Guide to the Research Collections




The general publications of learned societies and institutions, comprehensively collected and one of the strong features of the library's holdings, are represented by approximately 55,370 volumes. Not included are publications of a society or academy devoted wholly to one subject, which are classed and considered with that subject.

Although the common origin of most learned societies seems to have been an interest in natural history in some form, the development of that interest has led to greatly increased scope in many cases, so that the publications of the organizations may now cover everything from belles-lettres to the exact sciences. A trend especially noticeable since World War II is the development by larger organizations of separate publications for the exact sciences. The library seldom separates these series; they are held in integrated sequences under the administration of the General Research and Humanities Division.

Natural history was a subject of considerable interest in the Astor Library, which commenced very early to gather these publications as well as finely illustrated books in the field, and to secure the earlier sets. In 1851, Dr. Cogswell reported that the Astor Library was already rich in the transactions of learned societies, and in 1854 he wrote that it had the "publications of the principal societies in Great Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, and also of the United States...."1 Interest is not presently centered in material relating to natural history or the biological sciences, but instead is based on the widened interests of the societies which now make their contributions of great value to the library's collection as a whole.

Perhaps the most important subjects featured in the library's general collection of learned society publications are biography, local history and genealogy, anthropology, art and archaeology, and the divisions of the sciences in which the library specializes, such as chemistry and physics.

General Collection (Billings *E)

Approximately 48,000 volumes represent virtually complete holdings of the publication series of such organizations as the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the Royal Society of London, the Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften of Berlin, the Institut de France, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, and other national bodies. No distinction in geographical origin is made in the library's collecting; the European representation is as strong as the American and English. Other parts of the world well represented are Africa, Australia, and South America. In addition to national societies and academies, the library actively collects the publications of state and local societies. Since many of the latter are no longer in existence, some of the sets in the library's collection are particularly valuable for research. Chronologically, the general collection of society publications ranges from the later seventeenth century to the present.

In addition to general materials are strong collections of learned society publications in the Jewish Division (either in the Hebrew alphabet or on Judaica as a subject); in the Oriental Division (publications of societies specializing in Oriental studies, as distinguished from scientific contributions such as the Proceedings of the Japan Society, which are held in the general collections), and in the Slavonic Division (materials published in Imperial Russia or in the USSR, and other publications in the Cyrillic alphabet).

Indexing of Learned Society Publications

To make the contents of learned society publications more readily accessible to readers, the library attempts to index or analyze certain materials in them for the Public Catalog or the appropriate division catalogs.2 This indexing is selective rather than systematic, and principally covers subjects in which the library is strong. It is more extensive for older, rather than the more recent materials, since there has been a great increase in the number of commercially produced indexes that are readily available in the reading rooms of the Research Libraries.

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Jewish Division

The holdings of some 1,100 volumes represent a good cross section of materials in many languages, published in many countries. Examples are found in the Juedisch-theologisches Seminar (Breslau) Jahresbericht (1856-1937), Lehranstalt für die Wissenschaft des Judentums (Berlin) Bericht (1876-1932), Ferencz József Országos Rabbikepzö Intézet (Budapest) Jahresbericht (1878-1946), Mekize Nirdamim Kovets al yad (1885- ), Israelitisch-theologische Lehranstalt (Vienna) Jahresberichte (1894-1923), and the American Academy for Jewish Research Proceedings (1928-30).

Oriental Division

The holdings of Oriental journals are outstanding; the major part of this collection consists of learned society publications numbering approximately 5,000 bound volumes. The range and diversity of the resources may be determined from the following partial enumeration of titles: American Oriental Society Journal (1843- ); Deutsche morgenländische Gesellschaft Zeitschrift (1847- ); Royal Asiatic Society Journal (1834- ), all branches; Société Asiatique Journal asiatique (1822- ); and the Asiatic Society of Japan Transactions (1872/73- ). There are also files of the Societŕ Asiatica Italiana Giornale, the Bijdragen tot de taal-, land-, en volkenkunde van Nederlandsche-Indië, and various publications of the Koninklijk Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen. The holdings are substantially complete in most cases.

Slavonic Division

More than 2,000 bound volumes in the Slavonic Division are learned society publications of a general nature. The largest single group is made up of the various publications of the Akademiya Nauk of Leningrad and Moscow, of which the division has a complete set passing through many changes of title and subdivisions, including Mémoires (1726-1890), Bulletin (1779- ), and Doklady (1849- ). There are, in addition, the publications of the various academies of science of the soviet republics such as those of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belorussia, Georgia, Kirghiz, Kazak, Tajik, and the Ukraine, among others. The division also has a complete file of the Naukove Tovarystvo Imeny Shevchenka Zapysky (1892- ).


Approximately 1,500 card entries in the Public Catalog refer to the subject "Museums" and its subdivisions, locating some 7,300 volumes in the collections; many of the entries are for multivolume periodical sets. This heading covers only the publications by or about general museums and does not include art galleries or other specialized museums. Institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art are placed under the heading "Art--Collections," the American Museum of Natural History under "Natural History--Museums and Collections," and the Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik in Munich under "Science--Museums." The collecting policy is comprehensive for all subject areas, including those not otherwise acquired in depth, such as zoology.

Museum publications collected by the library include administrative reports, general handbooks, and the publication series of the museums themselves. Holdings are strong but do not always include handbooks or guidebooks in the latest issue. The Art and Architecture Division, however, maintains an up-to-date collection of handbooks for the major art collections of the world. The varied collection of general museum publications includes, for example, those of the Bergens Museum (Norway), the Charleston Museum (South Carolina), the Federated Malay States Museum, the Manchester Museum (England), the New York State Museum, the Transvaal Museum, and many others. Files of serial publications or handbooks are by no means complete, but the representation is substantial.


A strong collection emphasizes the great international exhibitions held in the period 1851 to 1904, especially those of Philadelphia (1876) and Paris (1900). The collecting policy is comprehensive for book materials from all countries and periods; some 3,500 entries in the Public Catalog identify resources administered by the General Research and Humanities Division. Periodicals are a feature of the holdings, not only those issued by the fairs during their period of operation but also such trade publications as La Revue de l'exposant (1964- ). A large proportion of the book material is in pamphlet form.

In the Duyckinck collection in the Manuscripts and Archives Division is a scrapbook of 150 trade cards from the Crystal Palace Exhibition held in New York City in 1853; the division also holds two letters by P.T. Barnum relating to the Crystal Palace.3 The records of the New York World's Fair (1939/40) Corporation cover the period 1936 to 1941, and include the central files for all major departments of the corporation. Additional material includes registers of visitors to the Community Building; miscellaneous papers and ephemera of Ashley T. Cole, a member of the New York State Commission to the Fair; and files of correspondence for the Temple of Religion. The division also has the records of the New York World's Fair (1964/65) Corporation with Additional related material in the personal papers of Robert Moses.

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