The weekly was the first one to become the world's first fully illustrated weekly newspaper. Its Christmas 1855 issue contained the first colour pictures ever printed in an English newspaper and the archives include reports by authors such as Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins and Agatha Christie, as well as artwork by artists such as William Heath Robinson, Louis Wain and Mabel Lucie Atwell.
The digital pages are in colour with both text and tagged images indexed for search. The archive contains 250,000 pages as well as 75,000 illustrations and photographs of 19th century Victorian Britain related to events such as the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Boer war. Some archives are as old as the year 1842. The online archive will initially be available only to libraries and educational institutions.