British Printed Images to 1700 is an amazing searchable database of prints and book illustrations from early modern Britain. The online library was a collaboration between numerous libraries and museums in England, primarily The British Museum and The National Art Library at The Victoria and Albert Museum. bpi1700 uses individual cataloging records for each of the distinct pieces of art included in the database, which allows for the listing of prints in various different states.
The database is searchable by a keyword search or users can browse the database using the five general categories on the left hand side of the screen: Producer, Person Shown, Subject, Date and Technique. For scholars and researchers I can imagine that this database is a dream to use, but also as a casual browser, there is a lot of wonderful work to stumble upon. If you want to jump straight to the good stuff, bpi1700 offers a print of the month page.
For more on book illustration in England check out Karen Attar’s article “Illustration, book history and research facilitation: some observations” in the most recent issue of Art Libraries Journal. In her article she discusses the role that book illustration plays in teaching book history and also considers a variety of different ways that libraries can support this field. To illustrate her essay, Attar uses the London Rare Books School as an example of an institution that has begun to embrace book illustration as a vital part of its curriculum. Attar also explores how book illustration in LRBS’s programming has affected the holdings, donations and archival records at the Senate House Library of the University of London, a common source of books for LRBS.