Guide to the Research Collections



Agriculture holdings may best be characterized as uneven. The collecting policy is comprehensive for periodical and society publications; for serial government reports of the United States, Canada, and England; and for materials such as bibliographies, histories, and general serial and monograph coverage of the subject.

The library selectively acquires current books, seeking comprehensive coverage only of the sociological and economic aspects of agriculture, and makes no attempt to acquire secondary works or textbooks in the field of agricultural technology. The collections are stronger in works on the economic or statistical aspects of agriculture than on the technical aspects of plant and animal breeding. For current information on these technical aspects of agriculture, the library relies upon those publications of national and state bureaus whose holdings are indexed in the standard agricultural indexes. Some idea of the growth of the collections in this field may be gained from the following table:

192125,751 volumes

The library receives most of the important bibliographies and abstracting journals not only for the general subject of agriculture but also for certain specialized fields such as poultry raising, livestock, dairy products, and tropical agriculture. The Dictionary Catalog of the National Agricultural Library (1862-1965) and its supplement, National Agricultural Library Catalog (1966- ), provide comprehensive retrospective and current coverage of the field. Titles such as Agricultural Index (1916- ), Bibliography of Agriculture (1942- ), Der Forschungsdienst (1936- ), and Sel'skokhozyaistvennaya Literatura SSSR (1926- ) augment the resources.

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Periodicals and Society Publications

Periodicals in agriculture may be divided into two types, those primarily of research interest and those having a more popular appeal. In all, the Research Libraries have about 900 periodical titles under the heading "Agriculture--Periodical and Society Publications" in the Public Catalog; of this number some 140 titles are currently received from more than thirty-five countries. The United States is represented by approximately 30 current periodical titles, the USSR by approximately 54. There is a good number from Latin America, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Puerto Rico; Oriental titles come primarily from India and Japan.

Periodical holdings range in date from the eighteenth century to the present. From the eighteenth century are titles such as the Museum Rusticum et Commerciale (1763-66) and the Corps d'observations (1757-58) of the Société d'Agriculture de Commerce, et des Arts de Bretagne. There are good holdings of the farm journals which commenced or flourished during the nineteenth century in America; of these the library has substantial files, including American Agriculturist (1842- , incomplete file), Country Gentleman (1853-1954), and Farm Journal (1877- ). There is also a complete file of Robert B. Thomas's (Old) Farmer's Almanack (1793- ), with some issues bearing their original owner's notations. A card file of American almanacs before 1821 is kept in the Rare Book Division, along with almanac rarities.

Scholarly periodicals include long files of publications of the Deutsche Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft, the Académie d'Agriculture de France, the International Institute of Agriculture, the Royal Agricultural Society of England, and many others. Provincial agricultural societies, both domestic and foreign, are also represented by substantial files. Holdings of periodicals and society publications in such specialized agricultural topics as poultry, dairies and dairying, and cattle were once collected on a more comprehensive basis than at present; indeed the poultry holdings were considered outstanding until the early 1940s.

Government publications, the majority of which are serial, include a noteworthy collection of the agricultural reports of the United States and Canada (for which the library is a depository), along with the less comprehensively held reports of other national governments. The library substantially receives all the serial and monographic publications of the agricultural experiment stations and state agricultural departments or boards in this country; only the annual reports of foreign provincial or state agricultural agencies, including those of Canada, are generally received. At present, the Economic and Public Affairs Division is attempting to strengthen its collections of the international statistical publications from all levels of government.


The collection of books on agricultural subjects is adequate, though perhaps not as strong as the serial publications. There is a good representation of works which have appeared since 1800, among them many nineteenth-century addresses delivered before American agricultural societies by Samuel Griswold Goodrich, Noah Webster, and others. Early books include an incunabulum, Opera Agricolationum (1496), and first and early editions of the works of Samuel Hartlib, Gervase Markham, Jacques Vanière, and Charles Estienne (whose L'Agriculture et maison rustique [1570] is held by both the Arents Tobacco Collection and the Rare Book Division). Agricultural Americana in the Rare Book Division includes Jared Eliot's Essays upon Field-Husbandry in New England (1760), American Husbandry (1775) by "An American," and Samuel Deane's The New-England Farmer (1790).

Other Materials

Several specialized collections are of more than passing interest. There are, for example, materials on North and South American Indian agriculture; many of the catalog entries for this subject represent periodical articles. Over 2,000 cards in the Public Catalog refer to the horse. Of particular interest are stud books, among them the American Stud Book (1873- ), the American Morgan Horse Register (1894- ), and the Arab Horse Stud Book (1919- ). Exemplifying the library's often astonishing range of subject matter are catalog headings such as "Horse Stealing and Horse Thieves," which contains the constitution and by-laws of the eighteenth-century Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) Society for the Recovery of Stolen Horses and Bringing Thieves to Justice, and material on Josephine Amelia Perkins, the celebrated horse thief.

Several hundred uncataloged agricultural machinery catalogs date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. John Wynn Baker's A Short Description and List, with the Prices of the Instruments of Husbandry, Made in the Factory at Laughlinstown Near Celbridge, in the Country of Kildare (1767) is a typical cataloged item.

Manuscript holdings on agriculture consist of entries in American account books of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and in commonplace books, memoranda, and the like. Additional material appears in the papers of Albert Shaw, Bolton Hall, and Horace Greeley.

The Prints Division has a variety of prints and engravings on agricultural subjects throughout its collections. For example, there are farming views in the Phelps Stokes collection of American historical prints, in the scrapbooks of wood engravings by Alexander Anderson, in the holdings of bank note vignettes, and in engravings after artists like William Sidney Mount. In the collection of illustrated books in the Spencer Collection is the seventeenth-century Yu Chih K'êng Chih T'u ("Cultivating Rice and Manufacturing Silk"); consisting of forty-six engravings with colors added later by hand, it was made for an emperor of China.

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