Featured Art Library: New York Public Library Art & Architecture Collection

Featured Art Libraries,

Established in 1987, The New York Public Library’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs united what had formerly been three separate departments under a single banner in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Ira David Wallach (1909–2007) was the chief executive of Central National-Gottesman Inc., the world’s largest private marketer of pulp, paper and newsprint. With his wife Miriam Gottesman, the family formed a charitable foundation, of which the Library has been a major recipient. In acknowledgement of their generosity, the Library Trustees named the Division in their honor.


Located in Room 300 on the south end of the Rose Main Reading Room, the Art & Architecture Collection provides scholars, researchers and students with access to one of the leading public art-research facilities in the country. A collection of published materials on the history of art that are international in breadth, its scope covers prehistory through the contemporary period. The holdings are remarkably rich for scholarship as a result of the original bequests from the rare and unique collections of the Astor and Lenox Libraries and of other generous gifts with significant strengths in the 18th- and 19th-century art movements in Europe and North America.


The collection includes over 600,000 volumes of books, periodicals and auction catalogs, primarily in Western languages. The literature of art history and the methods and materials of artistic production regarding painting, sculpture, photography, architecture and the decorative arts are core areas of the holdings. The collection also provides access to an extensive number of catalogue raisonnés and various files on artists, institutions, art events and movements that contain press releases, clippings, brochures and checklists, as well as invitations and other printed matter.


The first titles that were added to the Art & Architecture Collection were Ludwig Grüner's Fresco Decorations and Stuccoes of Churches & Palaces and Loggie di Rafaele nel Vaticano, both of which were hand-colored. Some other treasures from the collection that document art, architecture and the decorative arts include various examples of pochoir portfolios ranging from E. A. Séguy to Sonia Delaunay, rare architecture plate books, such as Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Opere and Andrea Palladio’s Les Thermes des Romains d’après l’edition de Londres faite, and posters made by American artists dating from 1893 to 1924.

Room 308 is the Wallach Study Room for Prints and Photographs. The Print Collection encompasses a specialized reference collection of over 15,000 volumes on the history of prints and printmakers, artist clipping files and a collection of nearly 200,000 original prints. Meanwhile, the Photography Collection comprises almost 500,000 photographs, including examples of almost every photographic process, from the daguerreotype to digital imagery, and both are international in scope. This room also serves as the access point to the Spencer Collection, which contains fine bindings, illustrated books and manuscripts.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs holdings are cataloged in the Library’s Classic Catalog. Items digitized from the collections can be found in The New York Public Library Digital Collections, where one can download images in the highest resolution available directly from the website.

The Art & Architecture Collection is open to the public 7 days per week; please view hours of operation and contact information for each collection.

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