The I.N. Phelps Stokes Collection of American Historical Prints, donated to the Library by Stokes in 1930, visually documents a 400-year sweep of American history, beginning with the European discovery of the Americas and tracing the transformation of the landscape into an urbanized United States at the end of the nineteenth century. This collection of more than 800 prints and drawings consists primarily of town views and historical scenes, as well as some maps.
Highlights include Joost Hartgers view of the New Amsterdam Fort (ca. 1626-28), possibly the first view of Manhattan; Amos Doolittle's engraving depicting Federal Hall in Manhattan with the inauguration of George Washington (1789); Augustus Fay's Croton Water Reservoir watercolor of 1850, the future site of the NYPL; a significant group of color aquatint views by William James Bennett and numerous views of cities across America, from Key West to Portland, Maine, Hoboken to San Francisco and Honolulu.
For a complete, fully illustrated catalogue of the Stokes Collection, consult Gloria Deák, Picturing America (1988, see below). The richly annotated descriptions in this publication expand upon the Library's first catalogue of the Stokes Collection, Stokes and Haskell's American Historical Prints (1933). This earlier catalogue includes an introductory essay on the subject as well as historical notes. Also invaluable is Stokes's The Iconography of Manhattan Island, a multi-volume compilation of images and documents relating to New York City. While some of the material illustrated is from his own collection, he also reproduced images from other public and private collections.
Deák, Gloria Gilda. Picturing America 1497-1899. Prints, Maps, and Drawings bearing on the New World Discoveries and on the Development of the Territory that is now the United States. 2 vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.
Deák, Gloria Gilda, et al. William James Bennett. Master of the Aquatint View. New York: The New York Public Library, 1988.
Haskell, Daniel C. And I.N. Phelps Stokes. American Historical Prints. Early Views of American Cities, etc.. New York: The New York Public Library, 1933.
Stokes, I.N. Phelps. The Iconography of Manhattan Island 1498-1909: Compiled from Original Sources and Illustrated by Photo-intaglio Reproductions of Important Maps, Plans, Views and Documents in Public and Private Collections. 6 vols. New York: Robert H. Dodd, 1915-1926.