Guide to the Research Collections

- Section -- I -- GENERAL MATERIALS
- PART TWO
- 15 -- RARE BOOK DIVISION
- RESOURCES
- Stuart Collection

Stuart Collection

The Stuart collection of books and manuscripts, paintings, and natural history specimens--the bequest of Robert Leighton Stuart--was received

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by the Lenox Library in 1892.32 It is retained as a separate unit outside the Billings Classification Schedule; although it has been under the administration of the Rare Book Division since the late 1960s, it is serviced for reasons of convenience by the Art and Architecture Division. The original collection consisted of 11,888 books, 1,963 pamphlets, 240 paintings, a large collection of minerals, shells, and other objects of natural history, and many art curiosities. Nonbook materials which were part of the gift are now on indefinite loan to other institutions. In order to avoid inconvenience to readers, while meeting the stipulation of the bequest that materials from the collection not be made available for use on Sunday, the larger proportion of the books has been duplicated in the regular collections of the library. Cards for book materials in the Stuart collection appear in the Public Catalog.

The most notable part of the collection relates to natural history. Included are the elephant folio of Audubon, magnificent sets of John Gould's Birds, and the splendid productions of the American naturalist Daniel G. Elliot. There are many other finely illustrated works on natural history and botany.

The representation of histories and works in related fields is admirable. For the European countries, there are a number of standard treatises of the nineteenth century. Biography is represented by Edmund Lodge's Portraits and similar works; description and travel by John Britton's famous illustrated works on England and Wales, Adolf Closs's Switzerland, and many others.

Some 2,000 volumes relate to American history. For the most part, they are the scholarly productions of the nineteenth century, though there is also an interesting selection of titles published in both England and America during the eighteenth century, and such rarities as De Bry's "America," parts 1-9 (Frankfort, 1590), Louis Hennepin's New Discovery (London, 1698), and Samuel Purchas's Pilgrimage (London, 1613). Indians are well represented, both descriptively and historically, by such works as George Catlin's writings, William Hubbard's The Present State of New England, and similar titles. Most of the contemporaneously published general and state histories are present, and there are such pre-Revolutionary titles as The History of the British Dominions in North America (London, 1773), Captain John Smith's The Generall Historie of Virginia (London, 1632), William Smith's History of the Province of New York (London, 1757). The same characterization may be made of works of description and travel, ranging from Thomas Peake's America (London, 1655), and John Ogilby's America (London, 1671), to Mary (Grey) Duncan's America as I Found It (New York, 1852), and later works. Individual biographies of illustrious Americans are generally present--not only those published during the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century, but also such rarities as Cotton Mather's Pietas in Patriam (London. 1697), the life of Sir William Phips.

Theology and ecclesiastical history number about 2,000 volumes. There are 400 editions of the Bible, including some of the historically famous, such as the "Breeches Bible" (six editions between 1607-15) and the "Bishops' Bible." Most of the more than 50 manuscripts in the collection consist of horae, missals, and other liturgical texts, many of them fine examples, principally of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Sermons are another feature, rich in first editions, as of the Mathers. Church and denominational history in various countries is also worthy of note.

The fine arts, architecture, and archaeology constitute a third major group. Art is richly represented by the publications of such galleries as Munich, Versailles, Dresden, the Vatican, Düsseldorf, Pitti Palace, the Musée Français, and the Musée Royal. Architecture is represented by the folios of Luigi Rossini and other magnificently illustrated works. Archaeological materials cover many phases of the subject, as shown by the presence of John S. Stanhope's Olympia, Lord Kingsborough's 9 folio volumes of Antiquities of Mexico, and Ephraim Squier's Antiquities of the State of New York.

Finally, there is a rich collection of what may be called "general literature." In this group are a number of volumes interesting for the presses they represent--Aldus, Elzevir, Bodoni, Baskerville, and others--and an impressive selection of imaginative literature in first and early editions. The English classics are present from the early seventeenth century to Dickens and Thackeray. Drama, especially Elizabethan, includes such early imprints as the 1640 folio of Ben Jonson and the 1679 edition of Beaumont and Fletcher. English poets from Chaucer to Tennyson are represented by early and textually important editions. American authors are usually to be found in first editions. Bibliographical essays, such as those of Thomas F. Dibdin and Edward Edwards, and the bibliographical compilations of Henry Harrisse. Obadiah Rich, and others number some 200 volumes.