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Natural History

Using the Catalogs

General instructions for locating materials are given in Research Guide No. 1, "How Do I Find A Book"; The following information is specific to the topic at hand.

If the open shelf materials from the Main Reading Room collections listed in this guide do not provide enough information, you may find additional sources by consulting the catalogs in the Public Catalog Room.

Typical natural history subject headings (many with subdivisions) that may be searched directly in CATNYP are:

Amphibians Fishes Mammal
Animal Flowers Mammals
Animals Grasses Moths
Bird Herbs Reptiles
Birds Insect Roses
Botany Insects Trees
Butterflies Invertebrates Zoology
Fish Lepidoptera

The four-volume set of Library of Congress Subject Headings, found near the CATNYP terminals, can be consulted for further details.

The subject entries in the Dictionary Catalog often vary from those in CATNYP; consult a librarian if problems are encountered.

General Works

Illustrated encyclopedias, both general and scientific, are obvious and often excellent sources of information about animals and plants. These can often supply all information needed, or serve as a starting point for further research.

Collier's encyclopedia. 24 vols. (London: New York: Collier, c1989) *R-*AK 89-1668.

Encyclopaedia Britannica. 11th ed. 29 vols. (New York: EB, 1911). *R-*AL. Leading zoologists and botanists of the period prepared exhaustive, lavishly illustrated articles for the classic scholarly edition of EB. It remains a valuable tool for the serious researcher.

McGraw-Hill encyclopedia of science and technology. 6th ed. 20 vols, index. (New York: McGraw-Hill, c1987). *R-OAE 88-4521.

World Book encyclopedia. 22 vols. (Chicago: World Book, c1987). *R-*AK

Classic Works

Darwin, Charles. The origin of species...and The descent of man... (New York: Modern Library,[1992?]). Bibliography. *R-QAT 93-1649.

Topsell, Edward. The history of four-footed beasts and serpents and insects; with a new introduction by Willy Ley. 3 vols. (New York: Da Capo, 1967). Illus. *R-QGD. A facsimile edition of the 1658 classic first English translation of the work of Konrad Gesner, a founder of modern zoology, featuring the original lively if not particularly accurate woodcut illustrations.

Illustrations And Indexes

The Research Libraries' enormous holdings of pre-1900 lavishly illustrated zoologies and botanies are shelved in the Central and Annex stacks, the Rare Books Division, and other special collections. Because these primary sources are often extremely fragile, as well as rare and valuable, it is suggested that facsimile editions and sources containing reproductions and modern illustrations be consulted first.

Kastner, Joseph, and Miriam T. Gross. The bird illustrated, 1550-1900: from the collections of the New York Public Library. (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1988). 100 illus., many colored. Annotated bibliography. *R-QM 88-4071. Additional copies: *HND (NYPL) 88-1345; JFM 88-61.

Kastner, Joseph, and Miriam T. Gross. The animal illustrated, 1550-1900: from the collections of the New York Public Library. (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991). 100 illustrations, many colored. Bibliography. *R-QGD 91-7487. Additional copy: *HND (NYPL) 91-7486.

Munz, Lucille T., and Nedra G. Slauson. Index to illustrations of living things outside North America: where to find pictures of flora and fauna. (Hamden, Conn.: Archon, 1981). Bibliography. *RS-PQ 82-1893. Indexes photographs, paintings and sketches of more than 9,000 species of animals and plants found all over the world. A companion work to Thompson (below).

Staph, O. Index londinensis to illustrations of flowering plants, ferns and fern allies... 6 vols. Supplement... 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929-31; 1941). *RS-QEB+. Prepared under the auspices of the Royal Horticultural Society, this is a scholarly (listings only by scientific names of plants) index to illustrations in the classic botanies, from the 18th century through 1936. Related titles that update this primary source are Index kewensis... 1901- QEK+ and Harvard University. Gray Herbarium Index. 1968, 1978. Pub. Cat. 88-6738.

Thompson, John W. Index to illustrations of the natural world: where to find pictures of the living things of North America. Ed. by Nedra G. Slauson. Syracuse: Gaylord, 1977. *RS-PQ 79-4443.

Animals (Zoology)

General Works
Reptiles And Amphibians

General Works

Grzimek, Bernhard, ed. Grzimek's animal life encyclopedia. 13 vols. (New York: Van Nostrand, 1972-75). Illus.; bibliography. *R-QG 80-2615. An invaluable resource for information on the entire animal kingdom, including microorganisms. Lavishly illustrated with photographs. Includes multi-language dictionary lists of animal names in English, German, French, Latin.

Larousse encyclopedia of animal life. (New York: McGraw-Hill, c1967). Illus. with photographs. *R-QGD.

Stanek, V.J. Pictorial encyclopedia of the animal kingdom. (New York: Crown, c1962). Illus. with photographs. *R-QGF.


The encyclopedia of mammals. Ed. by David Macdonald. (New York: Facts on File, 1984). Col. illus. *R-QN 85-1008.

Grzimek, Bernhard. Grzimek's encyclopedia of mammals. 5 vols. (New York: McGraw Hill, c1990). Illus. *R-QN 90-700. Expands and updates in different format the four mammal volumes of Grzimek's Encyclopedia of animal life.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's mammals of the world. 5th ed. 2 vols. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1991). Illus.; bibliography. *R-QN 91-10050.


The complete dog book: the photographs, history, and official standard of every breed admitted to AKC registration, and the selection, training, breeding, care, and feeding of pure-bred dogs. 18th ed. (New York: Howell Hse., 1985). Illus. *R-MYX 93-1048. The official publication of the American Kennel Club.

The Kennel Club's illustrated breed standards. Foreword by His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent. (London: Bodley Head, 1989). Illus.; bibliography. *R-MYX 92-18712.


Kidd, Jane. An illustrated international encyclopedia of horse breeds and breeding. (New York: Crescent Bks., c1989). Illus. *R-MXF 90-2766.


The encyclopedia of birds. Ed. by Christopher M. Perrins and Alex L.A. Middleton. (New York: Facts on File, 1985). Illus.; bibliography. *R-QMB 93-8484.

Palmer, Ralph S. Handbook of North American birds. Vols. 1-5. (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1962- ) Illus. *RR-QMO (Palmer, R...). An enormous work in progress. Sponsors include the American Ornithologists' Union, Smithsonian Institution, and New York State Museum and Science Service. Completed to date are: v. 1: Loons through flamingos. v. 2-3: Waterfowl. v. 4-5: Diurnal raptors (day-flying birds of prey).

Reptiles And Amphibians

Conant, Roger, and Joseph T. Collins. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians: eastern and central North America. 3rd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991). Illus. (Peterson field guide series #12). *R-QLP 93-11128.


Borror, Donald J., and Richard E. White. A field guide to the insects: America north of Mexico. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970). Illus.; bibliography. (Peterson field guide series #19) *R-QIM.

Metcalf, Robert L. Destructive and useful insects: their habits and control. 5th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, c1993). Illus. *R-QIM 93-13430.


Innes, William T. Exotic aquarium fishes; a work of general references. 19th ed. Ed. by George S. Myers, Helen Simkatis. (Maywood, N.J.: Metaframe Corp., c1966). Illus. *R-VRP 76-6384.

Sterba, Gunther, and Dick Mills. The aquarium encyclopedia. Trans. by Susan Simpson. (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1983). Illus. with b/w & col. photographs, line drawings. *R-VRP 83-2197.

Plants (Botany)

Botanical Classification
Wild Flowers
Trees (Exclusive Of Forestry)
Horticulture (Cultivated Plants, Including House Plants)
Herbs and Herbals

Botanical Classification

Clason, W. E. Elsevier's Dictionary of wild and cultivated plants in Latin, English, French, Spanish, Dutch and German. (Amsterdam, New York: Elsevier, c1989). *R-QEC 90-10087.

Cronquist, Arthur. An integrated system of classification of flowering plants. (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, [1992], c1981). Illus.; bibliography. *R-QEC 93-9155.

Gleason, Henry A., and Arthur Cronquist. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. (Bronx, N.Y.: N.Y. Botanical Garden, c1991). *R-QFT 92-3868.

Hickey, Michael, and Clive King. 100 families of flowering plants. 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988). Illus.; bibliography. *R-QEC 88-3126.

Wild Flowers

Rickett, Harold W., and others. Wild flowers of the United States. 6 vols. in 14 pts. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966-73). Illus. with col. Photographs. *RR-QFT (Rickett...) Encyclopedic survey published by the New York Botanical Garden. Arranged geographically by regions -- Northeastern, Northwestern, Southeastern, Southwestern, Central mountains and plains states, and Texas.

Trees (Exclusive Of Forestry)

Johnson, Hugh. The international book of trees: a guide and a tribute to the trees of our forests and gardens. (London: Mitchell Beazley, 1973). Illus. *R-VQS 74-4355.

Preston, Richard J. North American trees: exclusive of Mexico and tropical Florida. 4th ed. (Ames: Iowa St. Univ. Press, 1989). Illus. *R-VQV 89-23435.

Horticulture (Cultivated Plants, Including House Plants)

It should be kept in mind that many plants included in horticultural manuals grow wild in their native habitats. This applies particularly to tropical houseplants and trees described in Exotica and Tropica.

The American Horticultural Society encyclopedia of gardening. Editor-in-Chief, Christopher Brickell. (London, New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1993). Illus. *R-VQC 93-12504.

The American Horticultural Society encyclopedia of garden plants. Editor-in-Chief, Christopher Brickell. (New York: Macmillan, 1989). illus. *R-VQG 93-9898.

Bailey, Liberty Hyde. Hortus third: a concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada... Rev. and expanded by the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium [at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.]. (New York: Macmillan, c1976). Illus. with line drawings. *R-VQC 78-269. An essential work for serious research in this area.

Everett, Thomas H. The New York Botanical Garden illustrated encyclopedia of horticulture. 10 vols. (New York: Garland, c1980-82). Illus., some colored. *R-VQC 81-481. Exhaustive yet basic how-to book of gardening and house plants.

Graf, Alfred B. Exotica 3, pictorial cyclopedia of exotic plants: guide to care of plants indoors. 2 vols. (Rutherford, N.J.: Roehrs, 1963). Illus. with photographs, many colored. *R-VQ.

Graf, Alfred B. Tropica: color cyclopedia of exotic plants and trees from the tropics and subtropics: for warm-region horticulture, in cool climate the sheltered indoors. (East Rutherford, N.J.: Roehrs, 1978). Illus. with photographs. *R-VQF 79-4026. Graf's exhaustive classics, although not easy to use, are essential pictorial sources for information on house and conservatory plants.

Herbs and Herbals

Grigson, Geoffrey. The Englishman's flora: illustrated with woodcuts from sixteenth century herbals. (London: Phoenix House, 1987, c1955). Illus.; bibliography. *R-QEG 93-7897. A classic of botanical folklore and medical botany.

Grieve, Maud. A modern herbal: the medicinal, culinary, cosmetic and economic properties, cultivation and folk-lore of herbs, grasses, fungi, shrubs, and trees with all their modern scientific uses. (New York: Penguin, 1988 [1931]). lllus. *R-QEN 93-4238.

Rodale's illustrated encyclopedia of herbs. ed. by Claire Kowalchick and William H. Hylton. (Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale, Press, c1987). *R-VQI 93-9899.

Simon, James E., and others. Herbs: an indexed bibliography, 1971-1980: the scientific literature on selected herbs, and aromatic and medicinal plants in the temperate zone. (Hamden, Conn: Archon, 1984). *RS-QEN 87-2456.

Other Collections

The best source of natural history books for home use is the circulating collection at the Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL). A selection of titles on popular subjects such as pet care and gardening is available at the Mid-Manhattan Library (5th Ave. & 40th St.), and natural history books will be found among the collections of all the libraries of the Branch Library System of the New York Public Library.

Advanced research facilities outside of The New York Public Library in New York City are the libraries of:

The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10456-5126
(718) 220-8724

The American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West & 79th St.
New York, NY 10024-5192
(212) 769-5400

Both libraries are open to the public, although there are admission charges to the Garden and the Museum. Please call in advance for information about hours of service.

Selected Internet Sites

There is an almost unlimited amount of textual and pictorial natural history information, on all levels, from casual browsing to advanced scholarly research on the Internet.

  • A Modern Herbal A Modern Herbal is an electronic version of Mrs. Maud Grieve's 1931 edition of A Modern Herbal. It describes over 800 varieties of medicinal, culinary, and cosmetic herbs.

  • National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII)
    Provides information on and access to biological databases, information products, directories, and guides maintained by Federal, state, and local government agencies, and private organizations.

  • National Wildlife Refuge System
    Includes addresses of wildlife refuges, exhibits, festivals, tours, and current and pending legislation.

  • Special Libraries Association Natural History Caucus
    This web site has hundreds of links to natural history museums and libraries, electronic journals and newsletters, bibliographies, and programs.

  • United States Fish & Wildlife Service: Fish and Wildlife Reference Service (FWRS)
    FWRS receives, indexes, stores, and distributes copies of reports produced by state, and other, fish and wildlife agencies. Over 25,000 documents, dating back to 1966 can be accessed through this web site.

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