The Reference Collection has always been central to the Morgan’s role as a place of research. Writing of the Reading Room’s 8,000 volumes in 1930, Meyer Schapiro remarked that “the reference library is so near completeness … that for comparative study of literature on manuscript painting, there is no European library which is as convenient.” While the collection remains renowned as a resource for medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscript studies, it has since grown to 148,000 volumes (supplemented by electronic resources) that support study of the Morgan’s collections of incunabula, early printed books and bookbindings; master drawings; literary and autograph manuscripts; autograph and printed musical scores; and ancient Near Eastern cylinder seals.
Over the years the Reference Collection has acquired several specialized private libraries through gifts and bequests. These include the libraries of E.A. Lowe (paleographical studies), Curt F. Bühler (incunabula and early printing), Gordon N. Ray (book illustration), Julia P. Wightman (rare books and bookbinding), Edith Porada (cylinder seals), and Janos Scholz (fine arts). Major donations of the last ten years include works on Pierre Matisse from the Frances and Michael Baylson Collection, fine art books from the libraries of Frank Kolodny and Eugene V. Thaw, and Sean and Mary Kelly’s James Joyce reference library.
The Reference Collection does not circulate, and may be consulted by appointment only in the Sherman Fairchild Reading Room.
CORSAIR, the Morgan's online collection catalog, is available here.
The Reference Collection’s collection development policy may be consulted here.
Peter Gammie, Head of the Reference Collection