The Visual World
The Library’s collections offer an immersive visual world for patrons to study and enjoy. The Astor and Lenox libraries that merged to form The New York Public Library in 1895 included troves of paintings, illustrated books, and art reference materials.
In the 20th century, the Library acquired several collections that dramatically expanded the range of materials available to the public. In 1900, Samuel Putnam Avery gave his esteemed collection of contemporary prints to establish the city’s first public print collection and study room. The Spencer Collection, added in 1913, is notable for the outstanding diversity of its illustrated books and bindings, medieval manuscripts, Japanese scrolls, Indian miniatures, Renaissance printing, and modern and contemporary livres d’artistes. In 1926, the acquisition of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg’s collection, which included art and graphic works by and about people of African heritage throughout the world, established the Schomburg’s Art and Artifacts Division as one of the most comprehensive of its kind in a major public research institution. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division, established in 1987, contains half a million photographs that exemplify nearly every photographic process, as well as an Art & Architecture collection that is particularly strong in the decorative arts.
The Library’s collections continue to grow to encompass the most notable endeavors of human expression, including the moving image.
Please note when viewing in the gallery: some items listed here as "on view" have undergone page changes, or have been replaced by similar works from the same series, to preserve and maintain the valued artifacts in accordance with conservation guidelines.