Guide to the Research Collections



National and state histories of the United States contribute to the holdings of the American History Division, while local, town, or county resources form the collection of the Local History and Genealogy Division. These divisional locations are not reflected in the Billings Classification Schedule, where class marks for state and local history resources are integrated into a single series. United States Local History Catalog is described on page 266.

Many of the observations in the preceding sections concerning Americana and American historical literature are applicable to this group. Reference should be made to the detailed description of the resources of the Rare Book Division. Literature of the territories and subsequent states published before 1801 supplement the subject materials of the American History Division, along with early newspapers and periodicals.

As the collections relating to individual states are more or less equal in importance, the following notes are applicable to all. Exceptions are made of Virginia and Massachusetts, for which holdings are more extensive. The collections relating to New York State and New York City are described following the section devoted to local histories. Published state histories are held in strength. Noteworthy supportive features include large numbers of printed archives and documents, files of publications of state historical societies and similar bodies, and contemporary pamphlets on state affairs.

The collection of travel literature is extensive. While the library has sought all available works, it has stressed the observations of foreigners. The collection has a great deal relating to the West and the study of national expansion, including early western imprints held in the Rare Book Division. Maps and atlases are housed in the Map Division.

Newspapers, periodicals, and almanacs constitute large collections. Public documents from the various states are noteworthy: the library is a

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depository for the official state publications of New York, California, and Washington, and has extensive holdings of the publications of other states, particularly New Jersey. The files of legislative proceedings are generally complete in either original issues or photostatic copies. Files of published state departmental reports are generally available. The document catalog in the Economic and Public Affairs Division is preferable to the Public Catalog and other division catalogs for indicating completeness of files.

Many other subject classes contribute to the study of United States state history to some degree; for example, the collection of railroad materials in the Economic and Public Affairs Division includes a great deal of material relating to western lines. The general collections on religion contain much of interest.


The holdings for Virginia are exceptional. Rare materials, general and special historical writings, printed and manuscript archives and documents, serials, and other items chronicle the history of the colony and state from the earliest period to the present day.13

Rare works in the library include copies of most of the seventeenth-and eighteenth-century books listed in W. Clayton-Torrence's A Trial Bibliography of Colonial Virginia (1908-10), which noted Lenox Library copies. The collection continues to grow; for example, the Arents Tobacco Collection has acquired King James I's copy of The General Histories of Virginia... (1624) by John Smith. Later works, such as Confederate imprints, are also held in significant numbers. Local historical materials are extensive, and there is a strong collection of public documents.

A noteworthy collection of manuscripts includes not only original papers but also transcripts of official records in European archives relating to early Virginia history. Of outstanding importance are the following:

Smyth Papers:

The manuscript collection of John Smyth (or Smith) of Nibley, one of the original promoters of plantations and settlements in the second Virginia colony, contains 84 letters, documents, and transcripts. The collection was given to the library by Alexander Maitland in 1897.

Comberford Map:

A manuscript map of the southern part of Virginia (now the northern part of North Carolina) made by Nicholas Comberford in 1657, one of two existing copies, is located in the Manuscripts and Archives Division. It is particularly significant for the light it sheds on contemporary place-names.

Proposed Constitution for the State of Virginia:

This is a third draft made by Thomas Jefferson in June, 1776. The manuscript was presented to the library by Alexander Maitland in 1894. The first and second drafts are in the Library of Congress.


The Bancroft collection in the Manuscripts and Archives Division is especially rich in manuscript materials relating to Massachusetts during the period of the Revolution; in it are Samuel Adams letters and Joseph Hawley letters and documents. Additional materials are noted in "The Pilgrim Tercentenary Exhibition in The New York Public Library."14 Histories of the Pilgrims, as a part of New England history, are in the American History Division, while local historical materials (for example, the history of Plymouth) are in the Local History and Genealogy Division.