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About this collection

Manuscripts and archival materials from the collections of the Thomas J. Watson Library and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives. See below for brief descriptions of various sub-collections.


Click here to browse all manuscripts. Read more about the Manuscripts collection in these In Circulation posts.



At right: the six items most recently added to the collection. Please return frequently for new additions.




The Samuel Putnam Avery Papers consist of several collections, described below. Born in New York City, Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) was an art dealer, rare book and print collector, and wood engraver. He was a founder and lifelong trustee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Avery’s work as an art dealer included the commissioning and collecting of American paintings, the sale of engravings, and the management of an art gallery that imported modern European art. In 1867, Avery moved to Paris to assist with the Universal Exhibition and was thus put into contact with various French and German artists, including Ludwig Knaus, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Jules Breton, Jean-Léon Gérôme, and Ernest Meissonier. In the 1870s, Avery took annual trips to Europe during which time he commissioned art for clients such as William Henry Vanderbilt, James Jerome Hill, William Wilson Corcoran, and Edwin Denison Morgan. Avery was a keen collector of rare books, fine bindings, and nineteenth-century prints. He was seminal in the establishment of a separate print room at the New York Public Library in 1900. Avery also founded the Avery Architectural Library at Columbia University in 1890.

  • Autographs and sketches from artist friends to Samuel P. Avery, 1874-1880, is a memorial album which includes illustrated autograph letters, sketches, receipts, and calling cards sent to Avery from prominent nineteenth-century painters, printmakers, and art historians such as William Adolphe Bouguereau, Jules Breton, George Cruikshank, Jean-Jacques Henner, William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais. The album is bound by Stikeman, in full blue goatskin, with gold-tooled lines on the covers and spine.
  • Autograph letters. American, is a collection of autograph letters sent to Avery from American artists, including James McNeill Whistler, John Trumbull, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Frederic Edwin Church, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Lockwood de Forest, Eastman Johnson, John La Farge, Asher B. Durand, and Charles Willson Peale.
  • Autograph letters. European is a collection of autograph letters sent to Avery from European artists, including Camille Pissarro, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Ruskin, Henri Rousseau, John Everett Millais, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Frederic Leighton, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, James Tissot, John Tenniel, Jules Bastien-Lepage, and Honoré Daumier.
  • Autograph letters in memory of S.P. Avery is a memorial album which includes portraits and short biographical sketches of Avery, as well as 104 mounted condolence letters written to his family in 1904.
  • S.P. Avery, engraver on wood is a scrapbook which includes sixty-one print proofs and commercial wood engravings by Avery, as well as business cards, book and magazine illustrations, product labels, and advertisements. The engravings are mounted on forty-eight leaves of colored paper and the scrapbook is bound in full red straight-grain morocco tooled in blind and gold.
  • Samuel P. Avery Papers, ca. 1850-1905, is a collection of papers which includes Avery’s diary documenting his European travels from 1871-1882; correspondence, receipts of payments, autographs, and sketches sent to Avery from American and European artists such as William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Henri Fantin-Latour, Edouard Detaille, Henri Lefort, William James Linton, William Henry Vanderbilt, Jehan Georges Vibert, and James McNeill Whistler; catalogs and notes of Avery's works and art collections; a scrapbook of samples of his work; copies of children's books containing his illustrations and printed proof sheets of etchings designed by Avery; editorials and resolutions written in memory of Avery in 1905; and letters written to Avery's wife upon his death.



The Spencer Bickerton collection consists of 138 autograph letters from a variety of artists and others, and 38 bills, tickets, receipts, and other items. Much of the material concerns 19th century British engravers, authors, and the Royal Academy. Correspondents include John Archer, Benjamin Robert Haydon, David Octavius Hill, David Roberts, and Thomas Webster, among others. The collection also includes: autograph receipts from various British artists, authors, engravers, and collectors to the firm Cadell & Davies, Thomas Barrett, and other engravers, restorers, and framemakers, 1783-1847; and eight admission cards to Royal Academy of London lectures and other events, 1812-1864. This collection was assembled by Spencer Bickerton, a collector, donor, and patron of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and donated to the Museum in 1933.



Biographical letters from distinguished painters represented in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and others is an unparalleled collection of over 100 autograph and typed letters dating from 1896 through 1909, addressed to painter, curator and museum administrator George Henry Story (1835-1922). Via a liaison, Mr. Story (Curator of Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1889-1906 and Curator Emeritus of Paintings from 1906 until his death) corresponded with living artists whose work had been acquired by the Museum asking them to supply a brief biography. Read more about these letters in this Highlights post.



The Mary Elizabeth Brown Papers, ca. 1885-ca. 1909 consist of Mrs. Brown’s correspondence with experts and curators throughout the world concerning musical instruments. Mary Elizabeth Brown (Mrs. John Crosby Brown) was a collector of musical instruments from all over the world. According to the introduction in The Catalogue of The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments of All Nations, it was Mrs. Brown’s intention to bring together specimens of all the representative musical instruments known to have been used by man. Her collection of nearly 300 instruments was donated to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1889 with the stipulation that during her lifetime she would have charge of the arrangement of the collection and be free to make any additions or changes she might see fit. During the ensuing years, the number of objects increased enormously, numbering 3,390 by 1904 when the catalog of the collection was compiled. The correspondence and published materials that were part of Mrs. Brown’s estate were bequeathed to The Metropolitan Museum of Art by a Miss Morris. Mrs. Brown corresponded with experts, with a view toward purchasing additional items, as well as to elicit information about the various kinds of instruments she collected. The Mary Elizabeth Brown Papers includes letters addressed directly to Mrs. Brown from individuals such as Godfrey Kopp, a dealer in Rome, offering for sale a collection of utensils used in the manufacture of Stradivarius violins, and Alice D. Le Plongeon, an authority on Mayan musical instruments, providing descriptions both of the instruments and of indigenous performance practices. The following are examples of other significant correspondence included in this collection: F. Dal Fabbro, curator of the Civic Museum of Verona, to Luigi Palma di Cesnola, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, providing a list of all musical instruments owned by the municipality of Verona which are offered for sale; and Robert Ormsby Sweeny, President of the Minnesota State Fish Commission, to Daniel Rogers Noyes, a businessman and civic leader in St. Paul, Minnesota, providing an illustrated dissertation on various native American musical instruments. In addition to correspondence, there is a handwritten inventory of musical instruments in the possession of Marquis Alessandro dalle Valle di Pomaro, a list of professional articles formerly belonging to Stradivarius and sold by his son (these may be the items referred to in Kopp's correspondence), and a list of the musical instruments owned by the Smithsonian Institution.



The Collection of early nineteenth-century French documents, 1813-1841 is comprised chiefly of legal documents relating to the sale of residences in the Département de la Seine-et-Marne, France during the first half of the nineteenth century. Also included are an inventory with estimated values of furniture and various movable objects; four letters, dated September and October 1836, from a notary, A. Palyart, at Héricy, to one Monsieur Barre in Paris; and various notes and documents from the 1830s.





The Charles Warren Cram Papers include 130 items, primarily letters from Paris-based artists as well as receipts and visiting cards. Charles Warren Cram was an American living in Paris in the 1880s; he appears to have acted as an art dealer. The letters usually concern the availability of paintings and the price at which they are offered, or suggest that Cram visit the studio on such and such a date. Among Cram’s better-known correspondents are Ernest Meissonier, Carolus-Duran, Bouguereau, and Jules Breton. Cram commissioned the fashionable portraitist Giovanni Boldini to paint a portrait of his wife, Ella Brooks Carter Cram, which is in the Museum’s collection (59.78). Cram died in Paris in June 1891. Read more about the Charles Warren Cram Papers in this Highlights post.



Eda Lord Dixon (1876-1926) was a leading figure in the American Arts and Crafts Movement. She produced jewelry and metalwork throughout her life, often in collaboration with her husband Laurence Dixon (1870-1953). These sketchbooks, ledgers, and photo albums, which descended in the Dixon family, document her work throughout her career, including her studies and work in Chicago, her studies in London, and her years in California.  



D. [Daniel] Cady Eaton (1837-1912) – not to be confused with his slightly younger cousin Daniel Cady Eaton, a botanist specializing in ferns – was professor of art history at Yale from 1869 to 1876, and again from 1902 to 1909, when he was made emeritus. He was the nephew of the feminist pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton, son of her older sister Harriet. After serving in the Civil War and briefly practicing law, he traveled to Berlin and Paris to study art.


He published a Hand-Book of Greek and Roman Sculpture (“principally from the Bausteine of Dr. Carl Friederichs”) in 1884, and A Handbook of Modern French Painting in 1909; his Handbook of Modern French Sculpture was published posthumously by his wife, Alice Young Eaton. (Watson Library owns copies of all three, and they are available online through Google Books.) In 1911 Eaton donated a collection of books, ten thousand lantern slides, and over six hundred copies of the Museum’s bookplate to the Museum. The manuscript collection, entitled Daniel Cady Eaton : Lectures, 1896, consists of typescript copies of sixteen slide lectures on Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek, and Medieval art. There is no indication of the circumstances under which these lectures were given, although “From Cairo to Beni-Hassan” was published (with some variation) in the Journal of the American Geographical Society of New York in 1898.




The Frank Edwin Elwell Papers are comprised of two sets of documents assembled by Elwell and described below. Frank Edwin Elwell (1858-1922) was an American sculptor whose work was exhibited at the Columbian Exposition (1893) and the Pan American Exposition (1901). He was the adopted son of author Louisa May Alcott, with whom he first studied sculpture. Elwell was Curator of Ancient and Modern Statuary at the Metropolitan Museum of Art between 1903 and 1905.

American sculptors' letters, 1892-1904, is a set of letters from a variety of American sculptors. The collection includes letters from sculptors such as Chauncey B. Ives, John Talbott Donoghue, Augustus St. Gaudens, and Lorado Taft, as well as some lists of sculptors' work and autobiographical notes.

Letters from sculptors, from the correspondence files of the Curator of Ancient & Modern Statuary is another set of letters from thirty-four American artists, chiefly sculptors. Artists include Edwin Blashfield, Gutzon Borglum, Charles Henry Caffin, Daniel Chester French, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and John Quincy Adams Ward. Collection also contains: four miscellaneous letters, including one from William L. Andrews, Honorary Librarian of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and two from William Clifford, Librarian of the Museum between 1905 and 1941; a facsimile of a passport for Pierre François Jean Baptiste Leblanc to travel to England (issued June 14, 1813); an engraved portrait of Cyrus Durand by his brother, Asher B. Durand, accompanied by a letter of transmittal from Frank D. Shearman to William Clifford (dated May 13, 1916); and an autographed photographic portrait of Thomas Moran by Henry Havelock Pierce, from 1915. Read more about the Frank Edwin Elwell Papers in this Highlights post.



The Robert Gilmor letters to Charles Graff, 1825-1844 collection consists primarily of correspondence between Gilmor and Graff, regarding their respective philosophies and activities related to purchasing and collecting art. Robert Gilmor, Jr. (1774-1848) was a merchant, ship owner, importer, and collector of art, rare books, autographs, coins, antiquities, stamps, minerals and rocks. Gilmor’s art collection consisted primarily of 14th century Old Masters and 17th century Dutch and Flemish works, though he also supported and collected work by living American artists of the period. Charles Graff (1779-1846) was a Philadelphia-based merchant and art collector, who collected primarily Old Masters and Pennsylvania regional art. Also included in the collection are: a letter from Gilmor to John Trumbull (1756-1843); a receipt for the loan of three of the letters in 1940 to the Museum of the City of New York; and an inventory of letters with dates sent and received.



The Sadakichi Hartmann : Papers, 1899-1937 collection includes a 1926 manuscript entitled "The Story of an American Painter" about Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917), correspondence with Alfred Stieglitz and other artists, unpublished manuscripts, and photographs of Hartmann.






The Havemeyer Family Papers relating to Art Collecting, 1901-1922 collection includes letters, writings, notes, and ephemera regarding the Havemeyers' art collecting activities between 1901 and 1922. The majority of the collection consists of correspondence to Louisine from art dealers and agents who were working on behalf of the Havemeyers to build their renowned art collection. There is also a significant portion of correspondence with the renowned American painter and printmaker Mary Cassatt.


Click here to access the online finding aid for the collectionThe Havemeyer Papers are housed in The Metropolitan Museum Archives. As of July 2013, the 533 items of correspondence in the collection have been digitized and posted online; searchable transcripts will follow later in the second phase of the project.



The William H. Lippincott Letters, 1887-1917, is a collection of correspondence addressed to, or collected by William H. (Henry) Lippincott (1849-1920), an American painter, born in Philadelphia, and active in Pont-Aven (Brittany, France) and New York. Notable documents in the collection include: a thank you note to Lippincott from Frederic Church illustrated with a sketch of a flamingo and a polar bear; letters from Albert Bierstadt, Birge Harrison, Francis Davis Millet, and Winslow Homer, among others; and correspondence regarding the American Artists’ War Emergency Fund and the Century Association.




New York financier Henry Gurdon Marquand (1819-1902) was a member of the Provisional Committee to establish a museum of art in New York City (1869), an early Trustee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1871-1902), Treasurer (1883-1889), and its second President (1889-1902). For over three decades Marquand spent his fortune carefully acquiring artwork to decorate his Madison Avenue mansion and to enlarge the Metropolitan’s then modest holdings. The Henry Gurdon Marquand Papers contain correspondence with artists and dealers, receipts, inventories, and notes that document his activity as an art collector and patron of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Click here to access the online finding aid for the collectionThe Marquand Papers are housed in The Metropolitan Museum Archives. All original items and their searchable transcripts are available online in this collection.



The Frank Blackwell Mayer : correspondence, 1822-1888 collection includes Mayer's correspondence with his mother, Eliza C. Mayer, other family members including Charles F. Mayer, other individuals such as William Rinehart, and with organizations. Letters refer to art related subjects as well as family and personal matters.






A. Hyatt Mayor (1901-1980) worked in the Department of Prints from 1932 to 1966, succeeding William Ivins as curator in 1946. The bulk of his papers are held at Syracuse University, but Watson holds about two hundred pages of letters in the Mayor Family correspondence, 1862-1928 collection. Only one, from the wood engraver Timothy Cole, is to A. Hyatt Mayor himself. The best-known correspondent represented is Albert Bierstadt; his April 1862 letter to Hyatt Mayor’s grandfather Alpheus Hyatt II regretfully calls off a proposed trip to the West. Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, writes to Hyatt Mayor’s aunt Anna Hyatt (Huntington), a sculptor like her sister and later wife of philanthropist Archer Huntington, in 1904. The other letters are addressed to Hyatt Mayor’s mother, Harriet Randolph Hyatt Mayor (1868-1960). Adelaide Cole Chase, a portrait painter and good friend of Harriet’s, is represented by about 35 letters , Henry Hudson Kitson, a sculptor, by 47; both of these mingle the practicalities of the artist’s life (sittings, exhibitions, casting bronze) with personal comment. Finally, a group of letters, many of them illustrated, from Frank G. (Gelett) Burgess (comic poet and creator of the Goops) illuminate the brief run of a courtship in January and February 1900; see this image of the “hard four in hand to drive, Pride Conceit Thoughtlessness and Susceptibility.” (Harriet married A. Hyatt Mayor’s father, Alfred Goldsborough Mayor, later that year.)



The Miscellaneous papers, 1781-1971 collection contains assorted letters of artists and others as well as a few news clippings, documents, and 46 autographed invitation cards sent to artists soliciting participation in the exhibition "Speak Their Language."

The autograph letters include the personal correspondence of important nineteenth-century American and European artists such as Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, Augustin Saint Gaudens, Childe Hassam, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Winslow Homer, Odilon Redon, Herbert Crowley, John Singer Sargent and Georges Rouault; and letters of important political and social figures including Luis Palma di Cesnola, Eleanor Roosevelt, Horace Greeley, Tullo Massarani and the King of Siam. The collection also contains rare manuscripts including a public invitation to Ludwig van Beethoven’s funeral (1827). Of special interest is the last will and testament of Duncan Phyfe.



Watson Library owns over 35 letters from James Abbott McNeill Whistler to the art critic, collector, and dealer Théodore Duret: 27 items in a red folder titled in gold, and ten more in two groups (group one and two). Whistler and Duret were friends from their meeting in 1880 till Whistler’s death in 1903; Duret, collector and admirer of the Impressionists and their circle, supported Whistler through his critical writings and by direct patronage, commissioning the portrait now at the Museum known as Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of Theodore Duret (13.20) in 1883. The letters give evidence of Whistler’s lively personality and of his intimacy with Duret. Sometimes in French, sometimes in English, and sometimes in a mix of both, he asks Duret to visit, sends him clippings from the newspaper, and passes along art-world gossip. Duret assists Whistler with a translation, and Whistler asks him to watch over a painting he is sending from London to the Paris Salon.


Our letters are transcribed, translated, annotated, and available online (without images) along with thousands of others in the University of Glasgow’s collected Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler.


Read more about the James Abbott McNeill Whistler letters in this Highlights post.



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