Guide to the Research Collections




The Periodicals Section of the General Research and Humanities Division collects and houses an extensive number of current periodical titles, most of these in the Roman alphabet. At present there are approximately 10,000 titles. The section also maintains a collection of press directories and current issues of the standard periodical indexes.

The section services only current issues of the periodicals. After binding or filming, the majority of periodicals are located in the general collections. Not all current periodical issues are held in the Periodicals Section; those of special subject interest or in certain foreign languages are held in the subject divisions of the library as follows: In the Central Building are found periodicals of the American History Division, the Economic and Public Affairs Division, the Jewish Division, the Local History and Genealogy Division, the Oriental Division, the Science and Technology Research Center, and the Slavonic Division. In the Performing Arts Research Center are periodicals of the Dance Collection, the Music Division, and the Theatre Collection (including motion pictures, the circus, and allied arts). In the Schomburg Center are periodicals relating to black culture; those in the Patents Collection are in the Annex.

The collecting policy of the Periodicals Section is universal and parallels the strong subject areas of the library's monographic holdings. There is comprehensive coverage in such fields as art, architecture, geography, history, philosophy, poetry, psychology, and belles-letters, with an attempt to provide research material ranging from learned society and museum publications to illustrated magazines. The life, habits, and thinking of the various national and ethnic groups are thoroughly documented. There are strong holdings of pacifist, photography, travel, and trade union publications, as well as titles in such diverse disciplines as economics, agriculture, the graphic arts, and forestry. The collecting policy is selective in such fields as political opinion and fashion.

The library has always maintained strong holdings in publications from Africa, Great Britain and the Commonwealth Nations, France, Germany, India, Italy, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries. This is true to a lesser degree for other countries, including those of Eastern Europe. Holdings of United States periodicals are more inclusive, ranging from the organs of various pressure groups and underground publications to prison publications. The collection of house organs is good. Trade and professional publications are strongly represented in such fields as advertising, insurance, fire prevention, the garment and food industries, tobacco, and the book trade.


The dictionary catalog of the Periodicals Section is an arrangement by title and subject of the holdings of all current periodicals in the collections of the Research Libraries, not just those available through the Periodicals Section. If a periodical ceases publication, or if it is no longer currently received by the library, the cards for it are removed from this catalog.

A second file in the section is the Geographic Catalog. The periodicals currently received in the Research Libraries are arranged alphabetically by title under the name of the country of origin. There are no subject entries.

The library's Central Serial Record, administered by the Preparation Services, is discussed on page 11.


Periodicals form one of the notable resources of the library's collections, and have traditionally been collected in all fields of the library's specialization. The general periodical collection in the Roman alphabet, including publications of a general literary nature, is estimated at 83,000 bound volumes. It is with this collection that

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the following remarks are primarily concerned. Learned society and institutional publications of a general nature are discussed in chapter 6 of this Guide.

The library has always had an excellent collection of periodicals. The Astor Library gathered a large general collection, and the Lenox Library received in the Duyckinck collection extensive files of English literary and illustrated periodicals. Many large collections of serial publications have been received as gifts. The collection is noteworthy not only for its long and generally complete files of the important journals, but also for the representation of periodicals of secondary importance.

In September of 1966 the library established a Central Serial Record to provide a current and retrospective record of all serial holdings in the Research Libraries (including annuals, newspapers, and gazettes). This record is not directly accessible to the public; readers in public divisions requiring information not available in the various catalogs should consult a member of the staff to ascertain the exact status of the file, latest issue in the library, issues at the bindery, and similar information.

In the language divisions, particularly the Slavonic and Jewish Divisions, the collections are rich. The Oriental Division has a good collection of periodicals in Asiatic and African languages, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has many American and African periodicals in its subject areas. Additional comments are found in the appropriate literature sections of this Guide.

Indexing of Periodicals

The library's policy has long been to make articles in serial publications as readily accessible as books, especially in those subject areas which are of particular interest to its collections. As long ago as 1897/98, Dr. Billings, the first director of the library, was instrumental in starting the cooperative indexing of periodicals by libraries; this task was later assumed by the American Library Association. Billings then selected some 260 periodicals not on the cooperative list for indexing by this library. The present policy is to index articles which represent a major and, presumably, permanent contribution to a subject, or those by outstanding authorities, or those on subjects which are of interest to the Research Libraries, but for which there is little available material. Biographical and autobiographical articles, bibliographies, and important fugitive articles in unexpected sources are also indexed. The library does not index articles in periodicals covered by standard indexing and abstracting services.

At one time the library bound separately the advertising pages of some magazines. This collection covers the period from 1911-21 and includes advertising pages from such periodicals as American Magazine, Century, Harper's Literary Digest, Review of Reviews, Scribner's, and Woman's Home Companion. The collection is held in the Economic and Public Affairs Division. Present practice is to bind advertising pages with the text.

Special Indexes and Files

In addition to the Dictionary and Geographical Catalogs noted in the discussion of the Periodicals Section, several important supplementary guides to periodical resources exist in the library. In Room 315 of the Central Building are located the other General Research and Humanities Division files, including American Periodicals 1800-1931, British Periodicals 1700-1930, and the Current Periodical List, all described in chapter 1 on page 5.

Rare Book Division Files

The Almanac File is a card file (active, 5 card drawers) in two parts, featuring American almanacs published before 1821 and other almanac rarities: (1) An alphabetical file arranged by title of almanac or compiler's name (2 card drawers); and (2) A chronological file arranged by the year for which the almanac was issued. This file is in effect a shelf list of the almanacs in the division (3 card drawers).

Slavonic Division Files

The Current Periodicals and Newspapers file (active, 2 card drawers) is arranged by country, and lists in alphabetical order the newspapers and magazines published in Balto-Slavic languages available in the library. Information given includes the name of the journal or newspaper, its dates, and place of publication.

General Resources

Bibliographical Aids

Bibliographies, union lists, and indexes of periodicals for the United States, Great Britain, the European countries, South America, Australia, and other countries form an extensive collection, covered by some 1,400 entries in the Public Catalog. These include index entries for listings and other publications which originally appeared in periodicals. A large number of the H.W. Wilson indexes are kept near the Public Catalog in Room 315, and are supplemented by other indexes in the reference collection of the Main Reading Room, including such tools as the Internationale Bibliographic der Zeitschriftenliteratur aus allen Gebieten des Wissens.

United States and English Periodicals

Little detail is necessary in a description of a class which is so generally strong as this. Files of titles indexed by the H.W. Wilson indexes are virtually complete. The Rare Book Division's holdings of American periodicals published no later than 1800 has been described as one of the three finest in existence. The representation of political weeklies in the general collections is also noteworthy. The resources are rich in journals of secondary importance or of short duration.

Pulp Magazines

The library has collections of the American popular monthlies now generally known as "pulp magazines." Included are files of titles such as Cowboy Stories (1925-33), Railroad Stories (1907- ), Argosy (1926- ), and the National Police Gazette (1845- ), and broken files of others. The library currently collects this type of material only on a selective basis. From 1925 to 1941 a selected group of all types was gathered from news stands and bound each year with the title "Popular Periodicals for the Year...."

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Little Magazines and Avant-Garde Literature

The little magazines collection is particularly strong. Little magazines are generally defined as "those periodicals which have been noncommercial though not amateur, inclined to be rebellious and more open to experimental and 'advanced' contributions than their more staid, and more stable, contemporaries."1 Building on strength, the library in 1968 purchased a collection of 3,000 items including not only little magazines but also monographs by American authors published in the United States primarily in the late 1950s and 1960s. Many of these titles are printed in limited editions, often privately issued by the authors, and in many cases they are not included in standard bibliographies.


Some 2,500 items in the Rare Book Division are principally American printings through 1820, including many rare publications. There are also a number of English almanacs of the seventeenth century in the Division.

Later almanacs in the general collections include materials from all countries, among them such titles as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Almanac and the Tribune Almanac. The World Almanac is available from 1868. There is a collection of royal almanacs, and a substantial group of nautical almanacs and ephemerides. The latter range from incunabula (Regiomontanus and Zacuto), through sixteenth-century editions of Petrus Apianus and Johann Stöffler, to complete sets of the Nautical Almanac (1767- ) and the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac (1855- ). There are many modern nautical almanacs from France, New Zealand, India, and other countries.

Comic almanacs and periodicals form a good collection, with long files of such titles as Puck, Punch, etc., their German counterparts the Fliegende Blätter and Jugend, and those of other countries. There are, in addition, interesting representations of humorous weeklies such as the brilliant St. Louis Punch.

Manuscript Holdings

A number of substantial archives in the Manuscripts and Archives Division relate to American periodicals, and most especially to those published in New York City. Among these are the papers of Richard Rogers Bowker (1848-1933), editor and publisher of book trade periodicals (21 volumes, 170 boxes, and 3 cartons);2 William Conant Church (1836-1917), editor of the Galaxy and of the United States Army and Navy Journal (6 boxes); Richard Watson Gilder (1844-1909), editor of Scribner's Monthly and the Century Magazine (32 boxes and 39 volumes); Albert Shaw (1857-1947), editor of the American Review of Reviews (75 linear feet and 32 file drawers); and Charles Hanson Towne (1877-1949), editor of Harper's Bazaar (13 boxes and 14 volumes). Two significant German-language periodicals of New York City are also touched upon in the papers of Udo Brachvogel, editor of the Belletristisches Journal (6 boxes and 1 volume);3 and Wilhelm Weitling, editor of Die Republik der Arbeiter.4 In its Century collection the division holds the correspondence of the Century Magazine and that of its predecessors Scribner's Monthly and St. Nicholas (207 boxes).5 In the late 1930s the library received the editorial correspondence of the Crowell Publishing Company, the publishers of Woman's Home Companion, American Magazine, Collier's National Weekly, and Country Home.