The ZSL drawings and prints collection

The Library of the Zoological Society of London is one of the UK’s largest repositories of animal images.

There are approximately 6000 original artworks in watercolour, oil and other media. The majority are watercolours which were produced in the 19th century but the collection dates from the early 17th century to the end of the 20th century. The Library also holds about 1000 separate prints and a number of sculptures of the Zoo’s famous animals.

From the Library’s rich resources a wide choice of images from across the whole spectrum of the animal kingdom may be found, but the predominant subjects in the prints and drawings collection are exotic birds, mammals and fishes.

F. Day – Indian Fish c1860
F. Day – Indian Fish c1860

In the 19th century the best professional zoological artists were engaged by the Society to illustrate its scientific work and their paintings form a major part of the Library’s collection.

Equally interesting are the donations from people who worked overseas, especially in India. These men had a passion for natural history and made hundreds of paintings of the fauna. Names of some of the people whose paintings and collections are represented include: J.L. Agasse, Francis Day, B.H. Hodgson, Henry Jones, J.G. Keulemans, Roeland Savery, J. Smit and Joseph Wolf.

There are many prints of birds and mammals, the majority being 19th century hand-coloured lithographs, and those showing the human and animal connection are a reminder of the importance of animals in our lives.

J. Wolf – Giraffe in ZSL Gardens
J. Wolf – Giraffe in ZSL Gardens

Whether it is a print of the Victorians enjoying an outing to the Zoo, a cartoonist’s sketch of British politicians and the Zoo’s pandas, or a watercolour of a new animal in the Gardens, there is so much to offer picture researchers in the ZSL Library.

In 2005 ZSL received funding, which continued until March 2008, from the Michael Marks Charitable Trust to produce an online catalogue of the prints, drawings, paintings and sculptures. You can now use the ZSL online library catalogue to view catalogue records of art works but please note that some of the catalogue records are for `collections' rather than each individual art work ZSL Library Catalogue To search specifically for art works please use the `Search artworks' button on the sidebar once in the catalogue.

During 2012 we have begun to add thumbnails of the artworks to the ZSL library catalogue to enhance the catalogue as a searching aid, enabling searchers to `preview' paintings.

Find out more about the ZSL online library catalogue


If you have any enquiries about the Art Catalogue or would like to see any of the artwork please contact the Librarian, Ann Sylph, at library@zsl.org to make an appointment, telephone 020 7449 6293 or write to The Library, The Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4RY.
The art works form part of our `special collections' please consult our Library Regulations for Special Collections (96.46 KB) if you intend to visit ZSL Library to view any of our special collections.


If you are interested in using any of the images commercially, please contact 020 7449 6363 or email info@zsl.org

Find Out More About Commercial Image Use


Find out about ZSL Arts and Culture at ZSL including Summer art and architecture courses.


ZSL's oil paintings are listed with illustrations in the BBC/Public Catalogue Foundation's `Your Paintings' website.


Thylacine or Tasmanian tiger, extinct
The ZSL Library contains an extensive collection of literature concerning animals and their conservation. Many of these publications contain amazing illustrations.

Browse a selection of images of extinct species.