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Drawing the Line

Bibliographic Note and Further Reading

Richard Scully, University of New England

The bibliographies contained within this volume provide an excellent resource for those scholars seeking to emulate the contributors in investigating cartoons as historical sources. It is worth, however, formulating something of a ‘beginners’ bibliography’ of key sources on how to commence research into cartoons. As the reader will by now be aware, what can seem like a simple methodology does contain many complexities with which the scholar must grapple before being able to employ cartoons effectively in her/his research.

Theory of Cartoons and Methodological Approach

There is surprisingly little material dealing with this key area of enquiry. Those dealing specifically with issues of theory and methodology appear below:

Berger, Arthur, ‘An Equilibrium of Idiocies: Cartoons as Instant Communication’, in Public Communication Review: 1: 42–46.

Burke, Peter, 2001, Eyewitnessing: The Uses of Images as Historical Evidence, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Coupe, William A., 1969, ‘Observations on a Theory of Political Caricature’, Comparative Studies in Society and History: 11 (1): 79–95.

Hünig, W. K., 2002, British and German Cartoons as Weapons in World War I, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Kemnitz, Thomas Milton, 1973, ‘The Cartoon As a Historical Source’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History: 4 (1): 81–93.

Lamb, Chris, 2004, Drawn to Extremes: The Use and Abuse of Editorial Cartoons, New York: Columbia University Press.

Lee, Stephen J., 1996, Aspects of British Political History, 1914–1995, London: Routledge: 366–379.

Riffe, Daniel, Donald Sneed & Roger Van Ommeren, 1985, ‘Behind the Editorial Page Cartoon’, in Journalism Quarterly: 62: 379–383.

Streicher, L. H., 1967, ‘On a Theory of Political Caricature’, Comparative Studies in Society and History: 9 (4): 427–445.

Generally, however, any work dealing with cartoons as its primary source of evidence will contain some useful information on the best use of these. In the case of works where any discussion of this kind is absent, researchers may be made aware of how not to utilise cartoons.


It is difficult to make a prescriptive comment upon the essential archives to consult, as these will obviously vary depending on the project. Needless to say, considerable investigation of the holdings of important libraries and perusal of their catalogues is needed before embarking upon research. This is aided significantly by the online nature of most (if not all) major library catalogues, and the easy contacts with librarians and archivists enabled by email. Contacting librarians directly and informing them of your needs or concerns is always the best approach when dealing with a source like cartoons. Indeed one may find that many librarians and archivists have an intimate knowledge of the chosen body of sources which would otherwise not be available to a visiting scholar from simple perusal of a catalogue or published bibliography.

Political cartoons and satirical prints may be held within archival holdings (as in the case of Stefanie Wichhart’s research for this volume) or will be found in the bound volumes of periodicals housed in a library or archives general collections (as in the majority of the papers in this volume). In some cases cartoon evidence will be housed in a special, named, collection of its own (similar to Jamie Agland’s use of the British Museum’s collection of satirical prints). In many cases, one will be rewarded by work in both the published and unpublished holdings of a library or archive, and especially if one is taking something of the ‘biographical’ approach referred to in the introduction to this volume, and utilised to good effect in a number of the papers. The unpublished papers of a major cartoonist (such as Linley Sambourne’s diary in Chapter 3 of this volume) may be held quite separately from major holdings of that cartoonist’s work, and visits to a series of archives linked by common subject matter will also produce rewards.

As always, researchers will need to make decisions regarding which archives they visit and how much time they spend at each archive based upon the time available to them. Work on foreign soil is often more restricted than work in the scholar’s home country, making the direct communication with librarians and archivists referred to above even more important. Very often, personal and business papers will require significant time to sift through the relevant and irrelevant material, as indeed will perusal of major holdings of periodicals. The published indexes to some periodicals are better than others, but ultimately, manual perusal (often page-by-page) of periodicals is the most effective (if time-consuming) fashion of locating otherwise untapped cartoon sources. Familiarity with the layout of a periodical will enable a more strategic approach to examining sources: for example, modern newspaper cartoons will usually accompany a major headline news story adjacent to the cartoon. In the case of nineteenth-century comic weeklies, however, cartoons usually stand alone. Given the conditions of many older periodical holdings, one should be prepared above all to get one’s fingers dirty!

Microfilm & Digital Holdings

Microfilm copies exist for a number of major publications, and these can often be an easier method of perusing large runs of individual periodicals. This is also of particular note for those seeking to obtain photocopies of cartoons, as most advanced microfilm readers will have photocopiers linked to them by networks. Scholars should be aware however of the quality issues associated with copying from microfilms, as particularly in the case of older microfilm transfers, the scanning techniques used did not always allow for a very clear image. In some cases, microfilm holdings are partial (depending on the hard-copy holdings of the archive or library), though this may not always be apparent from the catalogue entry. Microfilmic holdings are also relatively easy to transfer on inter-library loan and even international holdings of microfilm can be sourced by a researcher’s home institution, reducing the need for unnecessary (and expensive) travel.

More so even than microfilm, the large-scale digitisation of major cartoon holdings is providing researchers with a series of invaluable resources, the range of which will only continue to grow. Some of these are (and will continue to be) available on open-access, with large numbers of key cartoons best located in the first instance by simple Googling of terms associated with the particular area of inquiry; while resources associated with major institutions also abound, such as the superb, near-complete collection of Fun currently available on the University of Florida George A. Smathers library website ( A researcher may find through consultation with librarians at his/her home institution that access to major digitisation projects can be obtained quite easily and at minimal cost to the individual student or scholar.

For work in Great Britain, the holdings of the British Library and British Museum are the best starting point. The former holds the Punch archive, that magazine remaining an essential source for British political, cultural and social history between 1841 and the 1990s ( As noted in the introduction to this volume, most major libraries worth the title will possess complete or near-complete collections of Punch, though the other major comic weeklies of the period (Judy, Moonshine, Fun) are harder to come by. The collection of eighteenth-century (and earlier) satirical prints held by the British Museum ( is essential for those working on this pivotal period in the development of the British comic and cartoon tradition, as evidenced by Jamie Agland’s contribution to this volume.

In the United States, the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress and other major archives will be the best ports of call. However, as Jay Casey and Fiona Halloran’s papers demonstrate, smaller archives and university libraries across a variety of states also contain significant cartoon source material. In Australia, the National Library and state libraries contain good collections of cartoon material, as do the university libraries. Those national libraries and archives consulted by the other contributors to this volume may provide some clues to the scope of holdings elsewhere (in Serbia or Singapore, for instance).


One of the major issues facing any scholar working with cartoon evidence is the persistence of copyright and intellectual property rights in major works. Generally, for older, more obscure periodicals, permissions sought from the library or archive will be sufficient if seeking to publish. However, for newer cartoons, permissions should be sought either from the host publication (if still extant) or from the cartoonist her/himself. Payment costs are usually quite small, though in the case of Punch or The New Yorker (because of those publications’ iconic status), the use of cartoons can incur significant costs. Consultation with the publication’s official archivist can often help reduce such costs, as can careful consideration of your own publication needs (is it more effective to reproduce half-page, lower-resolution images than full-sized ones).

Researchers should of course, be aware that the internet is not a copyright-free zone, and even images on open-access or available ‘in the public domain’ may be subject to copyright in some jurisdictions. Consultation with the relevant archive or website can often assist in tracking-down the necessary permissions, while corresponding with the copyright officer at one’s home institution will provide expert advice not always possessed by even the most seasoned of researchers.

A useful site for more information on the ins and outs of copyright and permissions is the Library of Congress: The site has links to precise legal information (but users should be aware of the differences in law between the US and other jurisdictions before relying upon its content).

Research Institutions and Professional Associations

This is by no means an exhaustive listing, and those interested in locating other institutions and associations will be well served by the links page at the British Cartoon Archive’s links page, available at:

The page contains contact details for a number of international organisations associated with the composition and the study of cartoons, including further information on some of those listed below. Some of the following also contain information about grants and awards available for cartoon and comics scholarship.

Australian Cartoonists Association. Accessed 28 October 2008. Available at:

Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. Accessed: 28 October 2008. Available at:

British Cartoon Archive, Templeman Library, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom, CT2 7NU. Accessed: 28 October 2008. Available at: ( after 5 November 2008).

Center for Cartoon Studies, PO Box 125, White River Junction, Vermont, United States of America, 05001. Accessed: 29 October 2008. Available at:

National Cartoonists Society, 341 North Maitland Avenue, Suite 130, Maitland, Florida, United States of America, 32751. Accessed: 28 October 2008. Available at:

Political Cartoon Society, 32 Store Street, London, United Kingdom, WC1E 7BS. Accessed: 2 December 2007. Available at:


As noted in the introduction to this volume, a number of major publications maintain an active interest in publishing research on cartoons. Most notably, and most accessible to the general public are Mark Bryant’s monthly ‘Behind the Lines’ contributions to History Today. The major journals dealing with cultural history or the study of art or journalism are also open to the inclusion of explorations of cartoon evidence. Journalism Studies, Media Studies, Labour History, The Journal of European Studies and Victorian Studies number among these publications, while the quarterly Political Cartoon Society Newsletter is a useful source for keeping track of developments in current cartooning, as well as information relating to exhibitions and other activities internationally. A no-peer reviewed, but nevertheless interesting pop culture journal is America’s The Comics Journal, which deals with strip comics but does contain news and reviews relating to editorial cartoons. They also have a web presence at:


Cite this chapter as: Scully, Richard. 2009. ‘Bibliographic note and further reading’. Drawing the Line: Using Cartoons as Historical Evidence, edited by Scully, Richard; Quartly, Marian. Melbourne: Monash University ePress. pp. 12.1 to 12.4.

© Copyright 2009 Richard Scully

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Drawing the Line

   by Richard Scully, Marian Quartly