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Menu Collection of The New York Public Library

Introduction to the Collections

The New York Public Library's 26,000-piece historical menu collection is held by the Rare Books Division. Strongest for the period 1890-1920, the collection is for the present arranged chronologically only. Further details and information about access may be obtained at the Information Desk in the General Research Division's Reading Room. Some secondary sources on menu design will be found in the Art and Architecture Collection.

A printed finding aid, an inventory of the boxes in the collection, is available at the Rare Books Division desk and the General Research Division information desk. To find specific hotel or restaurant menus and to identify menus in foreign languages please consult the Menu Collection Database.

Using the Menu Collection

Access to this special collection is granted to readers who have identified specific menus that they wish to consult.

Readers must register with the Special Collections Office (Room 316) in order to use the Menu Collection which is serviced through the Rare Books Division, Room 328, Humanities and Social Sciences Library.

Call slips must be submitted 24 hours in advance. Readers may request up to four menus per day.

Photocopying of Rare Books material is prohibited. Readers who require professional quality photographs or digital images can order reproductions through the Office of Photographic Services & Permissions.

Search the Menu Collection Database

Database Contents and Searchable Fields

The database contains 26,000 records describing individual menus. Menus are available in the Rare Book Division.

To find out more about access to the Menu Collection please read Using the Menu Collection.

DATE: given as year/month/date/
ADDITIONAL DATE INFORMATION
: e.g. UNDATED, date range

EVENT: Type, e.g. Breakfast for Admiral Dewey.

SPONSOR: The sponsoring group or organization for the meal, e.g. City of New York; the host location such as a restaurant or hotel.

PLACE: City and state, e.g. Claremont Hotel, New York, NY

OCCASION (list of the abbreviations)

Comp: Complimentary/testimonial dinner, luncheon, or breakfast

 
Patr: Patriotic holiday (July 4, Presidential birthday, Memorial Day, etc.)
Relig: Religious holiday (Christmas, Easter)
Sec: Secular holiday (Thanksgiving, New Year's Day)
Ethnic: Ethnic holiday (St. Patrick's Day)
Natl: National event (Opening of Statue of Liberty)
Rite: Rite (wedding, funeral, birthday, etc.)
Anniv: Anniversary  
Other:    

VENUE (list of the abbreviations)

For:
Hotel:
Rest:
Lunchroom, coffee shop, café
SS:
RR:
Airl:
Other
Foreign
Hotel
Restaurant

Steamship
Railroad
Airline

ORGANIZATION (list of the abbreviations)

Com:
Soc:
Gk:
Educ:
Pol:
Prof:
Patr:
Relig:
Mil:
Nav:
Gov:
Other:
Commercial
Social (club or fraternal)
Greek letter (fraternity or sorority)
Educational institution (or alumni/ae)
Political
Professional
Patriotic
Religious
Military
Naval
Governmental

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION:

Format

Broadside—single sheet, printed on one side only;
Broadsheet—single sheet, printed on both sides;
Booklet;
Folder;
Card;

Illustrated ( illus);

Color ( col);

Size (expressed in inches, to the next ¼ inch, with fractions indicated decimally, width x height, e.g. 5.5x8.)
Other notes may include the printer, material other than paper, nature of the illustrations or decorations.

NOTES: Other noteworthy characteristics may include: a language other than English; "Includes wine list"; "decorative border of fruits and flowers," or information about the cover illustration or its subject.

KEYWORDS: Other search terms to retrieve menus by personal or corporate name, the subject of cover illustrations and designs.

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank our volunteers Florence Bredhoff, Ruth Butterly, Rita Capek, Millie Delahunty, Kathe B. Dyson Shirley Glaser, Barbara Hansen, Hanako Imaizumi, Catherine Ortiz, Trudy Reitz, Jane A. Williams and others, who made this database possible by creating individual records for the items in the menu collection.

Indexes and Research Guides

The Library has several items which are useful when researching the Menu Collection, and for menu research in general. Some items relevant to the New York Public Library's Menu Collection include:

Alejandro, Reynaldo G. Classic Menu Design: From the Collection of the New York Public Library. (Glen Cove, NY: PBC International, 1988) Pub.Cat. 92-15459 Shelf 70

Williams, Sam P. Guide to the Research Collections of The New York Public Library (Chicago: American Library Association, 1975): 297. Pub Cat 76-583.

Grimes, William. "New York City Exhibit Displays the Art of Eating Out," Nation's Restaurant News 37 (February 23, 2003): 24-25. *ZAN-V1751 1974-

Ryley, Alison. "Miss Frank's Menus" American Book Collector, n.s. 7 (1986): 3-10. JFM 85-301

Turim, Gayle. "Vintage Menus" Bon Appetit, 39, no. 9 (1994): 26. M-10 826

Ryley, Alison. "The Prime of Miss Frank Buttolph: Notes Toward a Menu History of New York City," Biblion: The Bulletin of The New York Public Library 6 (1998): 56-87. *R-*HND 96-1199

Related Subjects

You may find the following NYPL research guides helpful in your research:

Culinary History: A Research Guide

How Do I Find a Book?

Using the Library's Online Catalog

To expand your scope search CATNYP using the following, related subject headings:

Breakfasts
Buffets (Cookery)
Dinners and Dining
Luncheons
Suppers
Wine Lists

Other subject headings related to cuisine and culinary history are:

Cookery
Barbecue Cookery
Dinners and Dining
Gastronomy
Restaurant Management
Restaurants Decoration
Wine and Winemaking

To find more books on menus, menu collecting, menu design, and other related items a great place to start is CATNYP, the Research Libraries Online Catalog. Begin by searching under the following subject headings:

Menus
Menus Catalogs
Menus Collectors and Collecting
Menu Design
Menus Handbooks Manuals Etc.

Selected Internet Sites

For those who wish to do research on the Internet for menu collections, the following sites are helpful:

Where to Go for Additional Information

Rare Books Division, Humanities and Social Sciences Library

General Research Division, Humanities and Social Sciences Library

More Collections

Other menu collections in the New York City Area are listed below. Please contact the institution directly.

Culinary Institute of America, Conrad N. Hilton Library

Library, Manuscript and Ephemera Collections, Museum of the City of New York

New York Historical Society

Selected Internet Sites

 

NYPL Express Information Services Live from the NYPL Photographic Services & Permissions