Scope and arrangement
The records of the Lenox Library span the years 1866-1915, with the bulk dating from 1870-1895. They document the founding and operation of the Library, including rare book purchases from Europe and America, reader's statistics, and general library administration. The records consist of handwritten, typed and printed documents, loose and in volumes.
A small number of items date from after the 1895 consolidation of the Lenox Library with the Astor Library and Tilden Trust to form The New York Public Library. After consolidation, NYPL Director John Shaw Billings established his office in the Astor Library building. The Lenox Library was administered, by Wilberforce Eames, as a self-contained research branch of the NYPL up to the move into the new Central Building in 1911. At that time part of the Lenox collection was kept intact to form the American History Division with Eames as its first chief.
The Lenox Library records are arranged in six series:
- 1870-18952 linear feet
The Lenox Library Board of Trustees consisted of nine members including a President, Secretary, and Treasurer. The first board meeting was on January 28, 1870 with James Lenox as its President and Treasurer and Aaron B. Belknap as Secretary. In addition to directing this policy making body as its President, James Lenox oversaw much of the Library's bibliographic selections until his death in 1880 when he was succeeded by his nephew, Robert Lenox Kennedy. The last President of the Library was John Stewart Kennedy who served from 1887-1895.
The material in this series spans the years 1870-1895. It documents the founding of the library, the design and construction of the Library building, and general library history. The records consist of Annual Reports, Architectural Records, Records of Donors, 1870-72. The set of printed annual reports is complete, covering the period to consolidation. The set of draft reports, however, is not complete. Correspondents include Richard Morris Hunt (1828-1895).
- 1870-18801.5 linear feet
With the incorporation of the Lenox Library in 1870 James Lenox (1800-1880) became the first President of the Board of Trustees. In addition to giving the endowment, land, and collections for the library, he selected the architect and supervised the initial plans for the library building. Lenox was not simply a wealthy collector and library patron, but a capable and discerning bibliographer and scholar in his own right. In the early years of the library he remained the chief bibliographer, corresponding with booksellers such as Henry Stevens, B. Quaritch and E.G. Allen, making most of the library's acquisitions decisions himself. With the arrival of George Moore as Superintendent in 1872, these duties gradually shifted to Moore.
After the death of Lenox in 1880, his nephew, Robert Lenox Kennedy (1822-1887) was elected President. At this time all bibliographic duties became Supt. Moore's responsibility, leaving Kennedy to guide the Board's policy decisions for the Library. R.L. Kennedy died in 1887 during a return voyage from Europe and was succeeded as President by John Stewart Kennedy (1830-1909), who continued in this office until the formation of the New York Public Library in 1895. Kennedy then became one of the original Trustees of the NYPL.
The office of the president contains only records from James Lenox's term. The annotated booksellers catalogs, in addition to their bibliographical value, contain information relating to the provenance of some of the library's holdings.
- 1870-1895.5 linear feet
The Secretary of the Lenox Library was responsible for keeping the Minutes of the Board of Trustees and for general correspondence. Aaron B. Belknap, the first Secretary of the Lenox Library served from 1870-1876, when he became Treasurer. George H. Moore, Superintendent of the Library in 1872, succeeded Belknap and held both offices until his death in 1892. Alexander Maitland was the last Secretary, serving from 1892 until consolidation in 1895, when he became a Trustee of the New York Public Library.
The bulk of this collection fall into the years 1893-1895. This is due to the fact that G. H. Moore was both Superintendent and Secretary from 1876-1892 and consequently most of his Secretarial records are among the Superintendent's. The collection has been arranged by incumbent.
- 1870-18962.5 linear feet
James Lenox served as the first treasurer of the Lenox Library 1870-1876. He was succeeded by Aaron B. Belknap, who had been Secretary to the Board prior to his appointment as Treasurer. Belknap in turn was succeeded in 1880 by Alexander Maitland, who remained Treasurer until the NYPL consolidation in 1895. For the last few years (1893-1895) of his term as Treasurer he was also Secretary to the Board, and he become one of the NYPL Trustees.
This series spans the years 1870-1896, with the bulk of the material falling into Maitland's term, 1880-1895. It consists of manuscript statements of accounts, financial ledgers, vouchers, receipts, cancelled checks, bank books and memoranda. The collection has been arranged by incumbent.
- 1866-18968 linear feet
The Superintendent of the Lenox Library was responsible for the day to day operations of the Library. For the first two years of its independent existence the Lenox Library did not have a Superintendent. In 1872 James Lenox offered his friend George H. Moore (1823-1892) the position and a place on the Board of Trustees. In addition to being a librarian, Moore was known for his historical and bibliographic work on the American Colonial period.
Moore's duties at the Lenox included examining and purchasing books, daily operations, staff administration, and overseeing maintenance of the Library building. For much of his term as Superintendent, Moore also served as Secretary to the Board of Trustees.
Upon Moore's death his duties were divided among three people: Alexander Maitland, who became Secretary, assumed that office's general functions; I. Ferris Lockwood, who became Superintendent, assumed responsibility for the Library's physical plant and certain related operational expenses; and Wilberforce Eames, who became Librarian. After consolidation in 1895, Lockwood became the first Business Superintendent of NYPL.
Series V has been arranged in two subseries: A. George H. Moore; B. I. Ferris Lockwood. Records include correspondence, handlists, memoranda, minutes, reports, statistics, attendance records, financial accounts, invoices and receipts and a check book. This material spans the years 1866-1895, with the bulk dating from Moore's term of 1872-1892. Moore's files include correspondence, financial papers, records on Lenox Library holdings and readers and a "Daily Calendar" containing reader use and cataloging statistics as well as personal and professional appointments, notes and memos. Moore's correspondence with James Lenox predates his position with the Lenox Library. Lenox was an old friend and Moore advised him regarding the purchase of Americana. Moore also corresponded with Henry Stevens, the antiquarian bookseller, and his brother, B. F. Stevens.
I. Ferris Lockwood's records include correspondence, reports and financial records. Of particular interest is Lockwood's correspondence with Richard M. Hunt concerning alterations to the Lenox Library building.
- 1879-191521 linear feet
After James Lenox, the first Librarian of the Lenox Library was S. Austin Alibone, who held that position from 1879-1888. From 1888 until his death in 1892, Superintendent G. H. Moore was also the defacto librarian, overseeing both administration and acquisitions. Wilberforce Eames, originally hired as an assistant by Moore in 1885, was named assistant Librarian in 1892 and Librarian in 1893.
Allibone's duties were largely bibliographical; he worked on four of the seven volumes of the of the Contributions to a Catalogue of the Lenox Library. Eames' responsibilities, however, were more varied and ranging -- assuming both Allibone's bibliographical research and Moore's administrative duties. Eames examined and selected new material, supervised the Lenox staff, and coordinated cataloging and reference services.
In 1895, after the consolidation that formed the New York Public Library, Eames assumed responsibility for the administration of the Lenox building, reporting directly to NYPL Director John Shaw Billings. The title and position of Librarian of the Lenox Library persisted 16 years after the formation of the NYPL, up until the holdings of the Lenox Library were fully integrated with those from the Astor Library. This occurred in 1911, with the opening of the 42nd Street building; in that year Eames became first Chief of the American History Division, which housed the rare book, manuscripts, and map collections.
The material in this series spans the years 1879 to 1915 with the bulk of it falling into the period of Eames' term as Librarian, 1893-1915. It consists of correspondence, letterbooks, monthly reports, manuscript and printed catalogues, address books, memos and scrapbooks. The bulk of this collection has been arranged by incumbent. Also included is a subgroup of General Library Records.
Of Allibone's records (Subseries A) little has survived. Eames' records have been arranged into seven subseries: B. Correspondence, C. Letterbooks, D. Reports, E. Lenox Library Holdings, F. Lenox Library Staff and Building, G. Scrapbooks and H. Catalogs. Eames' correspondence, arranged chronologically, has been divided into internal and external correspondence, reflecting its original order. Correspondents include J.S. Billings, and J.S. Kennedy. Within the subseries Lenox Library Holdings is material relating to the purchase of the libraries of George Bancroft, Charles Kalbfleisch and the Stuart collection of paintings and art works. This subseries also contains a bibliography of Lenox holdings on Venezuela and British Guyana, 1500-1799; along with correspondence relating to their border dispute, ca. 1903-1905.