole-engraved books published from  the 18th to the first half of the 19th centuries.
    Author's books by contemporary artists.
  • Applied Graphics from the 18th century to the present. These include:
    Russian bookplates from the 18th century to the present.
    Publisher's marks of the 1920s – 1930s.
    Sweet wrappers, wine labels and tobacco product packages from the end of the 19th century to the present.
    Lunch menu since the 1870s until 1917.
    Concert programmes from the second half of the 19th to the early 20th centuries.
    Wall calendars published from the 1890s to 1950s.
    Lithographed and printed games from the 1860s to 1940s.
    Letter paper and postal forms from the 1890s to 1940s.
    The section is complemented by collections of the Leningrad Society of Ex-Librists, V. Brilliant, M. Lermant, V. Savonko.
  • Catalogues of art exhibitions and museums from 1957 to the present. They include:
    Russian and foreign catalogues of art exhibitions held in various cities of the world, catalogues of personal exhibitions from 1957 to the present.
    Russian and foreign catalogues of museums and art galleries from 1973 to the present.
  • Clippings from newspapers and magazines since the 1890s onwards. These are, mainly:
    Portraits of Russian and foreign figures.
    The section is supplemented by the collection of I. Tyumenev.
  • Lubok from the second half of the 19th century to the mid-20th century. This is in particular:
    Engraved and lithographed Russian popular prints of the second half of the 19th – early 20th centuries on various subjects; portraits of domestic and foreign figures; views of nature and towns in Russia and other countries of the world. Chromolithographed and printed Russian luboks of 1917 – 1950s.
    Engraved and lithographed foreign popular prints from the 19th to the early 20th centuries — examples of European and Eastern national schools, namely German, French, Indian, Chinese, etc.
    Russian lubok pictures held by the Prints Department comprise of a series of named collections: A. Olsufiev, M. Pogodin, V. Dahl.
  • Photographs from the 1850s to the present. They include:
    Photographs from the 1860s by 1917 representing a variety of subjects, including ethnography, historical events, social scenes; photographic reproductions of artwork.
    Photo portraits from the 1850s to today.
    Photographic views of nature and towns, since the 1850s to the present.
    Mass circulation photographs from the 1960s to 1990s.
    Author's photographs of contemporary photographers from the 1990s to the present.
    The section is supplemented by photo albums from the 1860s to the present.
  • Posters from the end of the 19th century to the present. Among them are:
    Russian political posters from the early 20th century to the present, including the state news agency ROSTA Posters published by the early Soviet State after the Red October of 1917; the Russian News Agency TASS Posters issued during the Second World War; Posters of the Spanish Republic published in 1936–1937 during the Spanish Civil War.
    Russian and foreign advertising posters from the second half of the 19th century to the present.
    Domestic performance posters from the end of the 19th century to the present: movie posters, theater and circus posters.
    Posters dedicated to pop, jazz, vocal and instrumental ensembles since the 1960s to the present.
    French performance posters of the late 19th –early 20th century.
  • Postcards from the late 19th to today, including:
    Russian and foreign postcards reproducing works of art covering various topics.
    Portrait postcard depicting domestic and foreign figures.
    Postcards with views of nature and towns in Russia and other countries of the world.
    Greeting cards from the end of the 19th century to the present.
  • Reproductions from the end of the 19th century to the present, in particular:
    Russian and foreign reproductions of works of art, representing various topics.
    Reproductions of portraits of domestic and foreign figures.
    Reproductions of views of cities and other points of interest in Russia and other countries of the world.

There are the most noteworthy collections of graphic materials and photographs held within the Prints holdings: