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Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

The Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library is one of twenty-five libraries in the Columbia University Library System and is located in Avery Hall on the Morningside Heights campus of Columbia University in the City of New York. It is the largest architecture library in the world. Serving Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Avery Library collects books and periodicals in architecture, historic preservation, art history, painting, sculpting, graphic arts, decorative arts, city planning, real estate, and archaeology, as well as archival materials primarily documenting 19th- and 20th-century American architects and architecture. The architectural, fine arts, and archival collections are non-circulating. The Ware Collection, mainly books on urban planning and real estate development, does circulate.

Avery Library is named for New York architect Henry Ogden Avery, a friend of William Robert Ware, who was appointed the first professor of architecture at Columbia University in 1881. Soon after Avery's death in 1890, his parents, Samuel Putnam Avery and Mary Ogden Avery, established the library as a memorial to their son. They offered his collection of 2,000 books, mostly in architecture, archaeology, and the decorative arts, many of his original drawings, as well as funds to round out the book collection and to create an endowment. The Library now holds more than 400,000 volumes and currently receives approximately 900 periodicals, with legacy holdings of approximately 1,900 serial titles. The library's historic first-level reading room is a significant example of work by the New York architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White. The library building itself, also designed by McKim, Mead, and White, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012.


Avery Library's collection in architecture literature is among the largest in the world and includes such highlights as the first Western printed book on architecture, De re aedificatoria (1485), by Leone Battista Alberti; Francesco Colonna's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499); works by Giovanni Battista Piranesi; and classics of modernism by Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, with the rarest materials held the library's Classics (Rare Book) Department. In September 2012, it was announced that Avery, in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art, had acquired the entire archive of Frank Lloyd Wright.[1]

In addition, Avery's Department of Drawings & Archives is among the largest and most significant architectural archives in the world. Its holdings include more than one and a half million architectural drawings, photographs, manuscripts, business records, audio-visual recordings, and other related materials, primarily documenting the architectural history New York City and the surrounding region, with significant and wide-ranging examples of American and international architecture relating to the work of New York-based architects and alumni of Columbia's School of Architecture.

Among the notable architects and designers represented in the collection are:

The Archives also holds the records of the Empire State Building, Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company, the New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Co., and Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York, as well as papers of artist and writer Kenyon Cox, journalist Douglas Haskell, who was editor of Architectural Forum, and drawings by mural and stained glass artist John LaFarge. The department also has major archives of architectural photography, including works by C. D. Arnold, George Cserna, Samuel H. Gottscho, and Joseph W. Molitor. Lastly, the department holds Antonio Lafreri’s "Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae".

Avery Index

Avery Library is also home to the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals. Begun at Avery in 1934, the Index provides citations to articles in approximately 300 current and over 1,000 retrospective architectural and related periodicals, with primary emphasis on architectural design and history as well as archaeology, landscape architecture, interior design, decorative arts, garden history, historic preservation, urban planning and design, real estate development, and environmental studies. The Index also includes a large body of obituaries of architects. Until July 1, 2009, the Getty Information Institute and later GRI co-produced the index. On that date, GRI transferred the database back to Columbia University, which continues to maintain it.[2]


  1. ^ "A Vast Frank Lloyd Wright Archive Is Moving to New York". The New York Times. September 3, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Avery Index Returns to Columbia University". Columbia University. July 1, 2009. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 

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