Guide to the Research Collections



For the purposes of this description, manuscripts may be divided into those which are of paleographic or decorative interest, and those which are essentially valuable for their subject matter. Early holdings in the first category--the illuminated manuscripts--were described in the library's Bulletin of February 1915 (pp. 140-42); the prefatory statement that the library "is believed to contain more valuable European illuminated manuscripts than any other public institution in America" is no longer accurate. This is the case not because of any diminution in the quality of the collection (interesting and valuable pieces have since been added and are supplemented by the highly important holdings of the Spencer Collection), but because the status of other institutions has changed. Libraries once private--such as the Pierpont Morgan and the Henry E. Huntington--are now public, in the sense that those collections are available to the public without the restrictions which private ownership implies. Individual treasures in the Manuscripts and Archives Division provide magnificent examples of European and Oriental paleographic art, to which the resources of the Stuart collection and Spencer Collection add notable support. Various individual manuscripts are the subject of articles in the library's Bulletin, many of which are cited in this Guide in the discussions of the manuscripts as resources in particular subject areas. They are also listed in such standard bibliographical tools as the de Ricci Census and its supplement.

In the second category, manuscripts primarily valuable as source material, collecting emphasis has been placed on American history and literature, although there are also notable individual collections in other fields. The following descriptions follow broad subject divisions.

Historical Records

With the exception of illuminated manuscripts and some literary collections, the greater portion of the manuscript materials which came to the library before the turn of the century were historical. These provide rich representations of original documents and transcripts, pertaining largely to early American history. Descriptions of these and later collections appear in the appropriate subject sections of this Guide and are merely noted here. Particularly important collections include the Rich collection (early Spanish America); the Chalmers collection (American colonies, mainly for the period leading to the Revolutionary War); the Hardwicke collection (British archives of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries relating to America, etc.); the Smyth of Nibley papers (Virginia papers, 1613-79);2 the Bancroft collection (British colonies and the American Revolution); the Emmet collection (one or more autographs of nearly every distinguished American of the colonial and revolutionary periods and early nineteenth century);3 the American Loyalists papers (claims for losses and services in the Revolution);4 the Myers collection

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(letters and documents of distinguished Americans of the colonial and revolutionary periods and of the nineteenth century, and of distinguished Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Hessian officers);5 the Ford collection (autographs of the colonial and American revolutionary periods and the nineteenth century); the William Livingston papers (correspondence of the revolutionary period); the Gansevoort-Lansing collection (military and other papers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries);.6 and the Schuyler papers (American Revolution, New York State, Indians, etc.). Among notable single manuscripts in the division are the Olive Branch Petition.7 Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence, one of seven known copies of the original Bill of Rights, and George Washington's Farewell Address,8 as well as important holdings of diaries and personal narratives.

During the period from 1900 to 1914, the major increase in the manuscript holdings was in the field of New York City records. By 1915 it could be said that the library had become the depository of a vast aggregation of official records of the city of New York, most of these mayors' papers documenting more than fifty years of the nineteenth century. These official records of the city have been transferred to the Municipal Archives and Records Center, an agency under the Municipal Service Administration of the city of New York.

Among the collections bearing on American relations with other countries are the James Leander Cathcart correspondence (1785-1806) on Tripoli and the Barbary States: the George C. Foulk papers and the Horace N. Allen papers, both of which relate to Korean matters at the close of the last century;9 the John Bigelow letters (1856-68) relating to France; the Francis Vinton Greene papers relating to Turkey, the Philippines, and other countries at the close of the last century; the papers (1839-88) of William Frey, concerning Russian-American associations; and the Garrison-McKim-Maloney collection which deals, in part, with the role played by individuals in the United States during the struggle which culminated in the Irish Free State.10 The latter is supplemented by the John Quinn memorial collection, which includes Quinn's correspondence (1900-24) with members of the Irish Home Rule movement as well as international writers and artists.11

Pertinent to national affairs are the Gansevoort-Lansing collection, rich in sources for the study of early American history (national as well as state) for a period of 250 years;12 the Gideon Welles correspondence (1825-85) concerning his tenure as secretary of the Navy in Lincoln's and Johnson's cabinets; the Samuel J. Tilden papers (1830-86) of interest to New York and national history and to legal affairs; the Brigadier-General John Wolcott Phelps papers and scrapbooks (1838-72) relating to various American wars and troubles; the Horace Greeley papers (1842-70) dealing with politics and legislation in Indiana, New York, and the United States; the Levi P. Morton correspondence (1878-98) containing letters from various important officials and political figures; Charles James Folger's unofficial correspondence as a federal officer (1881-84); the James Schoolcraft Sherman correspondence (1896-1912) dealing in part with national and state matters; and the Sol Bloom papers (1920-49) covering his term as congressman from New York.

Of interest to the history of New York State are the Tilden and the Gansevoort-Lansing collections mentioned above; the William Smith papers (1763-83) of great value for the study of the administrative and political history of the province of New York;13 and the Timothy S. Williams papers, in part relating to Williams's activities as private secretary to Governors Hill and Flower (1889-94).

Among the library's rich collections of manuscript materials relating to local history are the George H. Budke papers, which are early records of the history of Rockland and old Orange Counties of New York State and of the adjoining Bergen County, New Jersey. The James Riker collection of original seventeenth-and eighteenth-century Dutch and English manuscript records (with translations) documents the villages of Harlem, Newton, New York, Brooklyn and others; it was collected by this local historian for use in his work. The Hon. Percy G. Childs papers (1817- 22) originate in the Cazenovia, New York region. The Stanley M. Isaacs (1889-1962) papers include materials concerning his activities as a New York City politician and leader, and the papers of Lillian D. Wald illustrate the social history of New York from 1894 to 1940. The Robert Moses papers (at present restricted) also bear on New York City history.

The Schomburg Center includes important manuscript and archival resources, such as the papers of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, the WPA Writers' Program study "Negroes of New York," a comprehensive collection of Haitian records from the library of Kurt Fisher, and the records of the Civil Rights Congress.

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Other Fields

Art, Music, Theatre, Sport

With the exception of actual examples in the form of illuminated manuscripts, the collections of the Manuscripts and Archives Division are not particularly strong in material related to the graphic arts. There are, however, autographs of artists and architects, as well as a number of collections of personal papers which are described in chapter 28 of this Guide.

Although little theatrical material was received during the earlier years, large gift collections were acquired after the Theatre Collection was established in 1931 and then raised to the status of a full division in 1945. When the Music Division and the Theatre and Dance Collections moved to the Library and Museum of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in 1965, the Manuscripts and Archives Division transferred to them all music manuscripts (there were highly important resources in this field) and many theatrical manuscripts, which are described in the chapters on those divisions. There remain in the Manuscripts and Archives Division several important theatrical archives: the Robert H. Burnside papers (1894- 1949) document Burnside's career in theatrical production including his long association with the Hippodrome Theatre in New York City; the Charles B. Dillingham correspondence and accounts (1905-27) were accumulated while Dillingham was owner and manager of the Globe Theatre and associated with the Knickerbocker and Hippodrome Theatres in New York City; the Annie Russell papers (1874-1936) consist chiefly of letters from prominent theatrical and literary figures; the Sothern and Marlowe papers (1859-1950) are the archives of the famous Shakespearean acting team of Edward H. Sothern and Julia Marlowe Sothern; the Paul Kester papers (1880-1933) contain 17,000 pieces, largely correspondence with theatrical figures.

Manuscript holdings related to sports are limited. Two collections contain extensive materials on baseball: the Spalding collection and the Swales collection.

Literature and Book Arts

Early gifts included manuscripts by Thackeray, Hawthorne, Irving, and other major authors writing in English; in addition to other extensive Irving holdings, the division administers the important Seligman and Hellman collections of the manuscripts and books of Washington Irving.14 The remarkable Duyckinck collection of business papers, letters, etc., relates to American literature during the first half of the nineteenth century; the Bryant-Godwin papers consist of letters to William Cullen Bryant, his son-in-law Parke Godwin, and members of their families, from persons in the United States and abroad who were distinguished in literature, the arts, science, and other fields. The John Quinn memorial collection preserves Quinn's correspondence with leading English, Irish, and American literary figures of the first quarter of the twentieth century.15 The personal and professional correspondence of H.L. Mencken became available to the public in 1971; the papers of Genevieve Taggard, important for the study of Emily Dickinson, are partially restricted until 1985. Carl Van Vechten also presented his rich personal collections, which included much correspondence and many manuscripts, to the library.16

In the 1930s and 1940s the Manuscripts and Archives Division sought and accepted from writers and publishing firms many authors' drafts of published works. This resulted in a collection of several hundred literary typescripts, some donated to the Emma Mills collection established in memory of the literary agent; a good representation of literary autographs is also found in the collection.

Publishers' archives found in the division constitute a vast corpus of literary source material beginning with the Century Company papers (1804-1913),17 and including those of the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, the Macmillan Company,.18 Alfred A. Knopf, and others. Additional significant holdings include the papers of Paul A. Bennett, the typographic promotion manager of the Mergenthaler Linotype Company and secretary of the Typophiles.

The literary manuscripts in the division are supplemented by the rich resources of the Berg and Arents Tobacco Collections, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Oscar Lion Walt Whitman collection administered by the Rare Book Division. Detailed descriptions of literary manuscripts are to be found in the chapters on general literature, American literature, and English literature.

Business and Economic History

The collection of business records of New York City firms is especially strong. The library ordinarily accepts only those records which illustrate the various types of commercial activity in this region, especially from a retrospective viewpoint. Collections of business records received by the library before 1915 were for the most part eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American and British materials. Later additions include the Constable-Pierrepont papers (1774-1890).19 covering the mercantile trade between New York and Philadelphia, and New York and the Orient, realty in southern and northern New York, and other matters; the papers of Brown Brothers of

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New York and London, bankers (1825-80).20 the papers and account books of Moses Taylor and Company of New York, merchants and bankers (1832-88);21 the papers of Brewster and Company, manufacturers of carriages and automobile bodies in New York and New Haven (1837-1924); and the papers of Fogg Brothers of Boston (1840-1926) concerning the China trade and especially cotton cloth. An outstanding collection relating to Henry George, including letters, diaries, and other materials, covers the second half of the nineteenth century.22 The library holds the voluminous records of the New York World's Fairs of 1939/40 and 1964/65, the latter not yet open to the public. Additional resources are noted in the commerce section of the chapter on economics and business administration.

Law, Politics, and Sociology

Many of the collections received before 1915 and described with historical records and business materials contain resources of importance to legal, political, and sociological studies. These subjects developed as a separate collecting field somewhat later.

Among notable holdings are documents relating to estate administration in New York (1771-1866);23 the George Croghan papers (1812-48); the correspondence and letter books (1892-1917) of William Bourke Cockran relating to his law practice, political activities, etc.; the Emma Goldman papers (1812-48); the Norman Thomas papers (1905-67) including family papers, letters, speeches, articles, etc.; and the papers of congressmen Sol Bloom (1920s-49) and Vito Marcantonio (1935-56). The minute books and manuscript materials from various chapters of Delta Upsilon Fraternity cover the period from the 1850s to the 1890s. The division holds the papers (1896-1939) of Frank P. Walsh, labor representative, protagonist of public utility ownership, advocate of Irish independence, and public official. The George Kennan collection, which was received in 1920, is one of the most important assemblages of Russian material ever presented to the library. It contains letters, papers, pictures, and books of interest for the period from the 1880s through the early 1890s and from 1910 to 1912.24 The papers of Pierre Toussaint, Haitian ex-slave and humanitarian, reflect a unique phase of social life in New York City in the first half of the nineteenth century. The selected papers of Carrie Chapman Catt and of the National American Woman Suffrage Association relate to the strong collection on women in the library.

The Schomburg Center holds the papers of several civil rights organizations, including the Civil Rights Congress and the organizing committee of the 1963 March on Washington for Peace and Freedom.

Church records in the division, so often of value as genealogical and historical sources, include the Methodist Historical Society's collections of records of discontinued churches in New York City and environs, the Dutch Lutheran Church records,25 and Shaker manuscript records (1780-1929), in addition to collections of the letters of leading American clergymen and the papers of American educational and religious leaders.

Science and Applied Arts

An important group of more than seventy manuscripts and drawings by Robert Fulton in the Parsons.26 and Montague collections documents the development of the steamboat and the use of steam vessels as instruments of war. The papers of the United States Sanitary Commission consist of more than 1,000 boxes of material covering the period 1862 to 1867. Among the largest groups of material are the papers of the Army and Navy Claim Agency, the Army and Navy pay claim archives, the Washington Hospital Directory archives, and condensed historical matter consisting of reports, plans, maps, news papers, clippings, etc. The Frank Julian Sprague papers on the development of the electric trolley and the electrification of railroads are an important resource. The William John Wilgus collection contains material on the AEF Transportation Corps, the New York Central Railroad, the Holland and Narrows tunnels, etc.27 Other materials are described in subject discussions, particularly in the chapter on technology.

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