Guide to the Research Collections

- 57 -- GENERAL TECHNOLOGY RESOURCES -- (Including Patents)


Resources in the history of technology number approximately 10,100 volumes, excluding serials; holdings of nineteenth-century materials are exhaustive. Books of formulas date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to the present. A special heading in the center's card catalog headed "Technology & Civilization" locates works on that subject by date (most of them published after 1945 and in other divisions of the Research Libraries); included are periodicals such as Humanismus und Technik (1953-) and the like. The center maintains a comprehensive and current collection of technological dictionaries in all languages, although such material is published irregularly.


There is a total of approximately 71,900 volumes (excluding serials) related to engineering. Holdings of periodicals and society publications are substantially complete on an international basis. Of the more than 360 titles currently received in the Science and Technology Research Center, 60 percent are in English; of the remaining titles some 30 each are in German, French, and Spanish. Journals in the Cyrillic alphabet are presently maintained by the Slavonic Division. Abstracting services are virtually complete in Western European languages in the fields of engineering. These are generally kept on the open reference shelves in the center. Abstracting services in Russian are represented by Referativnyi Zhurnal. The center does not collect "table of contents" journals or express services. Substantial resources on the various aspects of atomic engineering date from early material such as the published reports concerning the famous Manhattan Engineering District ("Manhattan Project").

House organs, newsletters, and industrial bulletins are not customarily collected by the center. What appears in the card catalog under these headings represents long-established serials which the library has continued to receive, or material of particular relevance.

The Science and Technology Research Center receives virtually all of the publications of the National Bureau of Standards and the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM). It also selectively acquires the engineering standards and specifications of professional associations, in addition to monographs related to the general subject of standards.

The comprehensive collections are strongest for civil engineering and public improvements, including bibliographies, histories, and general works. The coverage is best for technological reports of the U.S. federal government and those of New York City and State; there are also technological reports issued by foreign governments. Technological reports of state agencies are available, although often with gaps in the holdings; there are also some municipal reports.2

In addition to the contemporary materials in the Research Libraries are many early works, including García de Céspede's work on surveying, Libro de instrumentos nuevos (1606), A. Rathborne's The Surveyor (1616), La Hire's L'École des arpenteurs (1689), Love's Geodaesia (1744), Bergier's Histoire des grandes chemins de l'empire romain (1628), Dacres's Art of Water Drawing (1660), Fabretti's De aquis et aquae ductibus ueteris Romae (1680), Bélidor's Architecture hydraulique (1737-53), Bouillet's Traité des moyens de rendre les rivières navigables (1693), Smeaton's A Narrative of the Building of the Eddystone Lighthouse (1791), and Fontana's Utilissimo trattato dell'acque correnti (1696). Other book rarities are in the Parsons collection.

In 1937, Colonel William John Wilgus gave his collection of books and papers covering forty years of engineering. Under the administration of the Manuscripts and Archives Division, a large portion of the papers relate to Colonel Wilgus's work as deputy director of transportation of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), consisting of letters, orders, and reports on the organization, personnel, port facilities, schedules, and the like. The New York City material is particularly important; it pertains to the construction of the Grand Central Terminal, the electrification of the New York Central Railroad and the Hudson River Railroad, the construction of the Holland Tunnel, the proposed tunnel under the Narrows, New York Harbor, Municipal Art Commission, High Bridge Aqueduct, City Planning, and the Tri-Borough Route.

Beginning in 1951, Gilbert H. Montague gave letters and documents of Robert Fulton to the library, which in addition to the Fulton manuscripts in the Parsons collection form a group of over 70 pieces. Holdings vary from small personal financial notes, akin to present day bank checks, to a 23-page holograph entitled "Submarine Navigation and Attack." Many of the letters and documents throw light on early steamboating and Fulton's continual litigation to defend his patents and legislative grants. Other items relate to the introduction of the submarine, the explosive mine, and the steam vessel as instruments of war. There are also drawings made by Fulton in 1804 of the submarine vessel, submarine bombs, and mode of attack.3 First and early editions of Fulton's published work add to the library's archives. There are also copies of his biography by Cadwallader D. Colden (1817).

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Civil Engineering

Strong holdings of material related to civil engineering include approximately 9,300 volumes (excluding serials). Some of the more significant aspects of the holdings are discussed below.


Although the coverage is international, it is most substantial for bridges in the United States, and particularly for New York City and State. The New York City materials include contracts, proposals, plans, and specifications for such bridges in the metropolitan area as the Brooklyn Bridge and the George Washington Bridge. There are also albums of photographs.


A fine collection of books and periodicals is enriched by materials in the Parsons collection consisting of early works on canals of the eighteenth century, and a number of early nineteenth-century reports of committees and commissions relating to canals in the United States and England. A copy of Robert Fulton's A Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation (1796) presented to Napoleon Bonaparte contains annotations in the author's hand and is administered by the Rare Book Division. With it is a letter from Fulton attempting to interest Bonaparte in his ideas on the construction of canals. The Schuyler canal papers in the Manuscripts and Archives Division include 740 items on the affairs of the Northern and Western Inland Lock Navigation Companies, minutes of meetings, reports of surveyors and contractors, and correspondence relating to the construction and operation of canals in New York State from 1792 to 1803. Other manuscripts on canals include the papers of Robert Brooke from 1798 to 1806 relating to the proposed Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

A second large group of materials concerns the Panama Canal. The resources are somewhat dispersed with scientific and technical materials on the canal in the Science and Technology Research Center, and with items of a more general and political nature in the American History Division. Manuscripts range from a late eighteenth-century "Mémoire sur les avantages et les moyens d'ouvrir un canal dans l'Amérique espagnole" to the John Bigelow papers containing correspondence, speeches, pamphlets, and the like during the period 1886 to 1909, in all 85 pieces relating to the selection of the Panama route and to the construction of the canal.


A strong and international collection of materials on harbors is represented by over 2,000 cards in the Science and Technology Research Center catalog. There is an extensive geographical breakdown of the subject with, for example, entries leading to material on the port of Bordeaux from 1882 to the present; for Boston from 1837; for Hamburg from 1905; for Melbourne from 1879; and for New York from 1834. Many of the items are government reports. There is also a number of maps and charts.


Road association publications and proceedings of road congresses are well represented, as is documentary material from the United States consisting of the annual reports of state highway departments and other publications at both state and federal levels; some municipal material is also included. Foreign government documents are available at the national level. Rarities include early editions of Hubert Gautier's Traité de la construction des chemins (1721), Christopher Colles's A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America (1789), and John L. McAdam's Remarks on the Present System of Road Making (1819).

Sewage and Water Supply:

Coverage for this subject is comprehensive for the New York City metropolitan area, and the holdings are outstanding in their historical context. In 1902 the Jersey City Public Library presented to the library an important file of government publications relating to the water supply of New York City during the period 1804-48 and of Brooklyn in the 1850s. This gift, combined with materials already in the Ford collection, made the collection "a large and important one."4 Significant items in the Manuscripts and Archives Division refer to the Croton Aqueduct in New York, including seven volumes of papers on land acquisitions, disbursements, labor time books, etc., for the period 1835-84. Of particular note are a receipted bill for the construction of the Croton Reservoir where the Central Building of the New York Public Library now stands,5 and a thirty-foot map of the course of the aqueduct of 1884 from Croton Lake to Central Park.6

In 1912 the New York City Board of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity gave a collection of contracts and specifications for the city's Catskill water supply. In addition, the papers of William Williams contain material related to his tenure of office as Commissioner of the New York City Board of Water Supply for the period 1914-17.

Pictorial Material:

There is a wealth of pictorial documentation on bridges in the Research Libraries ranging from specifications, drawings, and photographs in the Science and Technology Research Center, to material dealing with the New York City area and other states of the Union found in the American History and Local History and Genealogy Divisions. There is some material of this nature on roads and canals. The Prints Division's holdings include representations of roads, bridges, and canals, such as the Panama Canal lithographs made by Joseph Pennell in 1912 and J.W. Hill's watercolors of the Erie Canal made from 1830 to 1832, along with other materials in the Phelps Stokes collection.

Electrical Engineering

The collections number approximately 11,000 volumes (excluding serials). They cover the latest advances in research, such as the industrial applications of laser beams and cryogenics techniques. Generally the Science and Technology Research Center has the commercially produced monographs on the subject of computers and computer programming.

Publications of societies and institutions in the field of electronics are featured. Earlier files of house organs and newsletters of manufacturers of electrical equipment are substantially complete until the 1940s, when a large number of files were discontinued. This is also the case with the files of equipment catalogs; however, the information contained in these sources now appears in commercially produced manufacturer's directories, condensed catalogs, data annuals, and the like, which are held by the library.

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Early works, which constitute an important feature, include Priestley's History and Present State of Electricity (1769), Watson's Experiments and Observations (1746), Winkler's De Imagine Notuum Coelestium Viribus Electricis Efficta (1750), several works of Benjamin Franklin, Adams's An Essay on Electricity (1785), Boullanger's Traité de la cause et des phénomènes de l'électricité (1750), Becarria's Lettre sur l'électricité (1754), Aldini's La galvanisme (1804), Hauksbee's Physico-mechanical Experiments (1709), and works by Volta, Ampère, Davis, Faraday, and others. There are six letters of the electrical genius and inventor, Nikola Tesla, in the Manuscripts and Archives Division, three dated 1901 and three dated 1915.

The field of cybernetics is represented by the abstracting journals Engineering Index and Computer Abstracts and other current periodical titles. Other materials include proceedings of conferences, bibliographies, technical dictionaries, and the like.

Mechanical Engineering

This strong collection numbers about 11,000 volumes (excluding serials); society publications merit special attention. Among the early works on mechanics in the holdings are Zeising's Theatri Machinarum (1607-10), Branca's Le Machine (1629), Zonca's Novo teatro de machine (1607), Besson's Theatrum Instrumentorum (1582), and Guidobaldo del Monte's Le Mechaniche (1581). There is a great deal of material on automobiles, railways, and steam navigation, with additional rarities in the Parsons collection.


More than 100 periodical titles on the general subject of railways are found in the holdings; coming from twenty-three countries, 60 are currently received.7 This figure includes a number of publications of railway enthusiasts from many countries; the Science and Technology Research Center is actively engaged in augmenting these holdings. Street railways are also extensively treated; in this connection the Walter Weichsel transfer collection should be noted, of which over 90 percent comes from electric railway systems. An extensive collection on subways focuses on the New York City subway system with plans, routes, contracts, blueprints, and photographs of construction. The Manuscripts and Archives Division holds papers relating to Swiss and Russian railways in the papers of Elmer Lawrence Cothell; United States railways are featured in those of Bion J. Arnold, James Lewis Cowles, William D. Lewis, Charles F.B. Haskell, Frank J. Sprague (who also gave the library a collection of works on railways in 1935), William John Wilgus, and others.


Periodicals relating to the automobile are held in exceptional strength. Over 110 titles are currently received in the Periodicals Section, including many titles relating to antique cars which reflect a current reader interest. The book collection is comprehensive enough to include such works as Keith Marvin's License Plates of the World (1963). Although the collections contain the commercially produced handbooks and repair manuals for most major makes of automobiles, the shop manuals and service bulletins published by automobile manufacturers have not been substantially acquired since 1940. Of great historical interest is a collection of over 3,500 pieces which includes service and parts manuals, catalogs, price lists, scrapbooks, and the like for automobiles and motor trucks from the earliest period of the industry through the 1940s. Included are such makes as Cole, Ford, HispanoSuiza, King, Locomobile, Moon, Pierce-Arrow, Pontiac, Rolls Royce, and Talbot.


Certain aspects of the steamboat holdings are notable. The Robert Fulton collection in the Manuscripts and Archives Division contains a great deal relating to the development of the steamboat for commercial and military purposes. Material in the Isaiah and John Town-send papers deals with the operation of steamboat companies, among them the North River Steam Boat Company (1815-27). Engravings in the Prints Division include the only known contemporaneous representation of Fulton's Clermont, in a French lithograph from 1810. Also on file are prints depicting the arrivals of the Sirius and the Great Western in New York City in 1838. Another rare item from the Phelps Stokes collection is an oil painting by Joseph Walter of the Great Western off Tompkinsville, Staten Island, in 1838.

Mines and Mining

The holdings for mines and mining are strong, especially for government reports. There are about 9,500 volumes (excluding serials) in the collections; associated holdings in geology for most areas of the world augment these holdings. The periodical and society publication holdings are excellent, with about 90 current titles from 29 countries; the United States and Germany lead the list with 19 and 11 titles each. Most South American countries with extensive mining industries are represented by at least one title. Government publications are strong from most areas, both retrospectively and currently. The book collections are well-rounded, with standard trade publications, and a good representation of the proceedings of mining congresses, technical dictionaries in many languages, and directories; mining handbooks, however, are collected on a selective basis. Among the early works of interest are Löhneyss's Bericht vom Bergkwerck (1617), Pettus's Fodinae Regales (1670), Agricola's De Re Metallica (1556), Platte's Discovery of Subterraneall Treasure (1639), Pryce's Mineralogia Cornubiensis (1778), and a number of items on mining in Spain, Latin America (particularly Mexico and Peru), and the United States, dating mostly from the eighteenth century. A number of items in the Manuscripts and Archives Division relate to mining: the diaries of John W. Bell and John Henry Cornelison describe the Gold Rush to California in 1849, and later reports of the Bonanza silver mine near Frisco, Utah are also included. The large collection of papers of Robert Brewster Stanton contain his survey field notes, 1889-1922, and other material.


Metallurgy is generally represented by strong collections, with excellent holdings of nineteenth-and twentieth-century books, journals, and the publications of societies and museums. This last category includes some 86 titles currently received in the Research Libraries from 26 countries; the

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United States is by far the best represented with 23 titles. Early works from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century are an important feature, including Entzelt's De Re Metallica (1551), Barba's Arte de los metales (1770), and Sarria's Ensayo de metalurgia (1784), among others. Of exceptional rarity is Georg de Hennin's historical and technical account, dated 1735, of the mines and metallurgical plants situated in various parts of Siberia. Bound in two volumes, this manuscript is illustrated with carefully executed wash drawings; it is kept in the Slavonic Division.8 In the Manuscripts and Archives Division are the papers (1773-97) of Ezra Morrill, an iron worker of Salisbury, Massachusetts; there are also papers of the American Iron Association and Phelps, Dodge and Company relating to the production of iron, copper, and coal in nineteenth-century America.


This general section relating to manufactures is strong, particularly in periodicals. Various allusions are found in the library's earlier reports to the formation of a collection of manufacturers' catalogs; collecting in this field was abandoned in the 1930s, although many catalogs have been retained, and some of the combined catalogs of various industries and commercial directories have been added. The tremendous growth of industry and the diversification of yearly models necessitated this change in collecting policy. The histories of various industries in the Economic and Public Affairs Division can be associated with the literature on manufactures. The Manuscripts and Archives Division should also be consulted for papers and records of companies, such as the account books, ledgers, and repair journals of Brewster and Company, manufacturers of carriages and automobile bodies in New Haven and New York from 1837 to 1924.

Textiles and Fibers

The collections on textiles and fibers form a reasonably strong group of books, pamphlets, and periodicals covering such diverse aspects of the subject as textile manufacturing, dyeing (with a good historical collection), weaving, printing, spinning, and the like. General periodicals on textiles number over 200 titles, of which 150, from 27 different countries, are current. About 60 percent of the titles are in English. Germany is also well represented, and there are 5 titles from Argentina. The Science and Technology Research Center also receives the Textile Technology Digest (1944-) and other related abstracts, digests, and directories. Holdings in more specific aspects of the field, such as cotton and linen, are equally extensive.

In view of the prominence of the garment industry in New York City, the center is actively building upon its core collection in textiles and garment manufacture, furs, leather, and the like, to meet the needs of the industry as they are expressed. A heavily used group of books on men's tailoring extends from the eighteenth century to the present. There is a representative collection of works on pattern-making, cloth and clothing, needlework and lace, and on the techniques of dressmaking and millinery. Women's Wear Daily (1910-) is current in the Science and Technology Research Center; there is a complete back file on microfilm. Related holdings on textile design and costume are found in the Art and Architecture Division. The American History Division has noteworthy items on textiles made by the American Indians. Papers such as those of the Rodman-Harvey family (1777-1850) in the Manuscripts and Archives Division relate to the manufacture and marketing of textiles in the United States. Extensive use is made of the correlative holdings in design and fashion illustration in the Picture Collection of the Branch Libraries.

Wood, Leather, Paper, Rubber

This is a strong area, with particularly strong representations of periodicals and the publications of societies and associations. There are outstanding materials on the history of rubber and the preservation of paper. Wood and leather are more than adequately covered.

Other Mechanical Trades

A small but significant collection of materials on locks and keys is available to serious researchers. There is good historical coverage, with many older commercial catalogs. Serials include volumes such as Locksmith Ledger (1955-).

Chemical Technology

The great strength of the library in periodical literature makes this section outstanding. The holdings number approximately 5,000 volumes (excluding serials). Both the theoretical and practical aspects of chemical engineering are well covered. There is a comprehensive collection of the proceedings of international congresses; the large number of such congresses, however, precludes exhaustive collecting.

Works on explosives and fireworks are available. There is an interesting historical collection on fireworks, although not a great deal is being published at present; Vannoccio Biringuccio's De la Pirotechnica (1540) is present in first and early editions, and there are many other works of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

A most important collection on plastics and resins includes abstracts, directories, and substantial holdings of periodicals and society publications. Over 60 periodical titles from nineteen countries relate to the plastics; over one third derive from the United States and England, and 8 from Germany.