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About us

Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Picture Library

One of the world's finest collections of photography, artwork and mapping which records over 500 years of travel, people, place and geographical discovery from the 1480's to the present day.

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Shive Dagon: the Pilgrim's Rest . A European traveller looks out with a telescope , c.1910 by Vincent Clarence Scott O'Conner.

Our visual content:

The Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers) holds a collection of over 3/4 million photographic images dating from 1850 and the largest private map collection in the world with over 1,000,000 maps dating from 1486.

We offer a vast array of historic images captured throughout the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, taken in almost every part of the world. Our Collection is also well known for containing some of the most iconic images taken in the field of geographical exploration and discovery.

Our images are highly sort after for use in the publishing, broadcasting, advertising and education industries. Enquiries are dealt with by a highly experienced and knowledgeable team, which prides itself on providing the best possible quality of service.

Historic images of: Discovery

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Top left to bottom right: David Livingstone, Henry Stanley, John Speke, Richard Burton, Samuel Baker, Isabella Bird, Kate Marsden, Charles Darwin, Robert Scott, Ernest Shackleton, James Chuma, Gertrude Bell.

When it comes to geographical discovery our unique Collection enshrines many of the most famous names such as Livingstone, Speke, Scott and Shackleton. Our imagery and mapping provides the first hand visual material that illustrates the stories and events that shaped their great journeys.

Use the Society's professional expertise to secure the perfect images for your product: We offer a free picture search service, test us to find the right image for your project. The Society's collections have proved an invaluable source of imagery for a myriad of illustrated publishers, from international co-editions to specialist bespoke and limited edition houses.

Maps and Mapping

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An entire new plan of the cities of London & Westminster., 1817

We hold the largest private map collection in the world and can supply mapping of almost any part of the globe from 1486 to present. If you need a map we can help. From sheets of printed maps to hand coloured atlases and manuscript maps created by some of the most famous explorers and travellers, let us find the right map for you.

The Picture Library is able to offer an on-site scanning service for its sheet maps. Let us know what maps you need and we can provide visuals for mock ups and layouts with our scanning to order service.

Historic images of: Travel

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Passengers embarking on an Imperial Airways liner at Malakal, date and photographer unknown. Egyptian guides with European tourists by photographer unknown, 1867.

Our Picture Library also provides an invaluable resource for researchers, publishers and designers looking to source images to illustrate stories of global travel from the advent of photography to the present day. Whether you need to find vintage images documenting stories of early tourism or old photographs of travel to the remoter regions of the world this is the archive for you.

Notable Use: In 2013 a leader in the European art book market, produced '150 years of great journeys'. Using the Society as the sole source of imagery for this book they included over 400 of our historic images, allowing them to produce a unique book which illustrated the people and places of the world from 1850 to present.

Historic images of: British Mount Everest expeditions

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Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on the South-East ridge about to leave for the South Col to establish Camp IX below the South Summit on Everest. The day before they approached the summit of Everest, by Alfred Gregory, 28th May 1953.

Members in camp - 1924 Mount Everest Expedition. Back row (left to right) - Andrew Irvine, George Mallory, Edward Norton, Noel Odell and John Macdonald. Front row (left to right) - Edward Shebbeare, Geoffrey Bruce, Howard Somervell and Bentley Beetham, by John Noel, 1924.

We are the national repository for all official images taken on the nine British expeditions to Mount Everest undertaken between 1921 and 1953. We hold over 20,000 photographs and documents relating to these incredible expeditions cumulating in the historic photographs taken on the 1953 expedition, which was the first to put two people on top of the highest mountain in the world.

Notable Use: In 2013, for the launch of their new Everest range, a luxury footwear company featured a number of our images from the 1953 Mount Everest Expedition for their in-store promotion, print promotion and online marketing.

Historic images of: People

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Tent of Fahad Bey, Garah, Iraq by Gertrude Bell , c. 1909-19. Musicians by Max and Bertha Ferrars , c.1890-99.

From the earliest days of photography and on into the twentieth first century, the Society's archive offers a wonderful opportunity to license imagery of people around the world living, working and at leisure within their own societies and communities.

Check out our website: We have over 17,000 images now online via our fully searchable website, These, however, represent only a tiny fraction of the visual content we have available for use. We're working hard to expand the online collection and are constantly adding images. But if you are unable to see what you require please don't hesitate to contact us.

Historic images of: Polar Exploration

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Captain Scott and group taken on return of the Southern Party by Herbert Ponting, 13th April 1912. Endurance frozen in the ice, Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917, by Frank Hurley c.1914-16.

We have one of the world's finest collections of photography relating to Polar exploration. From the epic photographs taken on the great expeditions of Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton to those taken on the ground breaking journeys of Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen and Ranulph Fiennes; we can provide you with access to an unprecedented collection of some of the most iconic Polar imagery.

Notable Use: In 2012 a major international museum mounted a major exhibition to mark the centenary of the 'Terra Nova' expedition. The Society's images were used for display within the exhibition and licensed for a range of exhibition merchandise.

Historic artwork of: Travel and Geographical Discovery

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White Marble Mosque at Baber's tomb, Kabul by Godfrey Vigne, 1836. Street scene by H A Oldfield, 1853.

Our collection of artwork is an important record of travel, geographical discovery and landscape prior to the advent of photography as a practical means of recording the outside world. You can find works by internationally recognised artists such as Thomas Baines, or beautiful unique works by lesser known early travellers. In many cases these pieces can represent some of the first visual records to ever be made of the subjects by Europeans.

Visit the collection to see our visual material first hand: For a personalised service or to find something in our collection that has never been used before, then please come and visit the collection. You can access the material directly and speak to experienced members of staff in our Reading Room.

Historic images of: Place

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Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse, via icefall from Pumori by Eric Shipton , 1951

Our images of place tell an incredible story of change and are a wonderful record of past lands and environments. From the Alps to the Himalaya, and from the cities of southeast Asia to the rainforests of South America our Collection records some of the world's great natural wonders and its extraordinary diversity.

Notable Use: Matching images taken in the Himalaya (and held exclusively at the Society) with contemporary shots taken from exactly the same geographical location, GlacierWorks founder and award-winning film-maker David Breashears was able to better illustrate and document the rate of glacial loss experienced on the high Himalayan glaciers. This exhibition is now showing permanently at MIT Harvard.


For more information on licensing images from the Society's iconic collection please contact:
+0207 591 3060

Member of BAPLA

The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Picture Library is a member of BAPLA (British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies)