Hundreds of black and white photographs by Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) from her Changing New York Works Progress Administration/ Federal Art Project. The Library's collection holds about 80% of the project's 302 images; this presentation includes variant and discarded images, plus other work Abbott produced as a project employee.
The Library's Changing New York archive contains more than 2,200 duplicate and variant prints representing about three-quarters of the 302 images contained in Abbott's definitive version of the project. The Library's holding also contains images that continue the project's negative numbering but fall outside its scope. These anomalous images are included here for historical and pictorial purposes. The Library's archive contains contact and enlarged prints, primarily from the 1930s, from several sources within NYPL that were united in 1989, supplemented by occasional purchases and generous gifts beginning in 1988 :
- Two hundred thirty prints acquired from the Federal Art Project in the 1930s by the Local History & Genealogy Division <http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/lhg/genea.html> for the "New York City Views File," a self-indexing file of 60,000+ photographs arranged by street location which also appears in Digital Gallery
- More than five hundred single and duplicate prints received by the Picture Collection <http://www.nypl.org/branch/central/mml/pc/index.html> from the Federal Art Project in the 1930s and arranged in self-indexing files by neighborhood and subject
- Over seventeen hundred prints, primarily duplicates, received by the Picture Collection from the files of the Federal Art Project when it disbanded in 1943
- Approximately one hundred prints donated by Ronald A. Kurtz in the late 1980s and early 1990s, primarily portfolio prints and file prints from Abbott's own archive
- Occasional prints purchased with the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Purchase Fund
Support from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1991-1992 enabled a computerized inventory of the individual prints-titles, dates, sizes, physical characteristics such as various hand-stamps, additional inscriptions, paper weight and types, print quality, and preservation condition. The images also received subject entries at this time. Information extracted from this database describes the particular prints presented in this digital collection .
Photographer Berenice Abbott proposed Changing New York, her grand project to document New York City, to the Federal Art Project (FAP) in 1935. The FAP was a Depression-era government program for unemployed artists and workers in related fields such as advertising, graphic design, illustration, photofinishing, and publishing. A changing staff of more than a dozen participated as darkroom printers, field assistants, researchers and clerks on this and other photographic efforts. Abbott's efforts resulted in a book in 1939, in advance of the World's Fair in Flushing Meadow NY, with 97 illustrations and text by Abbott's fellow WPA employee (and life companion), art critic Elizabeth McCausland (1899-1965). At the project's conclusion, the FAP distributed complete sets of Abbott's final 302 images to high schools, libraries and other public institutions in the metropolitan area, plus the State Library in Albany. Throughout the project, exhibitions of the work took place in New York and elsewhere. After decades of lapse, the founding of the National Endowment of the Arts in 1965 revived the FAP's ideals .
Abbott was born and raised in Ohio where she endured an erratic family life. In 1918, after two semesters at Ohio State University, she left to join friends associated with the Provincetown Players, in Greenwich Village. There she met Djuna Barnes, Kenneth Burke, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Little Review editors Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, and other influential modernists. From 1919-1921, while studying sculpture, Abbott supported herself as an artist's model, posing for photographers Nikolas Muray and Man Ray. She also met Marcel Duchamp, and participated in Dadaist publications.
Abbott moved to Paris in 1921, where she continued to study sculpture (and in Berlin), and to support herself by modeling. During 1923-1926, she worked as Man Ray's darkroom assistant (he had also relocated to Paris) and tried portrait photography at his suggestion. Abbott's first solo exhibition, in 1926, launched her career. In 1928 she rescued and began to promote Eugène Atget's photographic work, calling his thirty years of Parisian streetscapes and related studies "realism unadorned. "
In 1929 Abbott took a new artistic direction to tackle the scope (if not the scale) of Atget's achievement in New York City. During 1929-38, she photographed urban material culture and the built environment of New York, documenting the old before it was torn down and recording new construction. From 1934-58, she also taught photography at the New School. During 1935-39, Abbott worked as a "supervisor" for the Federal Art Project to create Changing New York (her free-lance work and New School teaching commitment made her ineligible for unemployment relief) .
From 1939-60, Abbott photographed scientific subjects, concluding with her notable illustrations for the MIT-originated Physical Sciences Study Committee's revolutionary high school physics course. In 1954, she photographed along the length of US 1; the work never found a publisher. In 1968, Abbott sold the Atget archive to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and moved permanently to her home in central Maine (bought in 1956 and restored over several decades) .
1970 saw Abbott's first major retrospective exhibition, at the Museum of Modern Art. Her first retrospective portfolio appeared in 1976, and she received the International Center of Photography's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989. She died at home in Monson, Maine in December 1991 .
Abbott, Berenice and Elizabeth McCausland. Changing New York. (1939) [reprinted 1973 as New York in the Thirties]
Levere, Douglas. New York Changing. (2004)
Museum of the City of New York "Berenice Abbott's Changing New York" (1998). <http://www.mcny.org/collections/abbott/abbott.htm>
New York Public Library. Berenice Abbott, Photographer: A Modern Vision; A Selection of Photographs and Essays. (1989)
O'Neal, Hank. Berenice Abbott, American photographer. (c1982)
Yochelson, Bonnie. Berenice Abbott: Changing New York. (c1997)
260 portrait photographs, from about 1880-1900, chiefly albumen cabinet cards and cartes de visite, of radical figures, and a variety of statesmen, authors, artists, actresses and other notable, primarily European, cultural figures. The backs of the cards are viewable.
The collection includes many of Tucker’s correspondents, yet it cannot be determined whether Tucker assembled most of the portraits primarily before the fire that destroyed his bookshop (and offices), or after. Most of the photographs date from the end of the 19th-century, and the sitters are largely European, by European photographers; Tucker could have acquired them in Paris at any time. The portrait collection came to NYPL with Tucker’s papers, the gift of his daughter, Oriole Johnson Tucker Riché, in 1971.
Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (1854-1939) published The Radical Review from 1877 to 1878, and the anarchist magazine Liberty from 1881 to 1908. The journal’s banner read “Liberty – Not the daughter but the mother of order,” signaling Tucker’s stance as a philosophical or individualist anarchist. His magazine was the first to publish George Bernard Shaw in the U.S., and to translate Pierre Joseph Proudhon. Tucker also published other works considered radical at the time, such as Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata, and Oscar Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol.
A curious contradiction perhaps was Tucker’s deep commitment to the fine points of typesetting for all his publications. For his eightieth birthday in 1934, friends reprinted his 1892 text Why I Am An Anarchist (Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Oriole Press 1934) in a limited edition of 100 copies with “Initial and embellishments . . . by Frederic W. Goudy," the modern master American book and type designer with a consciously archaic style.
Born to an old Massachusetts family, Tucker attended M.I.T. and lived in France before working for the Boston Globe. He moved to New York in 1892, and later opened the Unique Bookshop, which specialized in the works of anarchists, atheists and freethinkers. The bookstore burned beyond recovery in 1908, and Tucker and his lover Pearl Johnson, with their 6-week old infant daughter, moved first to France, before relocating permanently to Monaco.
Ishill, Joseph. Benjamin R. Tucker; a Bibliography. With an appreciation by G. Bernard Shaw. 
McElroy, Wendy. The Debates of Liberty: an Overview of Individualist Anarchism, 1881-1908. (c2003)
66 photogravure portraits of artists, writers, statesmen and other public figures, primarily American and English, in photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn's 1913 Men of Mark (from 1904 to 1913) and his 1922 More Men of Mark (from 1913 to 1922).
This digital collection offers the portraits taken by American-born photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966) primarily in England, where he moved in 1904, and published in handsome editions in England and the United States. The volumes, portraying contemporary key figures from before World War I into the postwar era, carry on a tradition (and the “Men of Mark” title) begun at least a generation earlier.
Coburn had a special affinity for seeing his work in printed form, having absorbed the credo of Alfred Stieglitz that a fine photogravure was the best expression of some images. He produced other titles of New York and London scenes; illustrated literature; and most ambitiously, collaborated with Henry James for the frontispieces of the author’s definitive collected works.
Bogardus, Ralph F. Pictures and texts: Henry James, A.L. Coburn, and new ways of seeing in literary culture (c1984) Studies in photography; no. 2.Coburn, Alvin Langdon. Alvin Langdon Coburn, photographer: an autobiography; edited by Helmut and Alison Gernsheim (1978)
Several dozen images, including book illustrations and print series, reflecting literary and cultural history and the role of women during the late 18th and early 19th centuries
The selection of images was prepared for the companion volume and website accompanying an exhibition, "Before Victoria: Extraordinary Women of the British Romantic Era," held April 8 - July 30, 2005 in the Library's D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall.
Denlinger, Elizabeth Campbell. Before Victoria: Extraordinary Women of the British Romantic Era (2005)
NYPL. "Before Victoria: Extraordinary Women of the British Romantic Era."(2005) <http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/victoria/>
Hundreds of portraits – prints and photographs – picturing more than 120 authors writing in English, primarily from the 1860s to the 1920s, and later, organized alphabetically by sitter.
This digital presentation offers the richly diverse contents of the Berg Collection's portrait file of prints and photographs. In addition to Virginia Woolf, outstanding authors included in the Berg Collection's portrait file are Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Walt Whitman (photographed by the American painter Thomas Eakins). Complementing the Berg Collection holdings are additional Walt Whitman portraits in the Rare Books Division's Oscar Lion Collection.
From the very beginning, starting with the original collections assembled by founders Henry W. and Albert A. Berg, which came to NYPL early in the 1940s, the Berg Collection has acquired author-related portraits. Most of them were simply accompaniments to manuscript and book acquisitions, which have continued to grow over the ensuing decades. In recent years, however, the Berg Collection has also acquired author portraits themselves, by gift and by purchase.
In May 1953, Oscar Lion (1876-1971) presented to NYPL a portion of his remarkable Walt Whitman collection of over 500 items, including books, periodicals, pamphlets, and portraits, and placed the remainder on deposit. By 1960, the entire collection was the property of the library, administered by the Rare Books Division. Most importantly, it includes one of the few known daguerreotypes of Whitman.
"Walt Whitman: The Oscar Lion Collection," Bulletin of The New York Public Library 58 (1954): 213-29. Also separately published in 1953.
Hundreds of black and white photographs by Dinanda H. Nooney (d. 2004) documenting almost 200 families or individuals in their Brooklyn homes in the late 1970s.
The 576 gelatin silver prints in the Nooney Brooklyn Photographs collection are organized chronologically. Each photograph is identified by neighborhood, address, and the names of the sitters. In addition to the photographs, Nooney kept index cards to which she affixed contact prints and took notes recording her observations of each family. The collection includes copies of these notes. The Library acquired the collection as a gift from the photographer in 1995.
A Manhattanite by birth, Nooney's first photographic project (1974-76) was to document the entire length of the West Side Highway, which had partially collapsed in 1973 and was demolished beginning in 1977. The Getty Center acquired Nooney's West Side archive, including negatives, prints, notes, and newspaper clippings.
Her second project, the documentation of Brooklyn, was much larger in scope. Nooney initially became interested in the borough in 1976, while working as a volunteer for George McGovern's presidential campaign. Two years later, she used the connections she had made in order to gain access to rooftops and other vantage points for a survey of the borough. She soon became more interested in the people she met and began photographing families in their homes. Many of these sitters then recommended other potentially willing subjects.
Working almost daily from January 1978 to April 1979, she crisscrossed the borough, documenting the broad ethnic and economic range of Brooklyn's residents. The portraits that emerge are striking in their attention to the details of architecture and décor, which reveal just as much about the subjects as how they choose to pose themselves for Nooney's camera. This project was the subject of an exhibition, At Home in Brooklyn, at the Long Island Historical Society in 1985.
Over 1,000 prints and photographs (mostly albumen, hand-colored albumen and gelatin silver prints) of East, Southeast and South Asia from the 18th century to the early 20th century, drawn from portfolios, photographic albums, photographically illustrated books and archival collections. Subjects include architecture, scenes of daily life, portraits of major political, religious and artistic figures of the time, "exotica," staged photographs for the tourist trade and travel postcards.
Photographic albums, photographically illustrated books, and archival photographs have been in the Library's collections and predecessor collections since the mid- to late-19th century. They therefore came to their present location in the Photography Collection of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs through various means, including purchase, gift, and transfer from other divisions. Important early albums of photographs of East Asia are still entering the Library's collections, and their contents will eventually be added to this digital presentation.
The technology of photography was introduced into Asian countries soon after its invention in various forms in Europe. The first daguerreotype camera was imported into Japan in 1848 (the patent dates to 1839). Wet and dry plate photographic processes were introduced into Japan by Dutch photographers stationed on the island of Dejima, in Nagasaki Bay, beginning in the 1850s. Felice Beato accompanied the British expeditionary army into China in 1860, and photographed the first military campaign. Beato set up his photographic studio with Charles Wirgman in Yokohama in 1863. The peripatetic Beato opened a photography studio and curio shop in Mandalay, Burma (now Myanmar) in 1885. English photographers such as John MacCosh and Captain Linnaeus Tripe were photographing in Burma from the 1850s. These two photographers were also active in British India, and the introduction of photography into India follows the same patterns as for the other Asian countries. As was the case in Japan, Indian photographers were active at a very early stage, and made major contributions to the genre.
A major Japanese photographer whose work is represented in these digital images is Kimbei (Kusakabe Kimbei), thought to have been a pupil of Beato. He assisted Beato in the hand-coloring of photographs until 1863. He set up his own large and flourishing studio in Yokohama in 1881.
The digital images in this presentation provide a rich resource for the understanding of the political, social, economic, and artistic history of Asia from the 1870s to the early 20th century. Japan was first opened to foreigners following the entry of Admiral Perry into Tokyo Bay in 1853 (a daguerreotype photographer accompanied Perry's expedition). We thus have an extensive photographic documentation of Japan, and of interaction between the Japanese and foreigners, from this period on. In the broadest sense, photography entered Asia from Europe and America as part of the process of colonialism, but soon took root in those regions with local photographers, who learned the craft from European and American photographers, along with travelers, military people, and merchants.
Advent of Photography in Japan = Shashin torai no koro (1997).
Harris, David. Of Battle and Beauty: Felice Beato's Photographs of China (1999).
Imperial China: Photographs 1850-1912, historical texts by Clark Worswick and Jonathan Spence, with a foreword by Harrison Salisbury (1978).
India: Pioneering Photographers:1850-1900 (2001).
India Through the Lens:Photography 1840-1911 (2000).
Japanische Photographie 1860-1929 (1993).
Nihon shashin zenshu = The Complete History of Japanese Photography. 12 volumes (1985-).
Singer, Noel F., Burmah: A Photographic Journey, 1855-1925 (1993).
Winkel, Margarita. Souvenirs from Japan: Japanese Photography at the Turn of the Century (1991).
- Asian and Middle Eastern Collections / Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
- General Research Division / Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
- Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs / Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
- Print Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs / Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
- General Collection Division / Science, Industry and Business Library
Hundreds of prints relating to tobacco, from an exceptional extra-illustrated copy of Fairholt's Tobacco: Its History and Lore (1859).
This digital presentation offers a glimpse of the tobacco-related visual resources held by the George Arents Collection on Tobacco; it is inspired by a 1997-1998 exhibition, Tobacco Leaves: Selections from the Collection of George Arents, Jr., organized by Virginia Bartow, Curator of the George Arents Collection.
The George Arents Collection on Tobacco, the product of over one hundred years of collecting by George Arents and a succession of curators, is a comprehensive collection on the history, literature, and lore of tobacco. Over the years, the collection has grown to include books and manuscripts in more than twenty languages. Although the collection is devoted to tobacco and includes almost every important work dealing with the subject, it also contains many historical, literary, and artistic works in which tobacco appears only incidentally, such as the "Lilliputian" prints in this presentation.
Fletcher, H. George. "Indomitable Collector: George Arents, Jr. and The New York Public Library" Biblion: The Bulletin of The New York Public Library 9, no.1/2 (Fall 2000/Spring 2001) p.87-103
NYPL. "Dry Drunk: The Culture of Tobacco in 17th- and 18th-century Europe" (c1997). Organized by Elizabeth Wyckoff, Print Collection. <http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/spe/art/print/exhibits/drydrunk/intro.htm>
Thousands of examples of the covers of popular American sheet music from 1890-1922, the first decades of a much larger collection that stretches to the present.
This digital collection presents the first decades of a comprehensive holding of popular American sheet music. Totaling more than 400,000 titles, the collection came to the Library in 1966 from the estate of George Goodwin (1900-1966), a radio station director who developed the Tune-Dex, a comprehensive 25,000 card catalog index of popular songs. (He also published several compendia of songs in the 1950s with the title "Song-Dex.") The information on the cards was nearly exhaustive, documenting composer, publisher, licensing and copyright information as well as the song's words, music and chords, all on two sides of 3x5 inch index card! Achieved in the pre-automation era, Goodwin's idea was a great success and for a time used extensively by those in the industry including NYPL.
It is mere speculation that George Goodwin acquired his voluminous sheet music collection in tandem with his development of the Tune-Dex. However, the strength of the holding that came to NYPL mirrors his wellbeing and the growth of his index. Begun in 1942, the Tune-Dex continued until ill health overcame Goodwin in 1963. The sheet music collection, arranged by year of copyright and then alphabetical within each year, runs a parallel course; suddenly and noticeably weaker in 1963, it declines steadily in number of titles until Goodwin's death in 1966.
Before the Music Division acquired the Goodwin collection, it regarded the collecting of popular sheet music as a secondary endeavor, but the Goodwin acquisition immediately made NYPL a major source for popular songs and remains so today. Wide in scope, the up-to-date collection encompasses early musicals, ethnic songs, presidential ballads, war songs, parlor songs, and even popular lead sheets. The collection's immense depth allows researchers to view a wide array of social, political, and historical moments in time in a way that only a contemporary piece of sheet music can provide.
Goodwin, George, comp. and ed. Song Dex treasury of humorous and nostalgic songs (c1956) 2 v.
_____ Song Dex treasury of hymns (c1959).
_____ Song Dex treasury of operas ... (c1957).
_____ Song Dex treasury of world famous instrumental music, a vast collection of over 600 instrumental selections containing the highlights of the most celebrated modern and classic composers, in addition to the most famous traditional American and foreign dance and folk music  2 v.
Music business (v.1- ; Dec. 1944- ); called Tune-dex digest ... v.1-2, no. 1 (Dec. 1944-Dec. 1945).