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About the Picture Gallery: A Few Notes

Site information page updated 25 January 2024.

The SF Encyclopedia Picture Gallery has been constructed according to explicit criteria (see What Images Qualify and Overview below), but needs little explanation to use and enjoy. Whenever visited or refreshed, the main Gallery page itself shows a randomly selected image from the nearly 34,000 examples – almost always book jackets – in our archives. Clicking on any of these images shows the full-size version if available (normally 600 pixels wide), in a contrast-enhancing "lightbox".

The What's New button lists the 500 most recent additions to the Gallery, with the latest appearing first.

The Lucky Dip button brings up another such randomly selected image; click it again to bring up another image; continue clicking as long as you wish.

The Slideshow button provides an ever-changing succession of images, again randomly selected (see below for non-random slide show alternatives). While a slide show is running an extra button appears, the self-explanatory Stop Slides.

The Wraparounds button produces a slideshow of the 1000+ wraparound jackets in our archives.

The Sampler button produces a list of 50 image captions or thumbnails randomly selected from the Gallery.

The About Gallery button simply shows the page you are now reading.

For convenience, What's New, Lucky Dip and Slideshow are duplicated in the panel on the right of the present page.

When any SF Encyclopedia entry link in the caption of the currently displayed image – author or authors, cover artist, and so on – is duplicated elsewhere in the Gallery, the Current Picture information box at the right expands to include the option "See all Gallery appearances of ..." followed by a list of such linked items, typically the author's and artist's surnames. Thus an Isaac Asimov book with a Bruce Pennington cover offers immediate links to listings of all Asimov or all Pennington appearances in our picture archive.

Once we have even a single image representing a particular artist or author, we add a Picture Gallery link to the links section at the bottom of that artist's SF Encyclopedia entry, as for Richard Powers, H G Wells and thousands of others. When we started, the criterion for adding an end-of-entry link was ten or more relevant Gallery images, but we lowered this bar a little at a time, until now only one is required.

If an entry is linked from the Gallery, in one image caption or several, a randomly selected image from those with such links is shown at top right of the entry's text.

If you spot an error in a Gallery caption, please tell us via the SF Encyclopedia email contact form.

Cookie Alert

Please note that the Gallery page uses browser cookies, not for any nefarious purpose but simply to record recently shown images and prevent the random selector from repeating its choices too soon, which would frustrate our craving for variety. Also saved in cookie form are any changes to the maximum image display width that you may have requested via the Less or More buttons, and your preference for text captions or image thumbnails in Search Now and What's New listings – see next section. We save no personal information.

Searching the Gallery

There is a simple Search Now button facility that scans for specified text in image captions. For book jackets the caption normally consists of the author's or editor's name followed by the book's full description in the Checklist of the relevant SF Encyclopedia entry. As with Google, you can request exact-match searching by putting the search phrase in quotes, e.g. "isaac asimov" for Isaac Asimov. When the "Show list of captions ..." checkbox under the search box is ticked (as it normally is) and there are multiple finds, the Gallery page will list all the matching image captions or thumbnails in pages of up to 50 items, with Show buttons in caption lists and click-on-image options in thumbnail displays allowing you to choose which image to view at full size. When applicable for navigation of multi-page lists, an appropriate selection from the First, Next, Previous and Last buttons also appears. For further button options, see Lists as Thumbnails and Lists as Slide Shows below.

When the above-mentioned "Show list of captions ..." checkbox is not ticked, a random selection from the images matching the search phrase will appear (along with a new button labelled Another, to show another random image with the same search criteria if there's more than one match). If a search is unsuccessful, the usual random image is shown, with a "no matches to [search text]" report after "Showing image ..."

For more sophisticated searching, use the minus sign to mark words or phrases that are not wanted. For example, the search text "terry pratchett" -discworld will find images whose captions feature Terry Pratchett but not Discworld: that is, his non-Discworld titles, books about him and a few more which he introduced. Prefacing a search term with link: will restrict searches to SF Encyclopedia entry links (the last part of the URL as displayed on the site), so link:smith_e_e shows only captions which reference E E Smith with a link to his entry, while link:mars gives captions which actually link to the Mars entry rather than just mentioning the planet in (say) a book title.

A further special search term is year: followed by a year number or partial year number. This is best illustrated by example. brunner year:1965 shows all John Brunner cover images whose captions include the boldfaced date 1965, i.e. all the books he published that year which have Gallery images. brunner year:198 will similarly show all his books throughout the 1980s (incidentally including a 1991 chapbook reprinted from a 1980s anthology whose listed date is duly boldfaced). year:18 shows everything from the nineteenth century, or at least from 1800 to 1899.

Lists as Thumbnails

Both Search Now lists and the What's New list include a Thumbs Off or Thumbs On button which switches between alternative presentations of the results: as a patchwork of thumbnail images or as a list of captions with Show buttons. When thumbnail images are selected with Thumbs On, the image captions remain available as "tooltip" titles appearing when the cursor hovers over each thumbnail. Click on any thumbnail to show the image at larger size.

Lists as Slide Shows

Both search results lists and the What's New list include a Slides button which presents a slide show of the entire current list, shown not randomly but in the normal order of presentation: alphabetically by author and title for search results, chronologically backward from the most recent addition in the case of What's New. When the end of the current image list is reached, the slide show starts again with the first item. Here by way of example is a slide show of all the infamous UK Badger Books titles in the Gallery. The Stop Slides button again appears and has its usual effect.

What Images Qualify?

Since the book cover selections come from author Checklists, the Gallery features only books that meet our SF Encyclopedia Checklist criteria: first editions (of course), significantly retitled and/or revised editions, and first omnibus editions containing a particular selection of titles. Unless they are retitled or revised, later editions are not included here; exhaustive reprint information, with cover illustrations where available, can be found in the ISFDB (short for Internet Speculative Fiction Database). To access this vast archive, hit the Internet Speculative Fiction Database link at the bottom of the entry for any author also listed in the ISFDB (almost all SFE authors are so listed). Over 1000 magazines are given entries in the SFE; though we do not as a rule provide cover scans, each magazine entry contains a link to the relevant entry in the Galactic Central site, which includes scans of all available covers (sometimes hundreds for magazines with long runs). Some magazine covers of particular interest do appear in the Gallery, along with a few surprises and eccentricities, such as rare fanzine covers, postage stamps and trading cards.

When a book is issued simultaneously in hardback and paperback, we take the hardback as our default; we do, however, occasionally choose to scan a pictorial paperback issue when the hardback is nonpictorial, often the case with academic presses: these are marked "pb issue/" to distinguish them from the more usual "pb/" marker, which appears when the pb is the original edition. The instruction "See below caption for alternative view" covers instances where both hardback and paperback issues have been scanned; this instruction also applies to the large and increasing number of covers with wraparound illustrations, where the full illustration is treated as "an alternative view". By 2024 over 1200 wraparound covers had been scanned.

Unless an exception has been made and registered as such in the caption attached to the scan, we scan only the first edition of any text that meets the criteria laid down in the preceding paragraph. (First edition here means what some American book dealers describe as the "first printing" of the first edition of a text; dealers elsewhere tend to treat this distinction as otiose. We treat any book described as [for instance] "first edition, fifth printing" as a reprint, whose cover matter may differ significantly from the genuine first which precedes it, and ignore it.)

In exceedingly rare instances, where an authentic cover has proven unavailable, we are prepared (reluctantly) to scan a facsimile dust-jacket to provide visual and textual information not otherwise available. The only example of this to date is in fact Philip George Chadwick's The Death Guard (1939). We do so under the following strict conditions:

  1. Any facsimile will be registered as such in the caption;
  2. A facsimile dust-jacket will be scanned only in conjunction with a copy of the book to which it belongs;
  3. If a genuine dust-jacket becomes available to us for scanning, we will immediately replace the scan of the facsimile with a scan of the original.

Overview: Aims of the Gallery

Since its inception the Gallery has grown steadily, though much remains to be done before the range of images presented is fully representative. Our main focus is on the creation of a Gallery whose individual images demonstrate a basic assumption that underlies much of the syntax and explicit overall argument of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: that to understand and describe sf as an essential part of Fantastika in general, we need to try to fix where and when and in what context a work originally appeared. That context is as inclusive as possible. Though our focus is predominantly on sf texts, as circumambiated by a broad selection of relevant fantasy works, we also include many nonfiction studies of the genre and of individual figures, as well as a selection of non-sf fiction by authors when these titles illuminate their work as a whole, plus a very few non-book sf whimsies. But even with all these exceptions, we estimate that at least 80% of the titles presented here fall within a broad-church description of sf.

Our primary motives are to give aesthetic pleasure and to convey information; and we frequently modify our primary criteria to provide both. An essential underlying principle is that for all books, perhaps most tellingly for the literature of Fantastika, the context of a book's publication in print, and the kind of information that attends that publication, are essential components in any adult bibliography.

Although the Encyclopedia is naturally weighted towards the past 200 years or so, we cover Proto SF as thoroughly as possible; very few proto-sf texts were first published in pre-print manuscript form, but from the beginning of the age of print in the fifteenth century a small but steady stream of printed proto-sf has come into the world, and is visually represented here whenever possible.

It is important to register the fact here that books before 1820 or so did not come into the world blank-faced, even though for centuries they were normally sold either unbound or bound loosely in cheap unillustrated boards without lettering. As Alastair Fowler argues cogently in The Mind of the Book: Pictorial Title-Pages (2017), the elaborate illustrated title pages typically found between the end of the fifteenth century and 1820 or so served to introduce the texts they fronted (for centuries the term frontispiece was more or less synonymous with title page). As Fowler demonstrates, they displayed the mind of the book. For books within his temporal remit, we therefore provide scans of title pages when found, even when blank bindings exist (almost invariably private and grafted onto the book after publication).

From around 1820, dust-jackets – whose earliest known example dates from 1819 – were used more and more frequently both to protect fragile boards and (within a very few years) to reproduce title pages, as documented by Mark R Godburn in Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets (2016): which is to say that from the early years of the nineteenth century, in the UK at least, there has existed a continuous tradition of identifying and describing books on their front matter: like the elaborated title pages of earlier years, dust-jackets continue to display the mind of the book.

An inherent consequence of the decision by the British Library and its nominal predecessors to strip all dust-jackets from their accessions, a practice which must have begun soon after the first recorded dust-jacket appeared, has been almost fatally to obscure this centuries-long history of information display. The mind of the book has been blinded. For the period before 1910, largely due to this decision and its implied directive as to proper preservation practices, relatively few dust-jackets have in fact survived anywhere, and until recent years – despite increasing accumulation of indisputable evidence to the contrary – it was assumed by libraries and traditional scholars (see Critical and Historical Works About SF) that very few books were in fact supplied with jackets. It is now amply clear that their stripping by libraries of deposit like the BL led to false conclusions, both (self-servingly) about the rarity of examples, and about the value of surviving examples that were routinely treated as containing information not worth recording on behalf of civilization. In this encyclopedia, we take the risk of assuming that the populations the librarians have entirely destroyed resembled the refugees that have managed to escape them. The fact remains that the comprehensive enormity of the vandalizing of our intellectual heritage is a pillage we cannot easily compute. Arguments along these lines shape John Clute's The Book Blinders: Annals of Vandalism at the British Library: A Necrology (graph 2024); more than fifty of the authors treated in its 115 sections have entries in this encyclopedia.

For hardback books between around 1920 and 1940, we compensate for the relative scarcity of surviving dustjackets by providing images of boards alone when necessary, particularly when they are pictorial, and may provide the same image as the missing dustjacket. For hardback books published after World War Two, we very rarely provide scans of a title lacking its dustjacket (when issued).

Paperback covers are relatively straightforward.

The displayed caption for each cover image contains at least one link to the author or editor, as well as to the cover illustrator when known (provided this artist has an entry); each image is therefore directly connected to the SFE as a whole. The book title itself links directly to the Affiliate Choice page for shopping purposes.


Scanning/photography and uploading has been chiefly carried out by John Clute, Judith Clute, David Langford (who wrote the Gallery's underlying scripts), Roger Robinson (who is responsible for the huge majority of image uploads and captions) and Konrad Walewski. We are grateful for the many images of recent or rare editions supplied by or taken with permission from the collections or websites of the following people and organizations:

Source acknowledgments appear below the picture caption on the Gallery page and in the Current Picture information box. Others who have supplied needed images and are gratefully credited in this way are Graham Bates, Richard Chwedyk, Jonathan Clements, Paul Di Filippo, David Dyer-Bennet,, Doug Frizzle, David Haddock, William S Higgins, Steve Holland, Leroy Kettle, Ron Miller, Caroline Mullan, Mark Olson, Jim Pinkoski, David Redd, Roger Robinson, Yvonne Rousseau, Jared Shurin, Jérôme Serme, Tom Shippey, Andrew M Stephenson, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Andrew Wells, Henry Wessells and Mark Wood.

Finally, our thanks to Lokesh Dakar for the free Lightbox2 script used on the Gallery page, and to Irfan Skiljan for the freeware Irfanview image-viewing software which we use to resize scans and photographs to our Gallery standards – though not to generate image thumbnails, which are automatically created by the Gallery script.

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