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About this collection

This collection contains rare, valuable, and important works held in the Thomas J. Watson Library and other curatorial department libraries at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Gifts from J. Pierpont Morgan, Samuel Putnam Avery, and other founders and early trustees of the Museum established the foundation of the Libraries' rare book collections. Generous donors provide funding for the continuing growth of this already strong collection of treatises on art and architecture, early travel books, archaeological studies, rare collection catalogs, early trade catalogs, artists’ manuals and handbooks, complete runs of seminal journals, fencing books, scrapbooks, fine bindings, and examples of fine printing.

Click here to browse all rare books in this collection.

Read more about the Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collection in these Highlights posts.



At right: the six items most recently added to the collection. Please return frequently for new additions.


Chromolithograph icon
Included in this collection is the 19th century British serial The Chromolithograph, a journal of “art, literature, decoration and the accomplishments.” It lives up to this broad self-description by providing a variety of exhibition reviews, artists' biographies, articles on artistic themes, technical essays, and "illustrated lessons." Also included are a number of plates with chromolithographic prints which illustrate various techniques and themes discussed throughout the journal. These 12 issues provide an in-depth look into what was then a novel printing technique, as well as a glimpse into the artistic, literary, and commercial milieu of 1860’s Victorian England.


Kraushaar CatalogsThe Kraushaar Gallery Exhibition Catalogs is a collection of 70 exhibition catalogs published between 1920 and 1936, when the Kraushaar Gallery was located at 680 Fifth Avenue in New York City. During this time, the gallery was being run by John F. Kraushaar (brother of gallery founder Charles W.) and his daughter Antoinette, and it primarily exhibited modern French and American painters. It became particularly interested in the American realist group “The Eight,” half of whom have catalogs in this collection (William Glackens, George Luks, Maurice Brazil Prendergast and John Sloan). Some of the other artists represented in this collection are: Gifford and Reynolds Beal, Gustave Courbet, Honoré Daumier, Henri Fantin-Latour, Alphonse Legros, Walter Pach, Guy Pène du Bois, Marjorie Phillips, Margarett Sargent, Augustus Vincent Tack, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Abraham Walkowitz.


Photo AlbumsThe Photo Albums collection of various bound and unbound photograph albums, including three volumes of black and white photographs produced upon the opening of The Cloisters, an unbound album of photographs documenting the construction of The Cloisters, an album of photographs of Fort Tryon Park and the surrounding area prior to the construction of The Cloisters, and an unbound album of black and white photographs of George Grey Barnard's Cloisters, produced around the time of its purchase by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This collection also includes two albums of photographs of Egypt and Turkey taken in 1906, an album of photographs of the Staten Island “Bay Villa” residence of Anson Phelps Stokes, and various other miscellaneous photographs collections.


Menschel LibraryThe Rare Books in The Joyce F. Menschel Photography Library, Department of Photographs collection includes over one hundred volumes of early Pictorialist exhibition catalogs (see the collection page here), checklists and announcements from the Alfred Steiglitz galleries Intimate Gallery and An American Place, in addition to several books on photography.



Onassis LibraryThe Rare Books in The Onassis Library for Hellenic and Roman Art collection consists of rare monographs, auction catalogs, museum collection catalogs and archaeological treatises on Egyptian and classical antiquities including Ancient Greek vases, paintings, sculptures, pottery and glassware published in the mid-eighteenth-century through the early nineteenth-century. Among the rare material is a 1746 folio of engravings that was the first publication of objects excavated at Herculaneum, and an 1831 treatise on the manufacture of Greek vases.



Goldwater LibraryThe sixteen titles selected for Rare Books in The Robert Goldwater Library reflect the peculiar subject matter and wide geographical breadth of the library’s collection and the curatorial department which the library serves, the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Included are treatises on architectural monuments, manuscripts, decoration, traditional society and material culture. These nineteenth- and early twentieth-century works illustrate the transition in the Western perceptions of ‘primitive’ art and archaeology from the anthropological to the ethnological. Yet while the scholarly approach might seem dated by today’s standards, these titles provide valuable evidence about sites and cultures long since altered over time.


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