Scope and arrangement
The John Shaw Billings Records document Billings' seventeen years as the Director of The New York Public Library, from 1896 to 1913. They also include correspondence and other items from the office of Edwin H. Anderson, his former assistant director, who became Director upon Billings' death. The bulk of the collection consists of incoming and outgoing letters and internal memoranda, mostly concerning such library matters as the purchase and exchange of books and other materials, the hiring and termination of library employees, and finances. Most of the early correspondence has been lost. There are also architectural sketches and drawings, minutes of staff meetings, card files, and other materials.
The John Shaw Billings records are arranged in five series:
Files of incoming and outgoing letters and memos, 1895-1914; letterbooks containing copies of outgoing correspondence, 1896-1912, and the card index to those letterbooks; and stenographic notebooks of Billings's secretary, L.D. Covert, 1908-1910. Most of the correspondence files are from 1911-1914; few of those from 1895-1910 have survived. The letters pertain mostly to the various functions of The New York Public Library; they include reference questions, inter-library loan requests, and correspondence with potential donors. Readers should note that correspondence concerning orders can be found in the letterbooks in Boxes 37-41, Subseries D, as well as in Series III. For more information, see the subseries descriptions below.
Arranged chronologically. Correspondence, speeches, ephemera, and articles and other printed matter documenting the planning, construction, and formal opening of The New York Public Library's Central Building at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street. Of particular interest in this series are the letters from May through August 1897 concerning the competition in which the architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings was chosen to design The Library (folders 34/5 - 34/7), and Billings's 1897 preliminary pencil sketch of The Library's floor plan, which eventually served as the model for the architects (folder 34/21). Box 46 contains notebooks and diaries kept by Franklin J. Ward and Peres B. Polhemus who worked for Carrère & Hastings on the construction of the Central Building.
Arranged chronologically, and alphabetically within groupings of years. Most of this series consists of correspondence, lists, and other items relating to the purchase and donation of books, serials, and other materials for The Library. Coverage is fragmentary; there are no orders files for 1905 through 1911, and only portions of the alphabetical files from other years. For 1896-1904 coverage includes P - S only, for 1912 it has A and L only, and 1911 has only portions of I - N. The series includes correspondence with various manufacturing firms, 1911-1915, concerning the acquisition of their trade catalogs for NYPL.
Arranged by format. Series IV. contains two folders of minutes of staff meetings, May 1897 - January 1913, chaired by John Shaw Billings; six envelopes of visitors' calling cards from that time period, rough-sorted alphabetically; Billings's office card file of names and addresses; and a volume on Sales of Duplicates, 1903-1908.
Contains NYPL Assistant Director Edwin H. Anderson's files as the Library's representative to the Child Welfare Exhibit of 1911.