The Royal Society Picture Library is an online database of digital images of our paintings, drawings and prints, created to inspire the exploration of science through its visual history.

Browse and search rare, intriguing, beautiful and often surprising pictures selected from the archives of the Royal Society, the world’s oldest scientific academy.

If you would like to purchase a framed print for display in your home, please visit the Royal Society Print Shop. 



The Royal Society’s portraits are of some of the most eminent scientists, past and present, including Isaac Newton, Christopher Wren and Charles Darwin. This varied collection includes original oils, works on paper, miniatures, photographs and engravings.


Drawings, sketches and paintings from the Royal Society’s archive collections, including botanical studies, microscopical observations, anatomical drawings, engineering plans, travel documentary photography.

Published plates

Images of rare published plates from the16th to 19th century, hand-picked from our extensive library of printed books and journals.


The website is available for all to browse and search using the homepage galleries, key word searchers or the advanced search tool.

Image licensing

We license images on a rights-managed basis to professional image buyers for a wide range of editorial and creative uses. Images can be licensed for reproduction via this website, or by contacting the Picture Library team directly at

Our price structure depends on the specific license, but generally, a charge is made per work and per usage, with a consideration of how commercial the project is. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss flexible rights agreements or a tailored fee agreement for high-volume use.

All revenue raised by licensing supports the Royal Society Library, its commitment to ensuring the collection is accessible to researchers, and many of its core activities, including preservation and digitisation. 

Buying prints for your home

If you would like to purchase high quality bespoke art prints for your home or as gifts for friends and family please visit the Royal Society Print Shop.

The terms and conditions for the Royal Society Print Shop website are available separately.

Academic study and teaching

Arrangements can be made for free access to images for classroom teaching resources, private study and inclusion in unpublished student theses and dissertations, which we hope will result in wider research and knowledge of our collection.

Picture research

We regularly add fresh images to the website but if you can’t find what you are looking then contact us and we will be happy to discuss your project and conduct free searches of the extensive off-line material for you.


We offer an in-house digitisation service which aims to provide reference photographs to researchers.While the Reading Room is closed to the public, we are offering this service free of charge.

Bespoke photography and scanning can also be arranged for any material from our collections which is not yet digitised for a fee. 


Anne-Katrin Purkiss (1959-), Photographer

Anne Purkiss was born in Chemnitz, Germany and graduated from Leipzig University in 1983 with a degree in photography and journalism. She has worked as a freelance photographer since 1988. Her work has been exhibited in England, Germany and Italy, and her photographs are held in a number of collections including the archive of the Royal Society, the Royal Academy library and the National Portrait Gallery. Anne began photographing eminent scientists more than twenty five years ago which, in 2010, culminated in the exhibition ‘Scientists: Portraits of Fellows of the Royal Society’.

Note on copyright

We make every reasonable effort to locate, contact and acknowledge copyright owners and wish to be informed by any copyright owners who are not properly identified and acknowledged on this website so that we may make any necessary corrections.

Note on language

We aim to describe our picture collections in a manner that is respectful to the individuals and communities who create, use and are represented therein. However, we recognise that we may not always get this right and welcome feedback to our descriptions, in order that we might improve our practices. Please direct feedback to:

Thanks and acknowledgements

This project has been generously supported by the De Laszlo Foundation, to which the Royal Society’s thanks are due, and to Damon de Laszlo for his informed interest and help.