Principal areas of strength within our collections

The Warburg library collects a wide range of material to promote interdisciplinary research on cultural history, the role of images in culture, and the history of the classical tradition.

For an in-depth look, check our classification guide.

We have particularly strong holdings in the following subjects:


The tenacity of symbols and images in European art and architecture

Western post-classical art history, especially early Christian and Byzantine (CC-), Italian (CN-), Netherlandish (CD-, CFM) and German (CE-) painting, prints and drawings, and sculpture

Iconography, both Christian and secular: CO-

Survival of classical art (antiquities, inscriptions, numismatics, gems) and of themes from classical art, e.g. Hercules, Orpheus: CK-

Art historical sources (guidebooks, inventories, artists’ letters), particularly Italian: C-H, CNH

The development of art history as a discipline: CIO

The history of art collecting: CGI

Applied arts, in particular tapestries (CGC 1900-) and maiolica (CGB 395-)


Rhetoric and poetics: EAA, EAN

Italian literature from Dante to the seventeenth century: ENB, ENC, ENM

Renaissance humanism and Neo-Latin literature: NA-

The later influence of classical authors and forms (complementary to the holdings of the Institute of Classical Studies): NK-

The survival of classical themes in medieval literature, e.g. the Alexander legend and Roman legend: NE-

Encyclopedias: NF-

Mythological handbooks: NEH

Emblem books and mnemotechnics: NOH, NOA

The history of European academies: NBA

Cultural exchange (translation, travel, pilgrimage): NI-, NDN, NDG


The gradual transition, in Western thought, from magical beliefs to religion, philosophy and science

The history of religion, especially comparative studies, e.g. kingship, religious symbols: BFC

The survival and later influence of ancient religious beliefs and cults, such as Manichaeism (BCL), Hermeticism (BKG 600-), the Imperial cult (BCG 85-) etc., and their connections to Christianity and Judaism

The interrelations between Christianity, Judaism and Islam: BCG, GMN, GAG

Christian religion, in particular bible studies (BCD), liturgics (BCA), patristics (BCE), hagiography (BCA 1515-), monasticism (BCP), preaching (BCP 700-), the Inquisition (BCI 147-), the Reformation (BM-) and Counter-Reformation (BML)

Jewish mysticism and art: ABG 400-, GMB 770-

Western attitudes towards, and perception of, the Islamic world: GAG

The survival of ancient philosophy and its influence on medieval, Renaissance and early modern thought: ABB

Scholasticism: ABB

Arabic philosophy of the Middle Ages: ABA

Renaissance philosophy, especially Christian Neoplatonism (ACN 40), Giordano Bruno (ACN 200-), Nicholas of Cusa (ACE 100-)

The history of magic and science, in particular:

Astrology and astrological iconography: FA-

Alchemy: FG-

Prophecy and divinatory practices, e.g. dreams, comets, monsters, fortune-telling books, chess: FM-

Cosmology: FIF

Cartography: FPA


The survival and transformation of ancient patterns in social customs

The history of utopian thought: DPP

The history of political advice literature ('Mirrors for Princes'): DPA

Medieval kingship, especially German: DPI

Renaissance political thought: DP-

The history of festivals, e.g. Royal Entries: DCA

The history of banqueting, including historic cookbooks: DCA 690-

Roman law in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: DKK

Political history of Italy and Germany (complementary to the holdings of the Institute of Historical Research): HN-, HE-

Historiography from antiquity to the present: HA-

Notable additions to our collections

Over many years, the library has been grateful to receive a number of generous gifts and bequests, often from scholars based at or associated with the Institute, such as Fritz Saxl, Gertrud Bing, Charles Schmitt, D.P. Walker, Eugénie Droz, Frances Yates, Ernst Gombrich, Henri and Enriqueta Frankfort, Nicolai and Ruth Rubinstein, Albinia de la Mare and many others.

Library rare books and manuscripts

The Library's special collections have been moved to their temporary new home in Stewart House (32 Russell Square, WC1B 5DN). 

Please ask at the Reading Room enquiries desk or email if you would like to consult items designated as Warburg Rare Books/Apply to staff on the library catalogue. Special collections materials is not available on Saturdays as Stewart House is closed. We may require up to 24 hours warning in order to provide access to rare books and manuscripts in the Stewart House Reading Room.

Some collections of interest

The Numismatic Library

The Numismatic Library is the joint library of the British Numismatic Society and the Royal Numismatic Society. It holds over 21,000 individual periodicals, 6,500 books and over 15,000 auction catalogues dealing with coins, medals, tokens and banknotes. It is accessible to all readers on the 4th floor of the Institute and its books are searchable on the Warburg library catalogue.

All items in the Numismatic Library are for reference only. No coins are held by the Numismatic Societies. Contact for the RNS/BNS Librarian is:

Find out more about the Numismatic Library

The Michael Innes collection

In 2012 the Warburg Institute received the bequest of the library of Michael Innes (1897-1980). This collection, which includes several early printed books and manuscripts, is now being integrated into the Warburg Library, thereby consolidating our already extensive holdings in the fields of Alchemy, Philosophy, Magic, Hermetism, Rosicrucianism, Kabbalah and related subjects from the 16th to the 20th century in Latin, English, French, German, Dutch and Italian.

The Renaissance section of the Innes collection includes original editions and translations of key works by Marsilio Ficino, Francesco Colonna, Cornelius Agrippa, Francesco Giorgio, Paracelsus, John Dee, Robert Fludd, Heinrich Kunrath, Michael Maier, Basilius Valentinius, Knorr von Rosenroth to name but a few.

The Innes books expand the range of the Warburg collections well into the 17th, 18th and 19th century, from the writings of the Rosicrucians, to broader works dedicated to modern Hermeticism. Alchemy dominates the collection with essential anthologies such as the multi-volume Bibliotheca Chymica as well as printed editions and manuscript of the corpus of alchemical writings attributed to Ramon Lull from the 14th century onwards.

Read The Library of Michael Innes: An Appreciation by H.A. Feisenberger in our Research Guides

The Elizabeth David bequest

Elizabeth David (1913-1992), the influential English food writer whose recipes inspired a generation of cooks, amassed a superb collection of historical cookery texts during her lifetime.

The pages of these practical and well-thumbed guides offer grease-spattered testimonies to their regular use, both by David herself and by previous owners. David generously bequeathed her collection of historical texts to the Warburg Institute after her death. The rest of her book collection may be found in London’s Guildhall Library.    

Most of the 200+ historical cookbooks and texts are shelved under Banqueting (DCH 250-DCH 540) in our Festivals section on the fourth floor. Each book bears Elizabeth David's personal book plate.

Read Elizabeth David's collection online on the Warburg Digital Library

The Menil collection

Dominique de Menil (1908-1997) and her husband John (1904-1973) were French-American art collectors, patrons and philanthropists who were dedicated to the support of the civil rights movement in America.

In 1960 they launched The Image of the Black in Western Art, an ambitious research project which aimed to examine how people of African descent were perceived and represented in western art. The project has resulted in a series of books published by Harvard University Press.

The Warburg Institute Library was generously gifted with part of the Menils' huge collection of books, which have been fully integrated into our collections.

The Photographic Collection holds part of the Menil Archive. View the Photographic Collection's index of the Menil Archive here

The Yorke collection

Books and papers belonging to the English occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) were gifted to the library by one of Crowley's closest associates, Gerald Yorke (1903-1981).

The books in this collection are kept in our Rare Books Room and are available on request to all readers. Access to the manuscript material is restricted to academic researchers. Permission to use the manuscript collection must be requested in advance.

Download the Yorke Collection catalogue in PDF format:

Yorke A-Z Index (200 KB)

Yorke Collection OS 1-E21 (154 KB)

Yorke Collection OS EE1-N6 (133 KB)

Yorke Collection NS 1-49 (222 KB)

Yorke Collection NS 50-118 (142 KB)

Yorke Microfilm Index (648 KB)