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This list gives details of collections held in Cambridge University Library of portraits mainly in the form of prints or photographs (either original or reproduced), or reproductions of painted portraits. It does not cover the portraits, mainly painted, which are displayed in various places in the library, not is it concerned with books or periodicals which contain or are about portraits.

The E.H.L. Jennings Portrait Collection. This is by far the largest collection. It was formed by Mr E.H.L. Jennings (Scholar of King’s College, 1920; for many years a master at Rugby School). There are approximately 100,000 portraits in all (including a substantial number of original prints) of historical personages mainly from the continent of Europe and the U.S.A., with smaller numbers from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The number of persons represented probably approaches 30,000. Very roughly, the number of portraits from each country is as follows:

            France                                                25000

            Germany                                            18000

            Italy                                                    10000

            Russia                                                7000

            Spain                                                  7000

            Austria (with Hungary & Bohemia)     5000

            Denmark                                             3000

            Netherlands (including Belgium up to ca. 1700 A.D.)                 3000

            Sweden                                               3000

            Rest of Europe                                    5000

            U.S.A.                                                  8000

            Latin America                                      1000

            Africa and Asia                                    3000

This collection has no portraits for Great Britain, nor for Ireland, Australia or Canada: the British portion of Mr Jennings’ collection was acquired by Yale University. Commonwealth citizens of British descent are generally excluded, but Britons naturalised in other countries are included under those countries.

Nearly every class and profession is included in the collection, but it seems to be strongest in portraits of members of royal families, and persons prominent in political and military history. The earliest portraits represent men of the early Middle Ages (ancient civilisations being excluded); the most recent, from almost all countries, are from the 1960s or early 1970s.

The portraits are mounted in sixty large volumes, arranged according to the countries of the persons represented (not of the artists): within each country the arrangement is roughly chronological, with all portraits of the same person placed together. For each of the first thirty-seven volumes there is a key which gives, page by page, details of the portraits on each page of the volume, with information about the persons portrayed which often amounts to a brief biography. In addition, there is a card index of persons covering the first eighteen volumes only. This key and index were the work of Mr Jennings himself, which unfortunately he did not live to complete; but the arrangement means that it is possible to find particular portraits by looking through the volume or volumes (and, where available, the key) which cover the relevant country and period.

The card index covers all the European countries included in the collection, except France, Germany, Russia after ca. 1825, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The key covers the same countries as the card index, and in addition Russia since 1825, Spain, Sweden, the Americas and France up to ca. 1725. To see material from the collection, including the key and index, enquire in the Rare Books Reading Room.

The Library also holds the following smaller collections:

Amateur Dramatic Club archives.

These include albums of past productions, with numerous portraits of Cambridge student actors of the later 19th and the 20th and 21st centuries. The catalogue of the ADC Theatre archive on Janus records the name of actors identified in photographs for productions from 1973 onwards. See also photographic albums preserved in the archive: 

Bible Society archives. There are two albums, dated 1879 and 1901, containing photographs of persons connected with the Bible Society at those dates. There is a typed index of the persons portrayed. Enquire in the Bradshaw Room.

Cambridge Antiquarian Society archives. These include a collection of about 1000 portraits, mostly photographs; nearly all are Cambridge men, mostly of the 19th or early 20th century, but with some earlier subjects. The portraits are listed individually on ArchiveSearch. Portraits of particular persons can be found by searching on their names. Enquire in the MSS. Reading Room.

Cambridge University Press archives. These include a collection of about 600 portraits acquired to provide illustrations for CUP books. There is no index, but the portraits are arranged by surname. Enquire in the MSS. Reading Room.

Greek Play Committee archives. These include albums of past productions, with numerous portraits of Cambridge student actors of the later 19th and the 20th and 21st centuries. The portraits are not indexed; to find a portrait of a particular person it is necessary to know in what productions he or she appeared. Enquire in the MSS. Reading Room.

The old portrait collection (class ‘Portraits’). About 900 miscellaneous portraits, mostly British (a large proportion of them connected with Cambridge), and mostly 19th or early 20th century. There is a card index of the names of persons portrayed, which includes some references to portraits in other Rare Books classes. Enquire in the Rare Books Reading Room.

Royal Commonwealth Society. The RCS collections hold a very large photograph collection, which includes photographic portraits. The collection is catalogued on ArchiveSearch and is best searched using the Advanced Search option and restricting your search to Cambridge University Library: Royal Commonwealth Society collections, and entering the surname of the person you wish to find in the general search box.

One large sub-collection comprises the portraits of Fellows of the Royal Colonial Institute.  See:

The photographs should be requested and viewed in the Manuscripts Reading Room.  They may be ordered in advance by emailing: giving the date of a proposed visit.