Guide to the Research Collections

- Section -- II: -- THE HUMANITIES
- 20 -- GENERAL LITERATURE -- (Including the Berg Collection and the Arents Collection of Books in Parts)


Literary Bibliographies

It is the library's aim to be comprehensive in this all-important field. A full discussion of bibliographies will be found in chapter 3 of this Guide; considered here are only bibliographies in the field of literature. The general collections of national and trade bibliographies of Germany, France, Spain, and other countries are shelved in the Main Reading Room. Also in this location are bibliographies of a number of literary forms and special subjects, such as the Bibliographic des recueils collectifs de poésies, the Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon, etc. An extensive collection of bibliographies of individual authors is found in the Rare Book Division (*KA-). In addition to author bibliographies, this collection covers incunabula, places (arranged by city, state, and country), individual presses and printers, and other nonliterary subject areas. There is a limited duplication of the author bibliographies in the general collections.

Periodical and Society Publications

This is a strong group, numbering about 500 titles with generally complete files of such journals as the Dutch De Boekzaal (1692-1863); the Allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek; the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, the Analytical Review, the Critical Review, the Monthly Review, and others beginning in the eighteenth century; the Jahrbücher der Literatur, the Revue critique d'histoire et de littérature, and others commencing in the nineteenth century. The library also has rich collections of American university literary studies and philological journals. Supplementing the periodical and society publications are the various newspaper book reviews--the New York Herald Tribune's Books, the London Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times Book Review, and others. In cases of incomplete files full runs can be consulted in the Newspaper Collection either in their original form or on microfilm. Related sources for reviews are an extensive collection of general periodicals commencing in the eighteenth century.

More than 50 general literary periodicals are currently received. Most of them are from the United States, England, or Western Europe, although titles from other countries include the East-West Review (Kyoto, 1964- ), the Literary Criterion (Mysore, 1961- ), Inostrannaya literatura (Moscow, 1956- ), and a partial film record of El libro (Buenos Aires, 1953- ). A far greater number of literary periodicals are discussed in the sections on the various national literatures.

Literary annuals and gift books are well represented in the library's holdings. Of some 700 titles, most of which appeared during the period 1823-65 when annuals and gift books were most popular, 350 are American publications.20 They include The Atlantic Souvenir (1826-32), The Token (1828-42), and The Talisman (1828-30). In addition the chief of the American antislavery gift books, The Liberty Bell (1839-58), is available. British annuals are not quite so well represented, although, among other items, there is a representative set of the first English title of this genre: the Forget-me-not (1826-46). German titles include the early Musen Almanach (1775-1804). Also included are a number of Mexican gift annuals of the mid-nineteenth century. The collection is being expanded in order to fill in gaps, most particularly in the files of American publications.


This section includes general fiction, criticism, works on technique, and numerous collections of "best" stories. There are also older collections, such as the Bibliothèque universelle des Romans... (1775-89). Serials containing fiction appear as well, for example Short Stories; a Magazine of Select Fiction (1890-1918). Supplementing serials are the extensive collection of general periodicals, and college and university publications. Associated with fiction in many ways are the library's extensive resources in folklore.

Gifts of fiction have always been an important source for completing the library's holdings in this area. In 1938 and again in 1949-50 the New York Society Library deposited over 13,000 examples of nineteenth-century American fiction. Charles Scribner's Sons in 1952 donated some

-------------------------------------------- page 83
4,000 volumes representing nearly a complete set of Scribner publications from about 1849 to 1924. Although many of the items were already in the library, the gift filled gaps and replaced worn copies.


Certain key acquisitions add distinction to the library's holdings in this literary form. In 1948 the Poetry Society of America deposited with the library, as the first part of a continuing gift which terminated in 1961, a collection of books (many privately printed and difficult to obtain), monthly bulletins, and important papers of the society. A gift received in 1951 consisted of over 100 poems, holographs and typescripts, many of which are believed to be the favorite compositions of their authors. The works of leading American poets are included.

In 1948 the library's extensive holdings of American and English poetry were further enriched by the addition of nearly 300 volumes from the library of Richard Watson Gilder, presented as a gift by his daughters, Miss Rosamond Gilder and Mrs. W. W. Palmer, and his son Rodman Gilder. The gift contains the works of most of the poets of the second half of the nineteenth century in their original bindings; more than half are inscribed by the authors. In 1952, 1957, 1960, and 1962, the gift was increased by a total of about 85 volumes. The collection is kept in the Rare Book Division.21

Another donation consists of some 400 volumes of poetry used in preparing Edith Granger's An Index to Poetry and Recitation (1904).


General works on drama are contained in this section; drama of each national literature is covered in the appropriate chapters. The section includes certain serial publications, such as the Drama League of America's Course, Theatergeschichtliche Forschungen, etc. (General periodicals and journals on the theatre are under the jurisdiction of the Theatre Collection and are discussed under that heading in this Guide. ) Important materials relating to criticism and play-writing and the religious drama, as well as numerous collections of plays, are included. In addition to contemporary "best plays" (including the one-act), selected by various editors, there are such compilations as the Spectatoriaale Schouwburg, the Teaterbibliotek of the Svenska Teaterföreningen in Finland, Det Kongelige Theaters Repertoire, and others, both early and recent.

These compilations form part of the library's collection of dramas written in the western languages, estimated in 1967 at over 120,000 titles. In that year G.K. Hall & Company published the Catalog of the Theatre and Drama Collections.22 A reasonable estimate of drama holdings in the various national literatures at that time is as follows: American, 20,000; Dutch, 2,800; English, 21,000; French, 22,000; German, 14,000; Italian, 7,100; Portuguese, 3,000; Norwegian and Swedish, 4,400; Spanish, 16,000. Danish and Walloon each have over 1,000 catalog entries, and among those of less than 1,000 but with appreciable numbers are Bohemian, Catalan, Flemish, Polish, and Russian in translation; Scottish, Spanish-American, and others. Many translations of Hebrew and Oriental plays are included.

Jewish, Oriental, and Slavonic drama are discussed with the literatures of these subject areas. In addition to the library's holdings of published dramas, the Theatre Collection possesses a strong and continually growing archive of typescripts and promptbooks of American plays, many of which have never been published; these include the Becks collection of promptbooks, the Dramatists' Guild collections, and individual copies of promptbooks and typescripts, including motion picture scenarios and screen plays. The Theatre Collection also maintains vertical files comprising materials relevant to the drama.

Comparative Literature

An examination of the entries classed under "Literature, Comparative" in the Public Catalog does not disclose the richness of the library's holdings in this field. Many related titles are classed under such subject headings as "English Literature--Foreign Influence on, French," or "English Literature--Foreign Influence of." The holdings are strong for research in the interrelationships of all national literatures.

Periodicals and society publications in the field are well represented for all countries and include the proceedings of international congresses. They are reinforced by the excellent journal resources in such related areas as folklore, philology, and the various literatures of the world. Reference to periodical articles in comparative literature must be located through the general and specific periodical indexes; there are few index entry cards in the Public Catalog.

Literary Forgeries

The library has a small collection of materials on forgery acquired by gift, but it does not actively seek to expand its holdings. In the Rare Book Division are approximately 80 examples of literary forgeries and false association copies. Most of the material consists of forged signatures in books rather than forged books, with the exception of such items as a Columbus letter to Santangel (1497/1882) and several of the wellknown Thomas J. Wise nineteenth-century pamphlets. The Manuscripts and Archives Division has a collection of 3 boxes of forged letters and manuscripts of poems. A great number are forged sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century Scottish pseudo-historical documents, and spurious manuscripts of Robert Burns's poems made by Alexander Howland "Antique" Smith. Some specimens of the work of Robert Spring in forged Washington and Franklin holographs are included in this group. Representing the work of the modern forger are some false letters of Lincoln and Edgar Allan Poe made by Joseph Cosey, and other curiosities.23

-------------------------------------------- page 84