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Rare Books

The National Gallery of Art Library rare books collection comprises over 12,000 volumes of early printed books and primary source material related to the history of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present, particularly the Italian, Dutch, Flemish, French, German, Spanish, British, and American schools. The collection features an extraordinary range of material, from manuscripts and early printed books to annotated catalogues and price lists, from landmark publications such as Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists to serials produced by Dada artists. Special emphasis is given to the areas of collection catalogues, biographies of artists, manuals on technique and materials, architecture, color theory, the early history of photography, festival books, travel literature, emblem books, and artists’ books.

In addition, the library mounts exhibitions throughout the year in the East Building Study Center atrium. Drawn mainly from the rare books collection, these exhibitions highlight areas of the collection, emphasize particular themes related to art historical research, or complement other exhibitions throughout the Gallery.

The library appreciates the generous support of donors such as Victoria and Roger Sant, Robert L. Feller and Ruth M. Johnston Feller, Mr. and Mrs. John C. Fontaine, Paul Mellon, C. Wesley and Jacqueline Peebles, Chester Dale, Patricia G. England, Robert Erburu, Joseph E. Widener, Albert H. Small, Robert H. Smith, and Thomas G. Klarner. Their contributions have expanded the scope of our collection and made possible the acquisition of some of our most important books. In addition, continued growth of the collection is made possible by funds such as the David K. E. Bruce Fund, the J. Carter Brown Memorial Fund, the J. Paul Getty Fund in honor of Franklin D. Murphy, the Philip Conisbee Fund, the Nell and Robert Weidenhammer Fund, and the Grega and Leo A. Daly III Fund for Architectural Books.