Guide to the Research Collections



General Collections

Collections of portraits in book form are classified with materials in the general collections. Volumes of portraits with specific subject interest, for instance those which are principally biographical, are placed in the appropriate subject division. Extra-illustrated books containing portraits are found in the Rare Book Division and in rich holdings in the general collections, where there are, for example, numerous editions of Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson with inserted views and portraits. These portraits may be located through indexes in the Prints Division; individual cards are not filed in the Public Catalog. The A.L.A. Portrait Index is found in nearly all divisions having requests for portraits, and has in many cases been annotated with the library's class marks for indexed materials.

Engraved and Photographic Portraits

Holdings of individual portraits in the Research Libraries fall into the two categories of engraved portraits, dating from the fifteenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries, and portraits dating from the invention of photography. Engraved portraits, drawings, and caricatures are found in the Prints Division, with the exception of those for theatre personalities (in the Theatre Collection), dance personalities (in the Dance Collection), and musicians (in the Special Collections Reading Room of the Music Division). The holdings of engraved portraits are generally limited to public personalities, whether celebrated or notorious. There are no general collections of photographic portraits in the Research Libraries, but only scattered specialized collections in the Prints Division and the vertical files of the subject divisions. The vast portrait resources of the Picture Collection of the Branch Libraries are discussed below.

There are important groups of portraits in the special collections and subject divisions of the Research Libraries. Early gifts contributed extensively to the present resources; this is particularly true of the Lenox, Duyckinck, Bancroft, Emmet, and Tilden collections. The Tilden collection is rich in the works of Birch, Lodge, and Caulfield, with an extraordinary group of Gillray's caricatures covering the entire period of the artist's work, from 1777 to 1811. The Beverly Chew collection of literary portraits in the Prints Division contains superb groups of portraits of John Milton and Alexander Pope.2 The Charles Williston McAlpin collection of George Washington portraits and other materials was a gift in 1942. There is a fine group of Benjamin Franklin portraits in the Prints Division. Bound compilations in the general collections include portraits of Napoleon and the Medici family.

North American Indian portraits form another strong group of materials located in the American

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History Division, the Prints Division, and the Rare Book Division. Among the rarer items are a set of John Simon's mezzotints after Verelst's paintings of the four Indian chiefs who visited London in the reign of Queen Anne. In the Rare Book Division are published examples of the Indian portraits of George Catlin, as well as his Souvenir of N. American Indians (1850), a three-volume collection of original pencil drawings. The Rare Book Division also has the fine series of portraits in several editions of Thomas L. McKenney's History of the Indian Tribes of North America (1836-70) and in Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian (1907-30), illustrated with more than 2,000 photographic plates.

The Carl Van Vechten gift to the Research Libraries included photographic portraits divided by subject area between the Theatre, Dance, and Berg Collections and the Manuscripts and Archives Division. The literary portraits in the Berg Collection contain an unusual group of more than 180 studies of Gertrude Stein. More than 150 additional photographs depict scenes from plays by Gertrude Stein.

Prints Division

The most accessible of the uncataloged portraits in the Research Libraries are contained in more than 200 boxes in the Prints Division; these are arranged alphabetically by sitter. In addition, indexes and reference materials in the Prints Division may be used to locate portraits elsewhere in the general collections.

There are two card indexes for pictorial material including cataloged portraits. The subject index to original single portraits in the Print Room locates individual portrait prints including those bound or incorporated in books. The arrangement is alphabetical by sitter. The subject index to original portrait prints shelved elsewhere in the library locates portraits in selected books which are shelved in locations other than the Prints Division. This index refers to portraits in extra-illustrated books in the Rare Book Division and in books in the Emmet collection of the Manuscripts and Archives Division. Both indexes are supplementary to the A.L.A. Portrait Index and other standard print bibliographies such as Hans Wolfgang Singer's Allgemeiner Bildniskatalog and the British Museum Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits, which are annotated to show divisional holdings.

Science and Technology Research Center

The Science and Technology Research Center has maintained a card index to books and periodical articles about ships, which includes portrait material. This alphabetical file indexes names of ships, uniforms worn on various ships, and portraits of ships' captains; it covers materials in the Science and Technology Research Center and elsewhere in the Research Libraries. The file was kept active until the 1940s, and since that time has been enlarged on a selective and irregular basis.

Dance Collection

Portraits and other iconography are of primary importance in documenting the history of the dance. Representations of dancers, either portraits or action studies, are a strong feature of the Dance Collection. The largest group of portrait material consists of photographs. American dancers are well represented through the gifts of collections on Isadora Duncan, Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Martha Graham, and others. The magnificent group of 500 photographs of Waslaw Nijinsky includes many of the dancers who performed with him. Other gifts document the careers of the ballerinas Alicia Markova and Galina Ulanova. The Cia Fornaroli collection is particularly rich in prints of Fanny Cerito, Marie Taglioni, and other nineteenth-century dancers.

The large vertical file in the collection contains much portrait material in halftone illustrations, supplemented by the many scrapbooks and clipping files which have come to the collection as gifts. The computer-generated book catalog of the collection (see page 151) incorporates a large number of cross-references of assistance in locating portraits.

Music Division

There is an unusually strong collection of portraits in the Special Collections Reading Room of the Music Division. The entire group numbers some 20,000 pieces and includes engravings, lithographs, water colors, tracings, photographs, and halftones; it is international in scope and features portraits of violinists, opera singers, and a number of composers and performers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in contemporary prints. The Muller portrait collection includes a group of portraits of Nicoḷ Paganini which are of great interest.3

Two card files in the Special Collections Reading Room involve portraits. The General Iconography File is an alphabetical index by subject of prints, photographs, and other pictorial material in the Reading Room. The Muller Portrait Index provides reference to the Joseph Muller collection of musicians' portraits, giving subject, birth and death dates, engraver's name, and similar information. A Portrait Index refers to portraits in many sources both in the Music Division and in other parts of the library. The cards are arranged alphabetically by name of the subject of the portrait. This is a source file which does not duplicate the General Iconography File of the Special Collections Reading Room.

Theatre Collection

The majority of theatrical portraits currently acquired are maintained in files arranged alphabetically by the name of actor, theatre, or production, with some cross-referencing; nonbook material pertaining to the stage or motion pictures often contains portraits. All such materials in the Theatre Collection are cataloged by name of the performer, with references to the productions for which there are portraits available. The clipping files of the Theatre Collection also contain many portraits.

A number of the special collections of the Theatre Collection have strong portrait holdings. The Hiram Stead collection includes a vast file of portraits from the British theatre between 1672 and 1932. The Robinson Locke collection of drama scrapbooks documents the American stage

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from 1870 to 1920 and is arranged by actor rather than production; included are large photographs with autographs of theatrical personalities such as Maude Adams, Lillian Russell, and Geraldine Farrar.

The Universal Pictures gift of its books of movie stills, which began in 1935, covers almost all the films made since the beginning of that studio. An excellent collection of stills from the earliest period of motion pictures documents the productions of German, Russian, and American producers; this was formed by the Picture Collection of the Branch Libraries and subsequently transferred to the Theatre Collection. A Personalities index (for staff use) indicates the source of portraits of movie personalities by cross-references to the movies in which they appeared. The collection is organized generally on the principle of a newspaper morgue; although certain items are indexed for quick finding, the vast majority of material must be sought in the picture folders.

The Carl Van Vechten gift contains several hundred photographs of figures in the American theatre during the second quarter of the twentieth century. A notable special collection consists of photographs and negatives made by Mrs. Florence Vandamm of more than 1,200 stage productions between 1920 and 1962.

Picture Collection of the Branch Libraries

The holdings of this unit of the Branch Libraries in the Central Building include over 300,000 portraits from the sixteenth century to the present. All types of reproduction are found, from woodcuts, engravings, and lithographs to halftones and photographs. The materials have been extracted from books, journals, and periodicals; there are also separate prints and photographs. The collection is arranged in folders alphabetically by name of sitter. If the material has been clipped, the source is indicated by a symbol on the picture mounting. Readers may check out materials from this circulating collection (there is only limited public working space).