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The engineering collection grew from the holdings of the Astor Library, which focused on practical knowledge and included a significant number of useful works such as trade catalogs and business journals not collected by academic institutions. After the creation of The New York Public Library in 1895, the Astor holding provided the core for continuing contemporary acquisitions of new titles in each of the major divisions of the engineering discipline including civil engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. Images included in the digital library collection reflect the unique nature of much of these materials.
A major gift to NYPL was the collection of William Barclay Parsons who served on the Board of the Library from 1911 until his death in 1932. General Parsons was also the chief engineer of the New York City subway system and a great many volumes in the collection deal with civil engineering projects and transportation engineering, dating from the 15th to the 20th century. In addition, the Parsons collection contains a significant number of volumes relating to military engineering projects during World War 1 when General Parsons served as a senior army engineer. In 1995, NYPL acquired the rare book collection of the Engineering Societies library, which supplements the Parsons gift.
Unlike academic institutions whose libraries' collections are curriculum-driven, NYPL operates as a major research center for the public, assembling and preserving such ordinary and practical resources as trade catalogs and journals, professional conference proceedings, blueprints, government documents, and numerous other items relating to engineering in the broadest sense.
Significant to the value of the collection is its comprehensiveness and global nature. Engineering titles from every corner of the world continue to be collected, including engineering related to specific world events such as war and advances in technology.
Chrimes, Mike. Civil Engineering. (1992)
Cressy, Edward. A Hundred Years of Mechanical Engineering. (1937)
Greeves, Ivan S. London Docks. (1980)
Herkimer, Herbert. Engineers' Illustrated Thesaurus. (1952)
Hubert, Paur, ed. Dictionnaire biographique des inventeurs, ingenieurs & constructeurs... (1904)
Parsons, William Barclay. Engineers and Engineering in the Renaissance. (1939)
Sellers, George Esco. Early Engineering Reminiscences, 1815-40. (1965)
Smiles, Samuel. Lives of the Engineers. (1862-68)
Stapleton, Darwin H. The History of Civil Engineering Since 1600: An Annotated Bibliography. (1986)
Watson, Sara Ruth. Famous Engineers. (1950)