Image Captions

Authors frequently include figures in their works (e.g., line drawings, photographs, maps). Each figure should generally be referenced within the body of the work (e.g., see fig. 3), so readers know why it has been included or to what the figure relates. In addition, the figure should be accompanied by a caption that provides a descriptive title, relevant details about the figure (e.g., provenance, measurements, dates), and source or credit information. This post provides guidelines for formatting these captions.

1. Figure Identification Number

Each figure should be numbered, so that scholars referencing the figure in their own work have a clear and concise means of doing so. If a book contains multiple chapters with figures, the figure often is identified by chapter and figure number within the chapter (e.g., fig. 4.3). In other cases, such as in a journal article, figures may be numbered consecutively (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, …). Within the caption, the word figure may be spelled out or abbreviated; it should be formatted with an initial capital letter in either case. Note the use of arabic numerals for all elements of the figure number. A period closes this element.

Fig. 4.3.

Figure 4.3.

2. Descriptive Title

A statement describing the figure should appear immediately after the figure number. The title may be a phrase or a complete sentence; in either case, it is set to sentence case (i.e., first word capitalized) and closed with a period. The only elements capitalized within the title are those that are normally capitalized in any sentence, such as titles of works (including paintings), place names, and other proper nouns.

3. Credit Statement

Some rights owners require that specific language be included with any reproduced material. In such cases, care should be taken to ensure that the final caption matches the language specified by the rights owner. Otherwise, credit information can follow whichever of the following formats is most appropriate (see further the examples below). Note that, for consistency, we prefer to close all captions with a period.

Source: XX.

Courtesy of XX. (generally used only for material provided free of charge)

Photograph by XX.

Map by XX.

If figure credits are included in a separate acknowledgments page, credit lines may be omitted from the captions (see examples for the line drawing and “Grave relief” photograph below).

4. Examples

The following are examples of common caption formats:


Fig. 6. Map of the Roman Empire, 121–31 BCE. Source: The Oxford Classical Dictionary, digital edition, Used by permission of Oxford University Press.

Line Drawing

Fig. 4.2. Terracotta shrine stela with figure, from Monte Sirai (Sardinia), dated to the fourth–third century BCE. Height 55.5 cm. Source: Moscati 1988a, 319.


Mandrake. Photograph by David Lupton.

Fig. 4. Hadrianeum and the personifications of provinces. Photograph by author.

  • Photographs by the author do not require a credit line, but it is helpful to include a credit, especially in a work with many figures, to clarify that the author does have the right to reproduce the photograph. Alternatively, if all figures are by the author, a note to that effect in the front matter will suffice, and credit lines may be omitted.

Fig. 3.2. Grave relief. Source: Dieter Knibbe and Hilke Thür, eds., Via Sacra Ephesica II: Grabungen und Forschungen 1992 und 1993, Berichte und Materialen herausgegeben vom Österreichischen Archäologischen Institut 6 (Vienna: Schindler, 1995), fig. 29.

  • Material reproduced from a printed work should include publication details about the source of the figure. If your work uses standard bibliographic style, use footnote citation style and include the author, title, publication details, and any page or figure number (see “Grave relief” above). Include a closing punctuation mark. If your work uses author-date bibliographic style, include a citation at the end of the caption (see line drawing example above).


Fig. 2. Joannes and Lucas van Doetecum after Frans Floris, Resurrection, 1557, etching and engraving, 640 x 454 mm. Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago.


Fig. 14. Germania Capta struck in 86 CE. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

Augustus. Denarius. Lugdunum mint. Struck 15–13 BCE. Obverse: Head of Augustus, bare, right; reverse: Apollo standing left, holding plectrum in right hand and lyre in left hand. RIC 1.171A. Courtesy of Münzkabinett der Universität Göttingen, Archäologisches Institut. Photo by Stephan Eckardt.

  • Captions for coins can be detailed or short, depending on the nature and audience of the work. However, an author should maintain the same level of detail throughout all captions. For detailed coin captions, include (in this order): the title of the coin, the denomination, the mint, the approximate strike date, a description of the obverse, a description of the reverse, any catalog numbers, and credits. For short coin captions, a descriptive title, date, and credit is generally sufficient.

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