Guide to the Research Collections

- WORLD WAR I, 1914-1918

WORLD WAR I, 1914-1918

Approximately 35,000 volumes concerned with World War I make this one of the major collections on the subject. The collection is strong in periodicals, bibliographies, formal and informal histories, printed archives, military (including regimental) histories, monographs on the economic aspects of the European war of 1914-18, and pamphlet material. A Subject Catalog of the World War I Collection, in four volumes, was published in 1961 by G.K. Hall & Company of Boston.

Approximately 61,000 cards in the Public Catalog refer to World War I; some 58,000 entries are found under the main heading "European War, 1914-1918," with approximately 1,000 sub-divisions running from "Addresses, Sermons, etc." through "Women's Work." Another 3,000 entries are for important related subjects such as "League of Nations," "Neutrality," "Peace Conference, Paris, 1919," and "United States Army, AEF, 1917-1919." There are geographic and other subdivisions. The causes of the war receive about 2,200 references; naval history receives 2,000, including some 350 relating to the submarine. Territorial questions have 2,250 entries, and regional and national histories devoted to the war about 5,000. These figures represent both book titles and entries for important periodical articles.

Related collections in the Research Libraries include that of the Slavonic Division (about 4,000 catalog entries) and the Jewish Division (about 500 entries). In the Slavonic Division are book and pamphlet materials in the Cyrillic script on the war; index references to articles in periodicals are included in the catalog. An associated collection of great strength in the Slavonic Division documents the Russian Revolution and is located in the catalog under the heading "Russia--History, 1917-1923," and similar headings. The Jewish Division collection is much less extensive but contains interesting items on Palestine during the war, on the Jewish legion (under the heading "Great Britain. Infantry--Royal Fusiliers--38th Battalion"), and other topics.

World War I and its controversial political nature generated a wealth of historical studies and printed archival materials. The library has secured many of the documents essential to a detailed study of the war. Personal accounts--letters, diaries, and other private records--have appeared in the thousands, and those available in print make an extensive collection of some 3,500 titles. These materials, with a great number of pamphlets (11,000 titles, many of them propaganda), pictorial material, and other holdings make this a very strong collection. Both ephemeral and permanent materials are included and a wide range of points of view are represented.

The library's classification schedule which covers materials on World War I indicates the scope of the collections; letter symbols indicate Billings class marks:

The library collects comprehensively in each of these categories with the exception of sermons, addresses, speeches; fiction; and hospitals, charities, etc., which are selectively collected.

The general classification covers personal narratives and regimental histories of the war. The biographical aspects of these narratives relate them to the biographical and genealogical sections of the resources of the library. An attempt has been made to gather everything of importance regarding the bibliography of the war. Sermons, addresses, and speeches do not constitute an important group of materials. Poetry, drama, and fiction, the belles-lettres of the war, are strongly represented; these subclasses do not, however, contain all of the pertinent material available in the library. During the war they were used consistently, but it was later decided to place in them only material primarily interesting as a depiction of the war. The holdings of literary autographs, manuscripts, and first and significant editions of English and American authors in the Berg Collection contain the works of many wartime figures.

Economic aspects of the war, finances, and food supplies are extensively covered. These phases of the subject are under the reference supervision of the Economic and Public Affairs Division, although this literature is not directly related to the economics collections. In addition to numerous unofficial writings about these matters are important official reports, such as that of the Canadian War Purchasing Commission, the Guide pratique à l'usage des Français issued by the Office des Biens et Intérêts Privés, and the Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung of the German Wirtschaftsministerium. Belgium is represented by the Handausgabe des Gesetz-und Verordnungsblattes, among other publications; the German Mitteilungen of the Kriegsausschuss des Deutschen Industrie documents a marshalling of industry typical of many countries. Some of the publications were restricted in circulation when issued, such as the Notes of the Transfer Committee of the Reparations Commission, and the British History of the Ministry of Munitions. The problem of food supply is represented by many publications of the United States Food Administration, and works such as the Rapport général sur le fonctionnement et les opérations of the Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation in Brussels. Food conservation and war cookery are included in the strong collections on food and cooking.

The subclasses for peace terms and treaties contain important titles which include the Hungarian Peace Negotiations and the Recueil des décisions des tribunaux arbitraux mixtes institués par les traités de paix. Publications of the Reparations Commission are found here and in other subclasses. The library also has one of forty published copies of D.H. Miller's My Diary of the Conference of Paris, with Documents; also in the holdings is a copy of La Paix de Versailles, the findings of the Paris Peace Conference. There are, in addition, important materials in the holdings on law and public documents, classed with materials on war and peace.

The section of materials on American participation in the War is large and varied, containing important documentary materials such as Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, issued by the Department of State. Important works deal with military history and include regimental histories. There is a good collection of publications relating to the American Legion. The papers of the American Civil Liberties Union of New York contain important related materials, including sixteen volumes of correspondence dealing with the rights of a free press, free speech, peaceful assembly, and liberty of conscience during the period 1917-18. The original materials were transferred to Princeton University in 1950; the library retains a microfilm of the collection.

Newspapers, periodicals, and other publications on armed forces life form a notable collection containing such titles as the original Stars and Stripes and other ephemeral publications from the war period. The library has an almost complete collection on microfilm of Stars and Stripes not only in its single World War I Paris edition, but also in some 30 editions published during World War II. Other titles include the 171 numbers of La Libre Belgique, published surreptitiously by the Belgians during the German occupation of their country. There are also composite volumes in the collection of trench and camp newspapers which contain examples of publications of which the library does not have established files.

Another group of materials includes the various "green," "yellow," and "white" books in which governments stated their points of view. These items are not listed under a generic heading in the Public Catalog but must be located through individual titles. Map materials are to be found in the Map Division and in the Manuscripts and Archives Division; there are also English General Staff maps in the Parsons collection in the Science and Technology Research Center.1


Pictorial weeklies and other pictorial publications issued at intervals form a substantial group. There is a bound file of l'Illustration for the war

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years. The Illustrated London News published the weekly Illustrated War News, and the New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung published the weekly Kriegs-Album, which was entirely pictorial. The War Illustrated contains, in addition to photographs and drawings, articles on aspects of the war. Wachtfeuer, Berlin, features caricatures. No adequate index to this material exists.

The nonpictorial serials are of varying sorts. The Deutsche Warschauer Zeitung, a German periodical published in Poland, presented propaganda as news. In England, the weekly The Great War contained news and illustrations and in Germany Der grosse Krieg; ein Chronik von Tag zu Tag furnished similar war coverage. La Grande guerre: la vie en Lorraine covered a limited region. To these may be added the illustrated supplement of Der Tag (1914-19).

 Pages d'histoire, with its monthly reprint of "Les communiqués officiels" and a semi-annual "Chronologie de la guerre," resembles the weekly review but contains, in addition, feature articles by scholars, military authorities, and others. Pages actuelles is devoted mainly to philosophical studies of social and political problems arising in the war, while periodicals such as Les Archives de la guerre and Das Forum are essentially literary, although not fictional. Serials of which each number generally contained a monograph include Collezione italiana di diari, memorie, studi e documenti per servire alla storia della guerra del mondo, Der deutsche Krieg, and Le pagine dell' ora. Periodicals containing retrospective studies which arrive at adjusted viewpoints include Kriegsschuldfrage and Revue d'histoire de la guerre mondiale; discussion of the causes of the war forms a substantial part of the content, and the contributions are international.

Index entries for important periodical articles on the war appear in the Public Catalog.


The importance of documentary sources in historical research gives particular value to the large number of printed archives which the library holds. Certain periodicals, particularly continental publications, contain archival materials; to them may be added the Diario della guerra d'Italia raccolta dei bullettini ufficiali, which appeared serially. Outstanding compilations in book form include the German Reichsarchiv's Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918. The French Guerre de 1914: documents officiels, textes législatifs et réglementaires is representative of more general collections, and the Amtliche Aktenstuecke zur Geschichte der europaïsche Politik 1885-1914 of the Ministère des Affaires Étrangères of Belgium covers more specifically the questions of causes, for which there are additional compilations, and also original printed materials in the public documents collections of the Economic and Public Affairs Division, particularly useful in the study of diplomatic relations and international affairs.

A vast amount of controversial material is present, including the publications of the German Untersuchungsausschuss über die Weltkriegsver-antwortlichkeit, principally concerned with causes of the war. Belgian publications are typical of this sort of material: Réponse au livre blanc allemand du 10 mai 1915 of the Ministère de la Guerre de 1914-16 or Violations des règles du droit des gens, des lois et des coutumes de la guerre of the Commission d'Enquête.

There were also contemporaneous accounts of the war which appeared in parts and were generally illustrated and inexpensive; in France these include Joseph Reinach's La Guerre de 1914-1918, composed of digested news material; Maurice Schwob's Pendant la bataille, reprinted from Phare; and the Histoire illustrée de la guerre de 1914 of Gabriel Hanotaux. In Germany there were Der Krieg 1914-1918; in Wort und Bild and Karl Aspern's Illustrierte Geschichte des europäischen Krieges 1914-1918; in Italy, La guerra delle nazioni 1914-1918.

Reprinted laws and commentaries are varied and abundant. The Relazioni of the Italian Reale Commissione d'Inchiesta sulle Violazioni del Diritto delle Genti Commesse dal Nemico deals primarily with international law. There are also conventional compilations, such as the German Sämtliche Kriegs-Gesetze, Verordnungen und-Bekanntmachungen and the Italian Raccolta di disposizioni legislative e regolamentari duranti l'attuale conflitto internazionale. Translations such as the German Legislation for the Occupied Territories of Belgium are also present. While most of this material is available in other sources, the compilations make it more accessible for research.

The collection contains all of the major unofficial histories with documentary and archival materials and a good selection of all such works. Official histories are represented by works such as the Austrian Osterreich-Ungarns letzter Krieg 1914-1918 and History of the Great War Based on Official Documents, issued by the Imperial Defense Committee of Great Britain. The library can present to the researcher not only contemporary material written during the war, giving current points of view, but also official statements of position, and the host of critical studies which are based on these earlier sources.

Among the military histories are works such as Les campagnes coloniales belges by the Section Historique of the Belgian General Staff and Les armées françaises dans la grande guerre by the Section Historique of the French General Staff. J. Kooiman's De Nederlandsche Strijdmacht describes the activities of the Dutch army.

Regimental histories are strongly represented in this collection. The substantial holdings of American regimental histories, many of them privately printed, include rosters published by states, such as the Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors and Marines issued by the Adjutant General's Office of Ohio. An interesting group relates to the American Expeditionary Forces and includes two mimeographed publications made by members of the AEF under the supervision of the Historical Section of the Army War College: World War Records; First Division, A.E.F., Regular in twenty-five volumes, and the German Documents in four volumes, containing translated war diaries from German units opposing the First Division. The strong collections of regimental histories for all periods, more fully discussed in the chapter on military science, includes holdings of exceptional importance for the United States, England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

English regimental histories have generally appeared as separate works for individual military units, but some of the continental histories appear in long series, such as the Erinnerungsblätter deutscher Regimenter, Aus Deutschlands grosser Zeit; Heldentaten deutscher Regimenter, and Die Württembergischen Regimenter im Weltkrieg 1914-1918. The Italian War Ministry's Riassunti storici dei corpi e comandi nella guerra, 1915-1918

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may also be cited. While these volumes generally contain lists of those killed, and other materials, there are separate lists, such as the Italian War Ministry's Militari caduti nella guerra nazionale 1914-1918 and Ireland's Memorial Records, 1914-1918. In addition are publications such as the British War Office's Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, its Weekly Casualty List, and the Austrian, Bavarian, and Prussian Verlustlisten.

Regional histories, which often contain lists of local residents participating in World War I, are found in both the American History Division and the Local History and Genealogy Division. Another source of service lists and obituaries is the large collection of memorial volumes published by colleges and similar organizations.

Pictorial Materials; Paper Money

Pictorial material is found in strength in the pictorial weeklies discussed with periodicals. This material ranges from photographs to sketches and, particularly in German publications, includes cartoons. There are also compilations such as L'Album de la guerre, reproduced from L'Illustration. Relevant prints held by the Prints Division must be located through the name of individual artists, such as Otto Dix, Kerr Eby, and Louis Raemaekers.2 The Art and Architecture Division holds a collection of pictures relating to war memorials.

Beginning in 1914 the library began to actively acquire posters related to World War I; by 1919 there were over 3,000 posters. In 1974 the poster collection was given to the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. In the Slavonic Division is a collection of posters, public notices, and decrees made by John Reed in Russia during 1917 and 1918.

A very large collection of Notgeld, German and Austrian paper money, is administered by the Rare Book Division. Included is a series of Reichsbank notes commencing with 1913; a set called Amtliche Dokumente als Erinnerungszeichen an Deutschlands schwerste Zeit (1918-23); and notes issued by almost every local governing body in Germany during the rapid post-war decline of the mark.

Significant Collections

Part of the William Barclay Parsons collection in the Science and Technology Research Center contains works on military engineering, mainly of World War I, and a set of English General Staff maps.3

The Theatre Collection of the Research Libraries has material on theatrical productions pertaining to the period of the war, including clippings, programmes, and reviews, as well as materials on the activities of stage and screen personalities.

The Arents Tobacco Collection has a scrapbook containing miscellaneous items relating to gifts of tobacco to men in the armed forces during the war; there are also a number of tobacco posters from the war period.

In the American Collection of the Music Division are several bound volumes of sheet music for World War I songs; the individual songs appear in the Song Index of the division.


The Manuscripts and Archives Division holds the letters, reports, and other material of the American Fund for French Wounded (1915-19). The Victory Hall Association deposited its card index and other files of material relating to persons from New York who died during the war; this collection includes 3,549 photographs, 2,953 biographies, and 5 books of clippings concerning war memorials and the proposed Victory Hall. Of special note is the gift made by Col. Robert C. Richardson, Jr., of a map showing the order of battle on the western front on November 11, 1918, when the Armistice was declared; it is a pen-and-ink drawing on a French topographical map, prepared in the Map Room of General Headquarters.

In 1939 the library received the William John Wilgus papers; a large section of these relates to the transportation of the AEF, and includes letters, orders, and reports on the organization, personnel, port facilities, and schedules.