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Menu Collection of The New York Public Library
Introduction to the Collections
The New York Public Library's 26,000-piece historical menu collection is held by the Rare Books Division. Strongest for the period 1890-1920, the collection is for the present arranged chronologically only. Further details and information about access may be obtained at the Information Desk in the General Research Division's Reading Room. Some secondary sources on menu design will be found in the Art and Architecture Collection.
A printed finding aid, an inventory of the boxes in the collection, is available at the Rare Books Division desk and the General Research Division information desk. To find specific hotel or restaurant menus and to identify menus in foreign languages please consult the Menu Collection Database.
Using the Menu Collection
Access to this special collection is granted to readers who have identified specific menus that they wish to consult.
Call slips must be submitted 24 hours in advance. Readers may request up to four menus per day.
Photocopying of Rare Books material is prohibited. Readers who require professional quality photographs or digital images can order reproductions through the Office of Photographic Services & Permissions.
Search the Menu Collection Database
Database Contents and Searchable Fields
The database contains 26,000 records describing individual menus. Menus are available in the Rare Book Division.
To find out more about access to the Menu Collection please read Using the Menu Collection.
DATE: given as year/month/date/
ADDITIONAL DATE INFORMATION: e.g. UNDATED, date range
EVENT: Type, e.g. Breakfast for Admiral Dewey.
SPONSOR: The sponsoring group or organization for the meal, e.g. City of New York; the host location such as a restaurant or hotel.
PLACE: City and state, e.g. Claremont Hotel, New York, NY
OCCASION (list of the abbreviations)
|Comp:||Complimentary/testimonial dinner, luncheon, or breakfast|
|Patr:||Patriotic holiday||(July 4, Presidential birthday, Memorial Day, etc.)|
|Relig:||Religious holiday||(Christmas, Easter)|
|Sec:||Secular holiday||(Thanksgiving, New Year's Day)|
|Ethnic:||Ethnic holiday||(St. Patrick's Day)|
|Natl:||National event||(Opening of Statue of Liberty)|
|Rite:||Rite||(wedding, funeral, birthday, etc.)|
VENUE (list of the abbreviations)
Lunchroom, coffee shop, café
ORGANIZATION (list of the abbreviations)
Social (club or fraternal)
Greek letter (fraternity or sorority)
Educational institution (or alumni/ae)
Size (expressed in inches, to the next ¼ inch, with fractions indicated decimally, width x height, e.g. 5.5x8.)
Other notes may include the printer, material other than paper, nature of the illustrations or decorations.
NOTES: Other noteworthy characteristics may include: a language other than English; "Includes wine list"; "decorative border of fruits and flowers," or information about the cover illustration or its subject.
KEYWORDS: Other search terms to retrieve menus by personal or corporate name, the subject of cover illustrations and designs.
We would like to thank our volunteers Florence Bredhoff, Ruth Butterly, Rita Capek, Millie Delahunty, Kathe B. Dyson Shirley Glaser, Barbara Hansen, Hanako Imaizumi, Catherine Ortiz, Trudy Reitz, Jane A. Williams and others, who made this database possible by creating individual records for the items in the menu collection.
Indexes and Research Guides
The Library has several items which are useful when researching the Menu Collection, and for menu research in general. Some items relevant to the New York Public Library's Menu Collection include:
Alejandro, Reynaldo G. Classic Menu Design: From the Collection of the New York Public Library. (Glen Cove, NY: PBC International, 1988) Pub.Cat. 92-15459 Shelf 70
Williams, Sam P. Guide to the Research Collections of The New York Public Library (Chicago: American Library Association, 1975): 297. Pub Cat 76-583.
Grimes, William. "New York City Exhibit Displays the Art of Eating Out," Nation's Restaurant News 37 (February 23, 2003): 24-25. *ZAN-V1751 1974-
Ryley, Alison. "Miss Frank's Menus" American Book Collector, n.s. 7 (1986): 3-10. JFM 85-301
Turim, Gayle. "Vintage Menus" Bon Appetit, 39, no. 9 (1994): 26. M-10 826
Ryley, Alison. "The Prime of Miss Frank Buttolph: Notes Toward a Menu History of New York City," Biblion: The Bulletin of The New York Public Library 6 (1998): 56-87. *R-*HND 96-1199
You may find the following NYPL research guides helpful in your research:
To expand your scope search The Catalog using the following, related subject headings:
Other subject headings related to cuisine and culinary history are:
To find more books on menus, menu collecting, menu design, and other related items a great place to start is The Catalog. Begin by searching under the following subject headings:
Selected Internet Sites
For those who wish to do research on the Internet for menu collections, the following sites are helpful:
- City College of San Francisco, Alice Statler Libary Menu Collection
An overview of the Menu Collection at the Alice Statler Library. Images of some of the menus are available.
- Cornell University, The Nestle Library, Menu Collection
A database of the menus held in the Rare Menu Collection, as well as a description of the collection. Images of actual menus are available.
- Los Angeles Public Library, Menu Collection
A database of the menus held in the Rare Books Division of the Los Angeles Public Library. Images of actual menus are available.
Where to Go for Additional Information
- Rare Books Division, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
- General Research Division, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Other menu collections in the New York City Area are listed below. Please contact the institution directly.
- Culinary Institute of America, Conrad N. Hilton Library
- Library, Manuscript and Ephemera Collections, Museum of the City of New York
- New York Historical Society
Picture of the Day
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