Avery Classics Collection

Avery Classics Collection

The Avery Classics Collection is the rare book collection of Avery Library and one of the largest architectural rare book collections in the world. Its strengths reflect the Library's original subject scope, established by Avery's founders in 1890: architecture, archaeology, urbanism and the decorative arts.

05_Stroitel’naia promyshlennost’ 1932.04_website

Image Credits

Hans Vredeman de Vries. Das erst Buch, gemacht auff die zwey Colomnen Dorica vnd Ionica, sampt jren podien, bases, cornicen, capitelen, architraben.... Antwerp, 1576-1578. AA560 V98 F

Le Corbusier. Poème de l'angle droit. Paris, [1955]. AA653 J3 P754 F

Eighty-Two Views of Cleveland. Cleveland, [190?]. AA735 C5 Ei44 S

Michigan Stove Company. Specimens of leading specialties from the assortment of the Michigan Stove Company : "The world's best" Garland stoves and ranges. Buffalo, [ca. 1880-1901]. AT3258 M582 1880

Stroitelʹnai︠a︡ promyshlennostʹ. April 1932. LSI 133077

Andrea Pozzo. Rules and examples of perspective, proper for painters and architects, etc. London, 1707. AA2710 P872 F

Louis Bretez. Plan de Paris, commencé l'année 1734. Dessiné et gravé sous les ordres de Messire Michel Étienne Turgot [et al.] Achevé de graver en 1739.... [Paris?, 1739]. AA1045 B75 FF


  • Avery Classics contains approximately 40,000 printed volumes published over seven centuries, from Leon Battista Alberti’s De re aedificatoria (1485) to the recent limited edition volume, Olafur Eliasson’s Your House (2006).
  • The Classics collection also has important holdings of graphic suites, periodicals, manuscripts, broadsides, photographs, and printed ephemera.
  • All Avery books that were produced before 1801 are in Classics. The collection also includes significant editions of major works created after 1800, as well as works that possess distinctive physical characteristics, such as special bindings, exceptional printing, innovative design, autograph inscriptions, or other signs of former ownership.
  • Notable special collections within Classics are the Trade Catalog Collection, which is one of the largest collections of catalogs of the American building trades anywhere, and the American Viewbook Collection, which includes books, pamphlets, and brochures that document cities, towns, and buildings throughout the United States.


Working with the Collection

To Request an Item:

  • All items must be requested one day ahead of your visit as there is a 24 hour turnaround time.
  • If you are a Columbia University affiliate please fill out this form in advance of your visit.
  • If you are not a Columbia University affiliate please email us in advance of your visit and include the title, author, and call number of the item you want.

To Schedule a Class:

  • Contact us to schedule a class using Avery Classics materials. Past classes have focused on topics ranging from Renaissance architectural treatises to New York City land maps to Modernism in Print. We are happy to help you to develop sessions relevant to your syllabus.

Reading Room Policies:

  • Reader registration
    All Avery Classics readers, including affiliates, must complete a reader registration form, valid for the academic calendar year, upon arrival at the Classics Reading Room.
  • Photo identification cards
    Readers must present traceable photo identification card, such as a valid passport, driver’s license, or card. Photo ID cards are held while material is in use.
  • Briefcases, large purses, bags, coats, and umbrellas must be checked with the Reading Room attendant.
  • Pencils or laptops only are permitted for note taking. 


Image Requests

  • For personal use
    At the discretion of the assistant in the Classics collections, readers may photograph items for personal reference. Use of tripods and flash is prohibited.
  • For publication
    To request an image, contact us and be as specific as possible regarding the work of art and intended use. Photographic and/or reproduction fees may be charged for an image request. For general terms and conditions, consult Photographic Services and Fees. Please note that photography may not be available or possible due to the physical condition of objects. It is the patron's responsibility to clear all rights for works of art protected by copyright.


Reading Room Exhibition

Enameloid paint

Color Harmony in the Home: American Paint Publications from 1870-1950

Guest curator: Judy Jacob
January 17 - June 16, 2017
Monday – Friday: 9:00am - 5:00pm
Avery Classics Reading Room, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

Paint is practical. Paint is beautiful. Paint hides flaws. Paint reflects taste and status. The brochures and samples presented in this exhibition offer an insight to painting practice and color history, and give hints—both subtle and direct—on changing trends in style and advertising.

Avery Library’s collection of trade publications, of which paint catalogs are a substantial subset, features over 4,000 individual items. Never intended for library holdings, these items represent the marketing acumen of paint manufacturers and the decorating aspirations of American homeowners from the 1870s to the 1950s. Avery’s collection was started by Herbert Mitchell (1924-2008), former Curator of Avery Classics, who saw research potential in brochures found on flea-market tables.

Following the Civil War, advances in manufacturing had an enormous impact on the paint industry, as well as on marketing. Publications such as those displayed here arose from the new convenience of ready-mixed paints, provided in cans with re-sealable lids, a major advancement in paint storage. Ready-mixed paints enabled the do-it-yourself painters; homeowners could now easily paint their own homes and furnishings. One could purchase paint, pick-up a free how-to manual, head home to don old clothes and transform one's surroundings through color.

This exhibition is presented to coincide with the 6th International Architectural Paint Research Conference, hosted by Columbia University in New York City from March 15 to 17, 2017.

Avery Classics Online

Recent Acquisitions

Avery Classics maintains an active acquisitions program through gift and purchase. To view lists of recent acquisition highlights, select from the following links:

Last updated Jan. 20, 2016