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Collection Cartoon Drawings

Technical Information


Most of the Prints and Photographs Division's cataloging is considered "minimal level," because information is often limited to what is provided with the picture rather than what could be learned by fully researching the image. The following comments explain the general cataloging guidelines. They also point out which catalog record information is most useful for citing pictorial materials in research notes or publications. Since the original information accompanying a picture can be inaccurate, the Division is always glad to hear from researchers who have additional or better information.

The records for a single collection might not use each of the fields or have all of the indexing features described here. For general information about cataloging pictorial materials, see the Visual Materials: Processing & Cataloging Bibliography.

Cartoon Drawings Collection

Much of the information provided in the catalog records came from physical evidence on the cartoon or from information provided by donors or sellers. The many records that have preliminary descriptions can be recognized by the note "This catalog record contains preliminary or unverified data from a project done in BRS software, ca. 1985." For selected cartoons additional primary and secondary sources were also consulted. As an example of the more than 2,000 records enriched with full subject notes and subject headings, see "Something that the cat brought in,"

Call Number

This string of letters and numbers is used to locate the original material at the Library of Congress. The original work may be requested in order to see cartoons that have not been reproduced and details not captured in digital reproduction, or to create a new type of copy photograph.

Example: CD 1 - Pease, no. 71 (B size) [P&P]

The size designation indicates the general dimensions of each drawing, based on standard housing dimensions. "AA size" is the smallest housing (11 x 14 inches) and "F size" is the largest--an oversize map case drawer.

A code displays at the end of the call number to identify the custodial division; for example, [P&P] means the item is from the Prints and Photographs Division. Although P&P has a unique system of call number locations (and the patterns vary from filing series to filing series), the call number is a useful reference citation when taking notes.

Control #

The control number (formerly called card number) is a unique number that identifies each catalog record. It's handy for quick number searches when you want to see a specific record without repeating a long keyword or subject search.

Example: acd1996005969.

Collection (displayed with "Part of")

The Cartoon Drawings Collection is a filing series that brings together cartoons acquired from many sources, including gifts or purchases of single items as well as several large collections. The titles of collections significant for their donation by a single creator or collector appear in the catalog records. Examples: Cartoon Drawings (Library of Congress), Papers of Bill Mauldin, and George Sturman Collection.

Informal collection names often appear in the NOTES field or may be inferred based on inscriptions (e.g. George Maxwell Collection).


When the name of the image creator is known, only one form of the name is used, so that it is possible to retrieve all works by one creator under a single spelling or form of the name. Birth and death dates are included when such information is readily available. If the Library of Congress form of the name was established while the creator was still alive, a death date is not always added when the creator dies. It is expensive to update such information, and the name is already uniquely identified in the catalog.

The absence of a creator's name indicates that the creator is anonymous, unidentified, or unknown.

After the name, a term appears to identify the relationship(s) between the name and the work being cataloged, for example, artist, copyright claimant, or publisher.

Example: Pease, Lute, 1869-1963, artist.

Date(displayed with "Created/Published")

The date refers to the year(s) when the image being cataloged was created, not the time period depicted in the picture. For cartoons, the date often reflects when the cartoon was published.

Example: 1958 Oct. 30 [publication date].

The date is transcribed when such information appears with the picture. Often, only a span of years or decades can be estimated, and such dates are shown in brackets, for example, [between 1900 and 1930]. The span of years can be broad, since it is often difficult to assign a specific year to undated prints and photographs. The catalogers look for clues such as: styles of fashion shown in the image, creator's life dates, or type of physical media.

When the single letter "c" appears before a date, it indicates the year in which an image was deposited for copyright.

The abbreviation "ca." means "circa" or "about" and indicates a date that is approximate within several years.

Digital ID

The identification number for the digital file begins with a word or phrase that explains the source used to create the digital image, for example, a scan made directly from the "original" work or a from a "b&w copy film neg." Many of the images in the Cartoon Drawings Collection were created in the early 1990s by scanning half-frame 35mm intermediary roll film from which a videodisc was produced in 1983, and the quality is suitable for reference only.

The image handle is another good citation tool, because it connects the image to the catalog record description.



The genre and physical characteristics of the original work are listed as index terms. Frequent examples include: Caricatures, Cartoons (Commentary), Comics, Editorial Cartoons, and Satires.

These headings are sometimes subdivided by the nationality, place, or decade in which the work was created. Other subdivisions indicate if the work is in color or is a reproduction of another medium. The terms come from the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials II: Genre Format Terms.


The physical properties of the original work are described by listing a readily recognized broad category, such as drawing or print, occasionally followed by a more specific designation, such as pen and ink, ink brush, or graphite. The description documents the creator's technique and is a helpful reminder that the physical characteristics of the original work are quite different from the digital reproduction you view on a computer screen.

The quantity of material is also stated, although most records usually describe a single item.

The dimensions of a work are rarely provided in minimal-level cataloging. Cartoons used in exhibitions are most likely to indicate measurements in centimeters based on the size of the paper, board or mount.

1 drawing.
1 drawing on layered paper : ink, crayon, and white out over pencil.


Many types of notes are written to indicate the source of devised dates and titles, the name of the collection to which the work belongs and its accession number, exhibit information, and citations to published versions. With minimal-level cataloging, some types of notes are omitted, for example, acquisition source is rarely provided.

Other Title

Additional titles by which a work is known.

Related Names

When multiple people or corporate bodies contribute to a work, their names can be listed as related, or added, entries. When the nature of the contribution can be specified, a relator term, such as client, copyright claimant, interior designer, or sculptor, is added after the name.

Example: King Features Syndicate, publisher, copyright claimant.


The name of the institution and division that has custody of the original work and can answer questions about it. This information can also help you locate or cite the original work.

Reproduction Number

This alpha-numeric code identifies existing digital, black-and-white, and color photographs from which photographic reproductions can be ordered. This number is also the most useful (and shortest) reference citation to include with any subsequent publication of the image.

A qualifying phrase identifies each type of reproduction (e.g., color transparency, or, digital file from original) and points out images that show details of the original works. This information can help you decide which image you want to reproduce.

The abbreviation "b&w" stands for black-and-white.

LC-DIG-ppmsca-03231 (digital file from original)
LC-USZ62-116324 (b&w film copy neg.)

Right Information

The publication rights status is indicated through a reference to information about a specific cartoon creator or copyright owner, when such information is available. The note "No known restrictions on publication" identifies works that are unrestricted, usually because the copyright term has expired. Most of the cartoon drawings have the note "May be restricted: Information on reproduction rights available in LC P&P Restrictions Statement." Consult the Rights and Restrictions page to check for the cartoonist's name or follow the general risk assessment guidelines in "Copyright and Other Restrictions That Apply to Publication/Distribution of Images."


Catalogers assign index terms that describe what the image shows as well as what the image is about. For example, a political cartoon depicting a basketball game in which the players are dribbling a globe is "of" basketball and "about" international relations. Most of the topical terms come from the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials I: Subject Terms . The proper noun headings come from the Library of Congress Authorities, which includes the Library of Congress Subject Headings. Examples: Cats, Elections, Taxes, and World War, 1939-1945. A full list of subjects for this collection is at

Controlled vocabulary terms are often subdivided by place and date of depiction. For example, works on international relations are usually sub-divided by country represented as well as the decade in which the cartoon was produced (e.g. International relations -- Germany -- 1940-1950).


A subject description is sometimes written if a title is not self-explanatory.

Example: Cartoon shows British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (holding his trademark umbrella) gazing in dismay at a scrawny cat (labeled "Appeasement") holding in his mouth a dead rat (labeled "Hitler's Promise to Make No More Demands"). Expresses skepticism at the fruits of Chamberlain's diplomacy at Munich, in 1938, when Hitler had promised that the Czech Sudentenland was his last objective. Hitler very shortly took over the rest of Czechoslovakia.


A title is transcribed from the original picture, or from a creator's logbook or notes on the housing, whenever such information is available. For uncaptioned pictures, a title is devised from another source, and the title displays in brackets. Devised titles are often written by Library staff, or they might come from a published book illustration or a former owner.

The abbreviation "[sic]" indicates deliberate or accidental misspellings and misidentifications in the original titles to aid in recognizing the way the creator captioned the original work. The correct information is provided as needed in the title (following the abbreviation "i.e." meaning "that is") or in a note.

Example: How I wish again, I'll win in Michigain [sic]


"Topic" index terms are subjects assigned rapidly, without checking the controlled vocabulary sources cited above with "Subjects" or doing research. The Cartoon Drawings Collection was first indexed for quick access to obvious subjects. Many records still contain uncontrolled vocabulary and different terms might be used for the same subject matter. These "topics" are generally not subdivided.