Mary Evans Picture Library

Ever heard of the Mary Evans Picture Library? I visited for the first time last week and it’s pretty much a treasure trove of iconic images.

What’s a Picture Library?

A private company, Mary Evans supply historic images for newspapers, exhibitions and TV documentaries, so basically a bricks and mortar Getty Images. Formed in 1964 by Mary Evans and her husband Hillary who loved collecting antiquarian books, prints and ephemera.
The very first picture was sold to the BBC and back in the day it was posted, stuck to blue pieces of card with cow gum!

Mary Evans Picture Library

Illustration of the Great Hall of Lambeth Palace (mounted in the similar blue card format of yesteryear!)

The current building is also an interesting relic, built on a bombsite after a row of houses were destroyed by a Zeppelin bomb in August 1916. After the land was donated by the Earl of Dartmouth, funds were raised for the new building, which opened in 1928. 

Mary Evans Picture Library

The Mary Evans Picture Library today

Mary Evans Picture Library
Image captured the bomb damage from 24 November 1916

Photograph from the bomb damage 24th November 1916

My Collection Highlights

Mary Evans Picture Library

Apparently something that Mary loved collecting was illustrated children’s books. An yes you’re eyes aren’t mistaken that is a collection of children’s activites written by War of the Worlds writer H.G. Wells!

And the most amazing miniature children’s alphabet book, on the right is the blue cardboard case it was wrapped in, complete with a warning from Mary Evans herself… “GUARD WITH YOUR LIFE PLEASE!”

Among the shelves (and shelves of books) that, delightfully,  you’re welcome to carefully look through, the first album I picked up contained a collection of ephemera of Women’s Suffrage.

Two photographs of the Pankhurst family published as postcards by the Women’s Social & Political Union, Emmeline (left) and Christabel (right)

Another postcard featuring a portrait of Emmeline Pankhurst, this time the back has stickers on the back relating to the protest which became known as ‘Black Friday’ where a number of suffragettes were beaten, assaulted and arrested.

Mary Evans Picture Library

An eye-catching postcard for women’s suffrage from 1913, entitled “The best way to silence a woman who demands her rights!” Presumably asking women not to suffer in silence…

Mary Evans Picture Library

A film negative showing an anti-Nazism image; “the world cries out against ‘The Outrages of History'”

On a lighter note, there’s a huge collection of 1930s-50s night club costume sketches. These ones are from performers from Murray’s Night Club on Beak Street, Soho. Who’s slogan was the genius; “forget your worries, come to Murray’s!”

Mary Evans Picture Library

Basically, this is a sneak-peek of what caught my eye…

But if you love antique book shops,

this is your heaven.

Mary Evans Picture Library

They do not make gorgeous Art Nouveau book covers like this anymore…

My new favourite book title; “Cold meat and how to disguise it”

Mary Evans Picture Library


Mary Evans Picture Library

Mary Evans Picture Library first opened its doors to the public at this year’s Open House Weekend, but it’s planning to host further events to show off its impressive collection.
You can book a research appointment by calling +44(0) 20 8318 0034 or keep an eye out for events on their website here.

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