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About Us

Mary Evans Picture Library licences images for commercial use in books, newspapers, magazines, adverts, web sites and all manner of other media. Our new Prints Online store allows you to obtain high quality reproductions for your home or office.

Our images cover a broad range of topics and subject areas which, although coming under the umbrella classification of history, in fact, extend far beyond most people's perception of historical pictures.

Our material has traditionally been used in an editorial context to illustrate news stories, magazine articles and the like, but today it is increasingly sought by creatives looking for different and stimulating imagery around which to base advertising campaigns or commercial design projects.

Our History

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 collections 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 2004, Mary Evans Picture Library celebrated 40 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 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 now in its 8th edition.

Since then, the Library has gone from strength to strength. Still in Blackheath, it now has a staff of 20 and employs 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.

Space remains an issue 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.