An overview of the Library's printed collections
The Printed Collections form the core of the Library’s holdings: 350,000 books and pamphlets; 10,000 newspaper titles (over 1 million issues); 20,000 broadsides; over 10,000 maps and atlases; 10,000 dining menus; and multiple collections of ephemera that reflect recent history of New York and the nation.
The majority of printed collections have been cataloged and may be searched through the Library’s catalog.
The broadside collection spans the late-17th through to the present, and includes advertisements for products, services and entertainments; notices of property sales; transcriptions of public speeches; campaign announcements; calls to arms; warnings about epidemics; song lyrics and poetry; and protest flyers and signs. Search the Library's catalog to discover broadsides in the collection.
At the core of this trove of ephemera is the 1945 bequest of George B. Corsa, a real estate broker who specialized in Manhattan hotel properties. His files contain brochures, floor plans, postcards, and articles clipped from trade publications (1910s–1940s). The Library staff has augmented Corsa’s collection with newly-created files and more recently acquired material. Lists of the Corsa Hotel and Apartment Building files are available here and here.
The map collection ranges from the 17th century to the present and includes both printed and manuscript items. Geographic scope varies by time period, but extends from New York across the country and throughout the Caribbean. Among the manuscript maps are the unique sketches of projected battle sites of the American Revolution by Robert Erskine and Simeon DeWitt. Later surveys maps include regional travel and tourist guides, and a series created by Lawrence Veiller and the Tenement House Committee that documents overcrowding and the prevalence of disease in Manhattan in 1899. Search the Library's catalog to discover maps in the collection.
The Library’s extensive collection of American dining menus—largely amassed by Chicago restaurateur Arnold Shircliffe (1880–1952) and donated to the New-York Historical Society in 1954—includes approximately 10,000 examples from honoree dinners, associational banquets, historical anniversaries, holidays, hotels, restaurants, ships, trains and planes. The library's collection of dining menus may be searched here.
The Library holds the fourth largest collection of American newspapers published before 1820; it encompasses the most complete set of colonial New York titles such as Zenger’s controversial New-York Weekly Journal. For the 19th century, there are nearly complete runs of commercial dailies, and some obscure publications espousing political, religious, and ethnic viewpoints. Also present are many of the principal newspapers from Northern and Southern localities up through the Civil War. The New York City dailies continue into the 20th century for which period there are also some pictorial supplements. Search the Library's catalog to discover newspapers in the collection.
Books and Pamphlets
Books and other published materials constitute the bulk of the Library’s collection. These include current monographs and supporting sources on the history of New York and the United States, as well as an array of religious tracts, city directories, atlases, rare Native American language dictionaries, contentious pamphlets of the American Revolution, pro- and anti-slavery literature, Civil War regimental histories, institutional annual reports, and travel and entertainment guides. Search for these through the Library's online catalog.