Guide to the Research Collections
MANUSCRIPTS AND ARCHIVES DIVISION
The collections of the Manuscripts and Archives Division (called until 1972 the Manuscript Division) are estimated to contain more than nine million pieces. The dictionary catalog of the division, which has been published in book form in two volumes by G.K. Hall & Company (Boston, 1967) reproduces about 25,000 cards and represents a guide to the holdings, rather than a detailed listing. In accordance with general practice in manuscript cataloging, the division generally records materials by collection rather than by individual piece. Calendars or inventories of a number of the more important collections are available to the reader.
The Manuscripts and Archives Division is open to the public upon presentation of an admission card obtained from the Research Libraries Administrative Office. The coverage ranges from Sumerian and Babylonian clay and stone tablets to twentieth-century publishers' archives. Among early materials are more than 150 Greek and Latin manuscripts. A concentration of notable individual items and collections falls within the period of the American Revolution, with such holdings as the Olive Branch
Petition, unique source materials on Samuel Adams and the local Committees of Correspondence, the Thomas Addis Emmet collection, in which there are three complete sets of autographs of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and the Theodorus Bailey Myers collection, with one complete set of signers of the Declaration. Reflecting the library's strong interest in the discovery and settlement of the Americas, the Obadiah Rich and other collections provide extensive holdings for Latin American areas prior to their wars of independence.
Personal narratives and diaries are a particular strength of the division. Mercantile papers portray the economic history of New York and its
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contacts with foreign lands. Ships' logs and journals include the records of both commercial and naval vessels. Literary manuscripts appear as individual items, in autograph collections, and in the large bodies of publishers' correspondence (Century Company records, Crowell-Collier Publishing Company records, Macmillan Company records, etc.), as well as in such holdings as the noteworthy Lewis M. Isaacs collection of Edwin Arlington Robinson materials. Institutional papers include those of the United States Sanitary Commission (the combined Red Cross-USO of the American Civil War), and the major parts of the records of the New York World's Fairs of 1939/40 and 1964/65, the latter not yet open to the public.
The division is not the only repository of manuscripts in the Research Libraries, although it is the largest. Collections in other divisions are merely noted in the following remarks; more complete descriptions appear with the accounts of the particular division or subject resource. Manuscripts in the Berg Collection, for example, relate principally to nineteenth-and twentieth-century American and English authors, and form the greatest concentration of literary manuscripts in the Research Libraries. The manuscripts in the Spencer Collection, collected for their fine illustrations, include superb examples of illuminated manuscripts on vellum and paper, and scrolls and books from Japan and other countries of the Orient. The Arents Tobacco Collection has a wide variety of manuscripts relating to tobacco, including literary material, drawings, etc. The Rare Book Division administers the Oscar Lion collection of Walt Whitman manuscripts and books. The Oriental Division has on its shelves several hundred Arabic manuscripts and a number of Persian and Turkish items. The Jewish Division holds some seventy manuscript mahzors, Kabbalistic works, liturgical texts, and other materials. Each of the divisions of the Research Libraries at Lincoln Center (the Theatre and Dance Collections and the Music Division) contains important groups of manuscripts connected with its field. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has important manuscript and archival materials, both literary and historical.