An overview of the Library's graphics collection
The graphic materials collections fall into four major categories: prints (engravings and lithographs); photographs; architectural collections; and ephemera (trade cards and other advertisements, broadsides, sheet music, and other paper items). For further assistance see the specific material descriptions or contact a librarian. Patrons are required make appointments to view materials from the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architecture. Collection level records are available for the majority of these collections through the library's online catalog. Electronic guides or finding aids are available for many of the collections of the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architecture.
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The print collections include engravings, woodcuts, etchings, lithographs and images produced by a variety of other printing processes. Items range in date from a 1546 set of playing cards to views of New York by living artists, but the emphasis is on American historical prints between 1710 and 1860. The collections are particularly strong in views of New York City. There are also a significant number of views of other American and foreign locations, and portraits of prominent figures from New York and elsewhere. Other subjects include historical and commemorative prints, newspaper and periodical illustrations, political caricatures and naval prints. Rather than constituting a fine art print collection, they are a research collection of significance to historians and to students of American printmaking.
The extensive photograph collections are particularly strong in portraits and documentary images of New York-area buildings and street scenes from 1839 to 1945, although contemporary photography continues to be collected. The bulk of these images are arranged by location, or, for portraits, by sitter. Both professional and amateur photographers (many unidentified) are represented.
New-York Historical's architectural collections include drawings, blueprints, renderings, photographs, correspondence, and business records. Most significant are its large holdings for individual architects or firms, including (in chronological order) John McComb, Jr.; Calvin Pollard; Alexander J. Davis; John B. Snook; George B. Post; McKim, Mead & White; and Cass Gilbert. These architects were all active in Manhattan and New York City buildings predominate, but their work includes many structures outside the city. More than 150 other locally and nationally prominent architects and engineers are also represented, generally by 10 or fewer drawings.
New-York Historical's ephemera collections include lottery tickets, trade cards, billheads, tobacco labels, theater playbills and countless other types of material that were created for temporary use but have survived to illuminate everyday life and popular culture. A highlight is the Bella C. Landauer Collection of Business and Advertising Art, assembled over a forty-year period by the tireless Mrs. Landauer (1874-1960) and arranged alphabetically into 100 product categories, such as Banking, Food, Hotels, Theatrical Enterprises, and Transportation.