Humanities Collection


The Humanities collection at the New York State Library encompasses history, literature, languages, visual arts, performing arts, philosophy, psychology and religion.

Collection Scope

The collection contains scholarly resources in print and nonprint formats, with an emphasis on creative and critical works of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Research strengths include:

  • Literature (English and American literature; selected European literature, especially French)
  • Languages (Foreign language dictionaries)
  • History (History of New York State and other northeastern states, the United States, and Great Britain. Also histories of various groups such as African-Americans, women and Native Americans. Note: Manuscripts and Special Collections has additional historical collections.)
  • Performing Arts (History of music, motion pictures, theater and dance)
  • Philosophy (19th century European and American philosophers)
  • Psychology (Child psychology)
  • Religion (19th century American religion and religious movements, both theological and historical works)
  • Visual Arts (Western and Eastern fine art, architecture and decorative arts, especially American. Critical and historical studies, biographies, and exhibition catalogs)

Special Collections

  • Bibliographies: English and American bibliographic works, primarily 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Biographical Information: Biographies and other resources, including local histories, genealogical materials, and Federal census and State census information, especially concerning New York State persons.
  • Civil War Unit Histories: A microfiche collection that covers works published from 1861 to 1920. It includes:
    • basic reference works on the war history of each state;
    • personal histories and other narratives, most written by citizen soldiers in the home-state units that did the bulk of the fighting;
    • state adjutant general reports, including regimental and company rosters; casualty lists with place and dates of muster in/out; information on promotions and dismissals, desertions, deaths, and the missing; and names of enlisted men receiving honors from the secretary of war.
    The New York State Library holds the histories for the following states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Records for the 1,192 titles in this collection that the State Library owns can be found in our online catalog.
  • Early American Imprints, Second Series: This microfiche set (aka Shaw-Shoemaker) reproduces in full approximately 50,000 books, pamphlets and broadsides printed in the United States between 1801-1819. It includes:
    • many published reports,
    • presidential letters and messages,
    • Congressional, state and territorial resolutions, and
    • the works of European authors, which were reprinted at the time for the American public.
    Bibliographic records for these titles can also be found in our online catalog .
  • Eighteenth Century microfilm set: A collection of every notable item printed in any language in Great Britain and its colonies, and printed in English anywhere in the world from 1701 to 1800. It is based on the British Library's Eighteenth Century Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). The Library has units 1-232 completed; there are over 79,000 catalog records in our online catalog for this set. (Records are brief and can only be searched by author, title, or author/title, not subject. To browse all the catalog records for The Eighteen Century, type the term "eighteenth century" on the search screen, click on "exact" and then click on the "series" button.)
  • Library and Information Science: History of libraries, and current research in information science, technology and policy.
  • New York State Major Newspapers: Newspapers of the State, covering the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Research Audience

The Humanities collection is of special interest to researchers in American history and culture and 19th century literature. It is also useful to speech writers, journalists, authors, and others preparing exhibits and publications.

Last Updated: March 31, 2020