The widest range of historical pictures for editorial and creative use
Advanced search >>

Mary Evans Picture Library began life in 1964, and its core philosophy has remained unchanged for over 40 years: to make available and accessible all the wonderful images created for people to enjoy over the centuries which were originally published in books, on posters, in advertisements, or as prints.

You can visit galleries and exhibitions to see art and illustration from the past, but these tend to be dominated by great works of fine art. Mary Evans Picture Library provides a unique space through which people the world over can enjoy all the 'ordinary' images which display such skill and creativity on the part of the artist, and the style, medium and texture of which defined the era in which they were created.

By making these images available to publishers, broadcasters and designers today, we hope to provide an insight into the past for anyone who comes across any of our pictures reproduced in a contemporary context.

In 2014, we are celebrating 50 years as an independent family-owned historical picture library. While our core values have not changed, our methods of putting them into effect are almost unrecognisable today.

In October 1964, in the Evans' small Blackheath home, Mary clambered onto a stool to reach the top shelf of a clothes cupboard in order to retrieve an engraving for the BBC. By this time, every last corner of their home was stuffed full of the antiquarian books, prints and ephemera that were the personal passion of Mary and her husband Hilary, and became the foundation of Mary Evans Picture Library; thus valuable engravings were forced to share a home with Hilary's casual wear.

The library grew rapidly throughout the 1960s and 1970s. 1975 was a key year when Hilary and Mary were founder members of both the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA), the industry's trade organisation, and the Picture Research Association. In the same year they published the first edition of The Picture Researcher's Handbook, which ran to eight editions.

Since then, the Library has gone from strength to strength. Still in Blackheath, it current employs 13 people and uses state-of-the-art technology to provide clients with a full online service. You can still pick up the phone, however, and talk to an experienced and knowledgeable picture researcher.

In 2013, we were pleased to welcome Ardea Picture Library to the Mary Evans stable. Ardea staff now share our building in Blackheath, which has also, since 2010, been the home of BAPLA. Space remains at a premium, however, as we continue to add new pictures to our collection.

Hilary and Mary's daughter, Valentine, joined the company in 1992 and her three young children are frequent visitors to the library: they will doubtless witness many more changes in years to come.