The Manuscripts and Archives Division holds approximately 29,000 linear feet of archival material in over 3,000 collections, dating from the third millennium BCE to the current decade. Manuscript collections contain original materials regardless of format, including not only paper documents, but photographs, sound recordings, films, videotapes, artifacts and electronic records.
Among the Manuscripts and Archives Division's treasures are approximately 700 cuneiform tablets; 160 medieval and renaissance illuminated manuscripts, such as the Landevennec Gospels (Brittany, 9th century), Lectionarium Evangeliorum ("Astor I", Germany, ca. 970), and the Towneley Lectionary (Italy, 16th century) containing paintings by Giulio Clovio; and documents by the Founding Fathers as diverse as an annotated copy of the Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson's hand, George Washington's Farewell Address upon leaving the Presidency, and Washington's recipe for beer.
The greatest strengths of the Manuscripts and Archives Division, however, are the papers of individuals, families, and organizations, primarily from the New York region, dating from the 18th through the 20th centuries. Particularly important collections on the American Revolution and early U.S. history are the Chalmers, Bancroft, Livingston, Schuyler, Emmet, Myers and Gansevoort-Lansing collections, and, for early colonial Latin American history, the Obadiah Rich Collection. Civil War history is particularly well documented in the extensive records of the United States Sanitary Commission.
Notable collections pertaining to literature include the papers of Washington Irving, H.L. Mencken, Genevieve Taggard, Carl Van Vechten, Edgar Lee Masters, Babette Deutsch and Truman Capote, as well as numerous letters and manuscripts by such writers as William Cullen Bryant, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, James Joyce and Ezra Pound in other collections. Publishers' archives include the records of the Century Company, Crowell-Collier, Macmillan, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc., and The New Yorker.
Political, economic and social history collections include the papers of Norman Thomas, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Robert Moses, Lillian Wald, Rose Pesotta, Frank Walsh, Fannia Cohn and Vito Marcantonio, and the records of the Emigrant Savings Bank, The Emergency Committee In Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, the National Civic Federation, the Committee of Fifteen, the Committee of Fourteen, the International Gay Information Center, the New York Central Railroad, CARE, the National Audubon Society, and the New York World's Fairs of 1939/1940 and 1964/1965.
Documents relating to the history of The Library and its predecessor institutions can be found in The New York Public Library Archives. Archives holdings include early records of The Library, as well as those of the Astor Library, Lenox Library and Tilden Trust whose resources were combined to form The New York Public Library in 1895.
The Manuscripts and Archives Division is one of several units of the Research Libraries holding original materials. Similar collections are located at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division and Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division) and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (Dance, Theatre, and Music Divisions, and Archives of Recorded Sound). The Berg Collection contains vast holdings of literary manuscripts and authors' correspondence. The Spencer Collection includes numerous illuminated manuscripts. Photographs received as part of manuscript and archival collections remain with those collections, but significant related photographs may often be located in the Photography Collection and the U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy Division. The Manuscripts and Archives Division does not collect facsimiles, microfilms of collections in other repositories, or most printed works about manuscript collections in other libraries; most of these are located in the General Research Division.