1. Introduction

2. Substantive Writing
3. Mechanics of Writing
3.1 Abbreviations and Names
3.2 Illustrations: Captions and Legends
3.3 Notes and Bibliographies
3.4 Numbers and Dates
3.5 Punctuation
3.6 Spelling and Special Terms
4. Editorial Process
5. Editorial Support
6. Collection Framework
6.1 About the Collection
6.2 Acknowledgments
6.3 Building the Digital Collection
6.4 Cataloging the Collection
6.5 Copyright and Other Restrictions
6.6 Related Resources
6.7 Scope and Content Note
6.8 Selected Bibliography
6.9 Special Presentations
6.10 Other Components
7. Learning Page
8. Today in History
9. Glossary

3.2 Illustrations: Captions and Legends

In order to assist users in finding and properly crediting the source materials illustrating NDLP framework materials, illustrations should include descriptive information. Guidelines are offered below. The Chicago Manual (11.1-49) gives useful definitions for captions and legends for illustrations. Building on these, NDLP recommends the following conventions.

Writing the Caption and Legend

    Whenever possible, use the language of the bibliographic record to make captions and legend. If you are using an uncataloged item for which no bibliographic record is available, follow the NDLP conventions listed below.

Captions (Chicago 11.24) are titles or headlines, usually placed below illustrations. Captions are never grammatically complete sentences, but if the caption and the legend are run together the caption ends with a period.

Legends (Chicago 11.24) are explanations consisting of one or more sentences, usually placed after captions.


Caption: Fenway Park in 1936

Legend: This photograph shows construction of a 23-foot wire fence on top of the 37-foot "Green Monster," built in 1912. The fence was raised above the wall as batters started to shatter windows on the street below.

NDLP Conventions for Captions and Legends

  • Caption elements should appear in the order given in the table.

Title required  
Medium optional  
Creator required  
Date required  
Custodial Division

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (P&P)

Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Frances Loeb Library

Collection Name required*  
P&P Reproduction Number required**  

* Collection name is required only if there is no link to the bibliographic record.

** If P&P Reproduction Number is not available, use Call Number. For other Divisions, consult Division specialists.

  • Caption and legend information should include a link to the bibliographic record, when available.

  • If a bibliographic record exists for an image but the image cannot be linked to it, derive caption or legend information from the bibliographic record.

  • Thumbnail images generally link to larger reference images.

  • Descriptive information should be placed as close to the illustration as possible. Beneath the illustration is generally preferred, but the final decision will be made with the NDLP Design Team.
Note. Credit lines may be required for some illustrative material. For more information, see Copyright and Other Restrictions.

Examples of Thumbnail Illustrations with Descriptive Information

Example 1: Caption derived from bibliographic record but record unavailable for linking

Mount Vernon in

Mount Vernon in Virginia
George Washington's home at Mount Vernon.
Aquatint by Francis Jukes from Prints and Photographs Division,
Library of Congress. London: Pub'd by F. Jukes, 1800.
Reproduction #: (b&w) LC-USZ62-1237

Example 1 is from the Colonial Period Time Line of the George Washington Papers. Note that additional publication information is listed after the repository/custodial Division and before the reproduction number.

Example 2: Bibliographic records available for linking

Joseph Jenkins Roberts

Joseph Jenkins Roberts, ca.1851

These photographs of the first president and First Lady of Liberia can be found in America's First Look into the Camera: Daguerreotypes, 1839-1862. To see images of other emigrants, search on American Colonization Society.

Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts, between 1851 and 1860

Example 2 is from the Learning Page Feature Presentation Immigration in American Memory. Note that the captions link to bibliographic records and a legend appears between the illustrations.

Example 3: No bibliographic record available for linking

Example 3 is from the Index to Materials Used in By Popular Demand: Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s. The legend as it appears on the American Memory page has been abbreviated here.

Using Maps in Research
image: caption follows
Looking at Sanborn Fire Insurance maps helps researchers visualize a subject. In this case, a map of the Ebbets Field area emphasizes how small the Dodgers' home stadium was --surrounded by streets on all sides.

Plate 52 in Brooklyn, New York, vol. 7 Published by Sanborn Map Company, c1932. (Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division). Reproduced with permission from EDR Sanborn, Inc.

September 1999