Information sheets


The object of this note is to set out RAS policy on the supply of pictures, especially for commercial reproduction; to give picture researchers guidance on what they can and cannot expect from the Library; to set out the conditions on which they are supplied; and to give an idea of the costs involved.


(1) The Library exists primarily to serve the members of the Society and the academic research community. It fulfils a number of subsidiary roles, answering public enquiries, Inter Library Loans, maintaining the Society's Archives, acting as a Library of record, international co-operation, and supplying material to the media. With limited staff it is not possible to meet numerous requests of desperate urgency, nor to guide researchers with little knowledge of the subject. A 'media file' is maintained of Fellows of the Society who may be able to accept commissions for writing and research and copies of this are available for inspection in the Library and the main office.

NO REQUESTS can be accepted for photographs for delivery in less than two weeks, and delivery time cannot be guaranteed as it is affected by other demands on the Library and the photographers used. Photographs will not, of course , be deliberately delayed but will be sent as soon as ready.

The Society may refuse to supply photographs for reproduction in books or articles whose subjects are felt to be unsuitable.

The RAS Library CAN provide... (2) A reasonably complete collection of modern books in its subjects of Astronomy, Geophysics, and their histories, ranging from the popular to the scholarly, arranged in a classification to suit those with at least a modicum of knowledge on the subject. Although a privately maintained Library, access may be allowed at the Librarian's discretion to those with a real need for its services. If guidance is needed as to the meaning or choice of photographs it should be sought from the author of the book or article being illustrated. An enquirer who knows WHY a particular image is needed is more likely to get a useful result.

Many of the significant books in the subjects dating back to the 15th Century and later. Many contain engravings or other illustrations of great beauty and historical interest, mostly in line but some coloured. The easiest way to approach this material is to search modern books on relevant aspects of the subject and to identify the images required which can then be traced in the original (if it is in the Library), photography from which usually produces a more satisfactory result. In the case of older material it also removes copyright problems. Examples might be the spectacular charts of the Heavens, charts of particular constellations (with or without monsters), older cosmologies (or 'world systems'), portraits of historical astronomers and geophysicists, and views of historic instruments and phenomena.

A file is maintained of copy negatives made for previous requests and it may be possible to identify suitable images by looking through this.

Photographs can be supplied from most books as long as they will not be damaged by the process and subject to the copyright regulations - see (3) below.

A number of older black and white pictures still in stock from the former sale collection, mainly celestial objects but also a few telescopes. Numbered in the RAS and PAL series. The glass copy negatives of these are mostly still held so if there is a real need to use a particular image, prints can be produced but this is a considerably slower process than the normal copy photographs.

Access to well illustrated modern works from which suitable illustrations can be identified, and either traced to the original and copies obtained or copied from the book subject to permission from the copyright holder.

A fair number of portraits of astronomers and geophysicists, mostly dating between 1820 and 1950, with numerous earlier, but very few later and very few modern scientists from overseas. A card index is maintained of most of the Society's portraits, not yet fully comprehensive. A separate information sheet is available, 'Sources of Portrait and Biographical Information on Astronomers and Geophysicists' , giving guidance as to portrait sources in the RAS Library and elsewhere.

Many photographs of telescopes, modern and historical. These are mainly in black and white; a card index is available covering the Society's major holdings.

The Library CANNOT provide...

  • Any colour material of celestial objects for reproduction.
  • Any film or video material
  • Photographs of 'The Sky' - but see above for the older charts
  • Any Space photographs.


Researchers requiring general astronomical and geophysical photographs are invited to send an A4 sized s.a.e. for a handlist giving addresses and brief descriptions of the picture sources in Astronomy and Geophysics in the UK which are known to us. A file of catalogues, including many foreign sources, is maintained for perusal. Researchers may also find our general astronomy links of use.

(3) Where a new negative is produced specially it and the copyright in the copy photographs are retained by the Society. The cost of all photographic work is charged to the user. Photographs are supplied on a 'research and private study' basis unless explicitly for reproduction. The user must apply separately for permission to reproduce in this case.

The onus is on the requester to ensure that they have permission from any copyright holder(s) to reproduce the pictures. Copyright in published works has now been extended to 75 years under EU regulations. Unpublished writings, works of art and photographs are copyright indefinitely . Copyright in archival material is not necessarily held by the Society. Where copy photographs are requested from modern books, journal articles and the like, the Librarian will require written proof of permission being given (a facsimile message is acceptable) before releasing photographs, although photography may be put in hand before this permission is received - but if it were refused the requested would still be held liable for the cost of the photography. Exceptions to these rules are NASA and Hubble Space Telescope images which are 'in the public domain' .

Ektachromes ( 5 x 4 inch colour transparencies) are held in stock of some portraits and other frequently requested colour material; these will be hired to the user. This is the preferred format for most printers for colour reproduction. Illustrations from material supplied by the Library which is not otherwise copyright MUST carry the credit line 'Royal Astronomical Society'.

As costs vary from job to job, payment is not usually required in advance, though it may be specified in particular cases or for very large orders. A written ( or FAXed ) order is required and the cost of the photography and postage will be invoiced later.

For the convenience of overseas users, on previous occasions material has been sent on the requester's account with 'Federal Express' or similar services. Unfortunately, it has been found that this involves an inordinate amount of extra administrative work and can actually delay the shipment, so regretfully this is not now done in. Material can however be sent 'datapost' or 'swiftair' and charged accordingly.


Costs and Reproduction Fees
(4) As mentioned above, photographs are charged at rates prevailing at the time of sending. As a rough guide, costs of some recent orders are:

B/W Print from existing negative£5.00

B/W Print from new negative -
10 x 8 inch or 8 x 6 inch prints are normally supplied
(The size of print has little bearing on the cost.)

Colour PrintQuotation on request

35mm slide£15.00

5 x 4 inch Ektachrome£30.00

Hire of Ektachrome£15.00

A reproduction fee will be charged for material from the Library and Archives which is not otherwise copyright. This represents a contribution to the staff cost of supplying the service and does not imply that the Society is claiming copyright on the material. The fee may be waived for non-commercial and scholarly publication. Publishers who feel that their book falls into this category are invited to write making a case for exemption. — P. D. Hingley (Librarian)

The information in this document is given in good faith, and is believed to be correct at the time of publication, but is subject to change. We welcome corrections or suggestions; please contact the RAS Librarian or webmaster.