I want to license illustrations (drawings, paintings, maps) for a black and white scholarly book. The fair use approach looks impractical, so the rights holders will dictate the terms, as yet unknown to me. In another question I learned that I will only contact them once I have a publisher lined up. Presumably there will be no licensing budget in my book deal. I need to know what images I can afford to use.

Roughly how much do authors pay to republish archive materials? Do quoted licensing costs tend to vary depending on which publisher is involved?

Here are some of the institutions that hold and license images potentially useful to my project: Bancroft Library, California State Library, Getty Images, Huntington Library, Santa Barbara Mission Archive.

  • 1
    Have you tried contacting authors of similar books and asking them how much they pay?
    – Eppicurt
    Nov 10, 2017 at 6:27
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    Have you asked those institutions for their pricing structure and whether they do a scheme for educational books?
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 10, 2017 at 6:51
  • How historic is historic? Copyright expires after a while, you know.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Nov 10, 2017 at 13:49
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    @Wrzlprmft copyright might expire, but if you don't have a copy to begin with... For one of my last projects I paid something between €0.02 and €1 per page scanned, but to actually use an image of those pages in a publication could run from €20-€100. I wouldn't be violating copyright to use something I had gotten on the cheaper scale, just violating a contractual agreement. Even if it's not enforceable overseas or whatnot, I'd never be given access again which is a powerful incentive to follow the rules :-) Nov 14, 2017 at 22:54
  • For one of my last projects I paid something between €0.02 and €1 per page scanned, but to actually use an image of those pages in a publication could run from €20-€100. – That sounds bizarre (not blaming you here), in particular if what you are using is in the public domain. IIRC, a German court recently ruled that such an artificial prolongation of copyright was unlawful (though in that case, the claim of copyright was based on declaring photographing a painting as a creative act).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Nov 15, 2017 at 6:30

1 Answer 1


The answer to this question is content, item, and archive specific I'm afraid. No one here can give you a ballpark figure without detailed information...and you assembling that detailed information will give you your answer. Some things that the figure may depend on:

  1. If you are using an archive's scan of the image or if you are using an image that you, yourself created while visiting the archive
  2. What country you are publishing in
  3. How old the archival material is
  4. If the rights holder has academic rates or waves fees for scholarly books (as they assume you aren't going to make a profit on it)
  5. How many images you're going use (5? 50? 500?), though even with a number there's no way to estimate (see 1–4)

The way forward is to email all of the institutions, ask them for their publication policies and charges, and work out how many images you're willing to pay for based on that. So for example, for the SBML you're looking at giving them $45 per image and a copy of your book, see: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/224541_7ae89e7b824c4dc69d1739111fa71070.pdf

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