Guide to the Research Collections
Of all the collections classed under societies, the most extensive group (some 5,000 titles) relates to Freemasons and Freemasonry. This is a nonacademic subject and therefore might not be collected by college or university libraries. For this reason, and because Freemasons have been important in the history of the United States, Great Britain, and Western Europe, the library once collected extensively in this subject field. With the development of libraries specializing in Masonic materials, however, the New York Public Library no longer undertakes to acquire items that might be duplicated in nearby libraries. The Library and Museum of the Grand Lodge of New York, located at 71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan, permits the general public to use its facilities upon request.
In addition to general works, histories and bibliographies, the holdings of the Research Libraries are composed, for the most part, of the proceedings and transactions of the grand lodges of most of the states in the United States, some of the provinces of Canada and the states of Australia, and other countries of the world including Costa Rica, Cuba, Germany, and Great Britain. Files extend from the early nineteenth century, although in some cases they are far from complete. The publications of local lodges or chapters are not usually collected, with the exception of such materials as centennial histories. Among the book and pamphlet materials are a number of the earliest imprints of American cities and towns. The Rare Book Division houses a group of eighteenth-century addresses and discourses on Freemasonry with some anti-Masonic tracts. The Williamson Masonic collection on black Freemasons in the Schomburg Center includes about 270 titles, both monographs and serials, covering both the York and Scottish rites. Cards for this collection are filed in the Public Catalog.