To begin your research, familiarize yourself with the discovery tools described below. Please also feel free to contact us with reference questions about how manuscript and archival collections may support your research. Patrons unable to visit the Library are asked to submit remote reference questions through the Reader Application Form.
1) The Catalog [to find citations to archival collections]
Most of the Division's large collections (and an increasing number of its smaller ones) are represented in the library catalog. The catalog contains collection-level descriptions with links to more detailed collection guides. The advantage to beginning with the library catalog is that you will be searching all of the Library's resources, rather than just archival collections.
2) Find Archival Materials [to find material via keyword within archival collections]
More than 4,000 entries for archival collections and other materials held throughout NYPL have been made available for online browsing. Most entries include a link to a collection-level description. Over 2,000 collections are described by detailed guides. You can also search the full-text of both types of descriptions.
3) Collection Surveys [to find material by individual]
The survey files list the material (which happens to have been located) by a specific individual throughout our collections. Individuals are listed alphabetically by last name with citations to material listed below. The survey files are not comprehensive. Researchers are encouraged to search other collections that may prove fruitful for their research.
Surveys of materials by or relating to prominent individuals:
(A-B) (C) (D-F) (G-H)
(I-L) (M-N) (O-R) (S) (T-Z)
4) The Card Catalog
The library's catalog should be used in conjunction with the Division's card catalog available in the Division's reading room. The card catalog is alphabetically arranged and contains entries for names, subjects, geographic locations and types of documents (diaries, account books, logbooks, maps, literary typescripts, etc.).
The two-volume Dictionary Catalog of the Manuscript Division, (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1967) reproduces the card catalog as it appeared in 1966. Although it is no longer comprehensive, this important guide to our collections is available in research libraries throughout the world.
5) Published Guides
Published guides to our manuscript collections include the
Calendar of the Emmet Collection of Manuscripts etc. Relating to American History (New York: The New York Public Library, 1959)
Colonial Latin American Manuscripts in the Rich Collection by Edwin Blake Brownrigg (New York: The New York Public Library, 1978),
Guide to the Budke Collection by John H. Bennett (Nyack: Benlind, 1975),
Report on American Manuscripts in the Royal Institution of Great Britain (London: Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, 1904-1909),
Catalogue of Cuneiform Tablets of the Wilberforce Eames Babylonian Collection by A. Leo Oppenheim (New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1948), and
Islamic Manuscripts in the New York Public Library by Barbara Schmitz (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).