Cambridgeshire Illustrations

The earliest contemporary images of Cambridgeshire date from the Richard Lyne map of Cambridge produced in 1574. Since then there have been many thousand paintings, engravings, prints, postcards, negatives, photographs and other images any of which might be of relevance to your study.

See my ‘Photographers’ and ‘Engravers’ articles at

These introductory notes will guide you to some of the locations where these images may be found.

The Cambridgeshire Collection, Central Library, 7 Lion Yard, Cambridge CB2 3QD
open each day, formalities: none, but advisable to book if you wish to consult the Librarian, Chris Jakes

The Cambridgeshire Collection holds many thousands illustrations including prints, drawings, postcards, videos, photographs and negatives covering Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. Many pictures appearing in illustrated books and newspapers have been indexed as has material held in the Folk Museum & elsewhere. Many of the pictures will have been individually studied and catalogued with entries made for significant details such as windmills, buses etc.


The main Cambridgeshire Collection Illustrations Catalogue is arranged by subject headings
Cambridge pictures are represented by letters A - P.
Topics are arranged by letters Q - X.
Villages are arranged under Y.
A list of the headings used is attached

Illustrations cataloguing in the Cambridgeshire Collection

Individual pictures are catalogued on library cards. A typical entry will be something similar to this:



"Toll gate on the Ness Road, Burwell”,

postcard : Valentine’s series JV 2102
dated: 4th August 1905
neg. : 87/5134a


ae WIH.Bur.K0


Explanation ..

Y. :

the class number that stands for views of villages

Bur :

the first three letters of the name of the particular village


symbol for 19-and-something


the actual date

12345 :

accession number for that specific picture


places where extra catalogue entries are made for additional topics

To find pictures

Use the alphabetical index to locate the class number; turn to that section of the card catalogue.
Pictures are then arranged in chronological order using the letter 'J' for 1800, & 'K' for 1900; thus J56 = 1856, K4 = the 1940s. Each picture has its own individual accession number. Many of the cards will include a small photographic copy of the picture to assist identification.
There may be cards referring to other catalogues, especially of negatives. Take care to note these as they can be particularly important and extensive. Ask staff.

To request items from the illustrations catalogue:

Complete the pink ILLUSTRATIONS REQUEST FORM quoting the class and accession numbers from the top right-hand corner of the catalogue entry; staff will find the items

Note: the Collection’s illustrations catalogue has been placed on the website but does not work effectively.
Search at then select “Advanced searches”, “Cambridgeshire Collection Illustration Search”. Type word or class number, enter. This will bring up a list of pictures. ‘Keep’ those of interest. Go to ‘Kept’ file – options - view of records - full. ‘View’. Note ‘Dewey class number’ (eg Y.Barw.J79) and the ‘Local System’ number (15832) and staff will locate the pictures. This may take some time.

Other finding lists housed in the Cambridgeshire Collection:

Cambridge Antiquarian Society's Collection catalogue
This collection includes many photographs taken by Society members as part of a Cambridgeshire Photographic Record from 1904 to 1939; the card catalogue is arranged by place, Cambridge pictures being
subdivided into subjects. There is a separate index to their negatives.

The Collection holds extensive files of original negatives from a number of photographers including Thomas Stearn, Capt Hatfield, Briscoe Snelson, W.Martin Lane, Percy Salmon & the Cambridge Antiquarian Society. These are listed separately in folders and have supplementary indexes. Ask staff.

Portraits collection
The Collection has a very large number of negatives of portraits taken by Ramsey and Muspratt and predecessor photographers in Post Office Terrace between c1870 and c 1970.

The Ramsey and Muspratt index is on 6x4 cards and records name, details of order - e.g portrait or group, date and negative reference
J Palmer Clarke collection comprises some 1,000 boxes each containing 50 negatives. The contents of each box are listed on sheets giving name, address and type of photograph. The names are indexed on 5x3 cards recording box and negative number. It also includes negatives taken by other photographers in Post Office Terrace. These indexes are available on request

These are of two types:

a. original transparencies;
b. copies of items such as old pictures, maps, books etc.

These are listed in a separate catalogue arranged under the same headings as the main Illustrations catalogue

Lantern Slides :
There are separate files of glass lantern slides, mainly included in main catalogues; ask staff.

Videos :
There are indexes by name and in classified sequences; ask staff

Supplementary Indexes
Various supplementary indexes have been complied; they include: engravers, artists, photographers etc. whose work is represented in the Collection; local artists and photographers with dates when active; postcard series

A full copying service is available; ask the staff for details.

Other collections

Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge
Tel 01223 333000

formalities: need a Reader’s Ticket, ask Admissions Officer for details.

The University Library is a major research facility, housing millions of items. Cambridgeshire material is most likely to be found in the Rare Books Room or University Archives Department, which have specialist staff who should be asked for advice

The Map Room includes a large number of engravings and photographs relating to Cambridge and Cambridgeshire and there are folio volumes of engravings for consultation. Many illustrations are listed in the card indexes of maps, which run around the room. They include the Cambridge Antiquarian Society’s Relhan Collection of original paintings of topographical scenes in the early 1800s. The Map Room also holds a large file of postcard views arranged by place – ask staff

full copying facilities are available

Cambridgeshire County Record Office, Shire Hall, Cambridge
Tel 01223 717281

open: Tuesday- Friday 9-12.45, 1.45-5.30 (9 pm Tuesday if booked)
formalities: need Record Office ticket, take identification, advisable to book
The major collection of archival material on South and East Cambridgeshire and much of Fenland. Many of the documents will include illustrations – ask staff for assistance. Catalogue: there is a card index of illustrations arranged by place beside the Enquiry desk in the search room
The Record Office houses the Cambridge Antiquarian Society’s Glass Lantern Slides collection. Many of these images are the same as the CAS photographs and negatives held in the Cambridgeshire Collection, but there are many which are ‘unique’. There is a typed catalogue on the shelves, ref. 23/Z

Cambridge and County Folk Museum, Castle Street, Cambridge
Tel 01223 355159

The Museum displays a large number of photographs and engravings throughout its rooms but also has a significant file of postcards and other images. Contact the Museum before any visit to enquire about their holdings

Cambridge Evening News
The CEN holds extensive files of prints and negatives of Cambridgeshire from the mid 1960s to the present day covering all local places and topics. Although recently-taken pictures can be ordered the News can offer no service for locating or supplying older prints.

Online collections

There are various sources of digitised images.
Cambridgeshire Explorer CD-ROMs of Cambridge and Cambridgeshire cost £10 each and contain hundreds of historic and current photographs. Buy it from
Other sites that include old images of Cambridgeshire include:
Cambridgeshire Community Archives Network for various local villages -
Google – search for topics or places, then click the ‘Images’ choice,
The British Library Online Gallery’ for engravings -
The Francis Frith Collection archive -
U.S. Historical Archive -
Norfolk Picture Search includes the fens -

Mike Petty’s Picture Search Service

I have my own references to several thousand Cambridgeshire illustrations and offer a picture search facility supplying scanned or photocopied images to enable pictures to be located. E-mail or phone for details.


M.J. Petty MBE, MA, ALA, 13a Reads Street, Stretham, Ely, Cambs. CB6 3JT
phone 01353 648106 E-mail
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