Range of the Archive


The Index records works of art produced without geographical limitations from early apostolic times up to A.D. 1550 (extended in the case of the Morgan and Princeton Library projects to include this manuscript holdings up to the middle of the sixteenth century). As is to be expected, there is a particular emphasis and focus on art of the western world. This has been corrected over the last few years with the addition of significant holdings from Coptic Egypt, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Syria, Armenia, and the Near East. Seventeen different media are represented in the archive, and these include manuscripts, metalwork, sculpture, painting, glass, and so forth.

At the time of Morey's death in 1955 the Index had a collection of some 500,000 cards and slightly under 100,000 photographs. With the arrival of Helen Woodruff in the 1930s the collecting policy and editorial rules of the archive were firmly established. Rosalie Green was responsible in 1957 for adding the 100,000th image. Since then the figures have continued to expand, and an average of one thousand new works of art is added every year to the archive. The Index can presently provide access to complex information on approximately 200,000 photographic reproductions of Christian art in the east and west from early apostolic times up to A.D. 1400. The term "Christian" is broadly construed and is not restricted to art produced within ecclesiastical contexts or theological in theme. Classical gods, crocodiles, and comets are all included in the Index if found in a Christian context. Even though the computerization program of the Index was established in 1991, the addition of photographs to the manual files continues, although the text records for such works are now only to be found in an electronic context.

The Internet database presently contains nearly 80,000 work of art records which are accompanied by over one-hundred thousand images in color and black and white. Many of these images have never before been digitized and are published here for the first time. The Index has recently undertaken a number of exciting collaborative projects which have added enormously to its resources. It is currently cataloguing all of the western medieval manuscripts from the Morgan Library, New York and the Princeton Library Manuscript collection, images of early Christian art from the Paul Van Moorsel Centre, Leiden University, and the Brooklyn Museum Collection of Coptic Art to name just a few.

The Index is arranged in two files. The first of these comprises a collection of some 200,000 photographs filed on 5 x 8 inch cards with brief textual data relating to the work of art. This file is classified according to medium (seventeen in number) and current location (always the city or town). Also listed on this file is a reference to the second or Subject File. The Subject File is a thematic index to the photographs and is arranged on 3 x 5 inch cards. The cards are filed alphabetically on an iconographical basis starting with Alpha and Omega and ending with Zwentibold of Lorraine (a saintly bishop of the tenth century). There are over 28,000 subject terms which deal predominantly with Christian iconography but which also cover the entire range of medieval art. Each work of art has a primary subject which relates to the first scene described. Other subjects on the work are found under secondary terms (cross- references) on separate cards. All of the cards for each subject or theme are filed on the basis of medium and location, as in the Photographic File.

The Subject File is broken down into five broad categories.

Figures Historical, literary, legendary, and mythological, including such themes as bishops, falconers, dancers, personifications, and saints (the largest group to be found anywhere in the world)
Scenes Ecclesiastical, historical, liturgical, secular, sports and games, and occupational
Nature Includes animals, rivers, vegetation, etc.
Objects Includes the entire range of secular and sacred objects. Examples include musical instruments, utensils, furniture, vestments, etc.
Miscellany Includes symbols or conventional motifs like the Hand of God, signs of the zodiac, monograms, etc

A bibliography for each work of art is included in the Subject File. Among the holdings is the largest reference collection of Crucifixion scenes, saints, and personifications in existence.

Computerization and Online Access

The computerization of the Index started in 1991 using an application of the library cataloging software ALEPH, which was developed by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. With more than 150 searchable categories of information, the system offers researchers manifold ways to explore a wealth of material. Along with catalog information such as artist's name, title of work, medium, and provenance, the database features bibliographic citations as well as individual scholarship by the Index staff. It also allows users to devise their own search standards with a degree of scholarship that has always been one of the primary aims of the Index. The computerization of the Index offers additional information not previously available in the card files. Apart from using the comprehensive Subject list devised by the Index, the database also offers the ability to search using the ICONCLASS classification system on a limited basis. Nearly all of the subject terms have now been paralleled with ICONCLASS notations. Access to this database is available in Princeton and to interested subscribers. Details of subscribing to this database are available on this site.