Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division | The New York Public Library

About the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division

The Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division collects, preserves, and makes available for research purposes rare, unique, and primary materials that document the history and culture of people of African descent throughout the world, with a concentration on the Americas and the Caribbean.

The division’s holdings include personal papers, records of organizations and institutions, subject or thematic collections, literary and scholarly typescripts and playscripts, sheet music, broadsides, programs and playbills, ephemera, and rare books. Materials are collected in most languages, although the bulk of the holdings are in English, French, and Spanish. In addition, the division is responsible for the records of the Center.

The division’s manuscript holdings, including some in microform, cover the history, literature, politics, and culture of people of African descent in the Americas, Africa, and England, primarily in the twentieth century. Subject emphasis includes: the performing and visual arts; women in the United States; eighteenth and nineteenth century Haitian

history; African American religion; the social, cultural, and political history of Harlem; twentieth century writers from the United States and the Caribbean; education in Africa and the United States; civil rights organizations and activities; manuscripts and research files of scholars and intellectuals; and papers and records of individuals and organizations documenting radical political movements.

About the Map Division

The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division is one of the world’s premier map collections in terms of size, scope, unique holdings, diversity and intensity of use. Established in 1898, our holdings include more than 433,000 sheet maps and 20,000 books and atlases published between the 16th and 21st centuries. The collections range from the global to the local scale and support the learning and research needs of a wide variety of users.

In-Person Research

Researchers can access the collections in our splendid reading room (renovated in 2005) by browsing our open shelf reference books, our dictionary catalog or with the guidance of our staff. Most maps and atlases are stored on closed shelves and are typically brought to the reader in less than an hour. A valid library card is required. ( Apply for a card ) Laptops are welcome as our reading room is Wi-Fi enabled and equipped with ample power outlets. There are also six computer workstations with access to databases, mapping sites, and collection portals. Non-flash photography is allowed, and reproductions are made at the discretion of the staff – see the Library’s Photography & Photocopy Policy for details.

Plan Your Visit

We encourage you to plan your research visit. Please note that portions of our collection may be temporarily unavailable and requesting materials in advance will help you make the most of your visit.

  • Contact us with your research questions at
  • Please note that portions of our collection are not yet searchable though the catalog or may be located in offsite storage and e-mailing us in advance will help you make the most of your visit. Our historical printed card catalog is accessible through Hathi Trust – Dictionary Catalog of the Map Division.
  • If you have already identified the resources you would like to consult, you can request materials in advance of your visit.
  • Request for onsite materials cannot be accepted beginning 30 minutes prior to closing.

Visits, Classes, and Tours

The Map Division welcomes requests for organizational tours, lectures, and class visits and similar events. Please submit your request for your organization or class using our Request Form.

Online Research

Search our collections using NYPL’s online catalog and historical printed card catalog, consult our various online map research guides, browse our NYC Land Atlases, read our New York City Maps research guide. We also welcome the public’s help with georeferencing our antiquarian map collection using the NYPL Map Warper or in tracing NYC’s past using the Building Inspector. Find out more about map collections, classes, programs and activities through our blog posts, tweets, and Instagram pages. Or simply learn “How to Read a Map”.

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