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-)
The persistence of motifs and forms in Western languages and literature
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-
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
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-
Prophecy and divinatory practices, e.g. dreams, comets, monsters, fortune-telling books, chess: FM-
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 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.
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)