Avery Classics Collections

  • 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.

Search for our collections in Columbia University's library catalog, CLIO, or in the Digital Library Collections portal.

Digital Collections


Trade Catalogs

Trade catalogs, also known as manufacturer's or commercial catalogs, are an important primary source of information on building materials, supplies, decorative elements and industry trends during the 19th and early 20th centuries.  

To find our trade catalogs, search in CLIO. Do a simple keyword search of the type of building material or element and the word "catalogs." For example, type "cement" and "catalogs" OR "fireplaces" and "catalogs." When you have a particular company or manufacturer whose products you are interested in, do a keyword search with two or three distinctive words from the company name and "catalogs." For example "pittsburgh" and "paints" and "catalogs" OR "atlantic" and "terra" and "cotta" and "catalogs."

To see digitized trade catalogs, visit the Digital Library Collections Avery Library Trade Catalog Collection (through Internet Archive) here.

2 Fifth Ave real estate brochure cover

The New York Real Estate Brochure Collection

The New York Real Estate Brochure Collection was donated to Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library by Yale Robbins, Henry Robbins, and David Magier in 1986. The collection consists of over 9,200 advertising brochures, floor plans, price lists, and related materials that document residential and commercial real estate development in the five boroughs of New York and outlying vicinities from the 1920s to the 1970s.


Digital Serlio Project

The Digital Serlio Project presents Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library's unparalleled holdings of the works of Sebastiano Serlio including his published works in multiple editions, and the manuscript for his unpublished masterwork, On Domestic Architecture.  


McKim, Mead & White at Avery

Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library occupies a building designed by McKim, Mead & White, and its collections contain numerous materials donated by the firm and its successors. Click here to learn more about Avery's holdings and to access digital versions of the firm's photographic albums.


Seymour B. Durst Old York Library

The Seymour B. Durst Old York Library collection at the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library consists of more than 40,000 objects including historic photographs, maps, pamphlets, postcards, books, and New York City memorabilia from the 18th century to the 1980s.

Frank H. Lester Wholesaler of Bananas: Bill or Receipt, August 1904

Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes

The Robert Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery was donated to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library by Robert Biggert in honor of Lisa Ann Riveaux. This unique collection of printed ephemera contains over 1,300 items with architectural imagery spanning the dates 1850 to 1920, in more than 350 cities and towns in forty-five states, as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. possessions. The collection’s billheads, letterheads, envelopes, checks, and business cards document the rise of the United States as an industrial nation, in often elaborate vignettes of factories, warehouses, mines, offices, stores, banks, and hotels.


John H. Yardley Collection of Architectural Letterheads

The John H. Yardley Collection of Architectural Letterheads provides a unique view of New York City's evolution during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Selected for their illustrations of buildings in lower Manhattan, these pieces of stationery include rare images of the city's commercial architecture, much of which is no longer extant. The Yardley Collection was donated to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library by the wife of Mr. John H. Yardley in memory of her husband. 

Digital Exhibitions

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Viewbooks: Window into America

Avery’s American Viewbooks Collection provides pictorial documentation of cities and towns throughout the United States. The collection is comprised of more than 4,000 titles. Viewbooks: Window into America features a selection of 50 viewbooks from Avery’s holdings and highlights our collection as an important source of documentation of the built environment in America in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.


A.J. Downing & His Legacy

Andrew Jackson Downing is known as the “father” of the American architectural pattern book. This exhibition, originally mounted in Avery Library’s Classics Reading Room to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth, showcases several editions of Downing’s publications and those of his many successors. It offers a glimpse into the world of mid-19th century architectural publishing in the United States and reveals how Downing’s distillation of design ideas came to influence American housing for half a century.


Avery’s Architectural Novelties

Certain items in Avery Classics have distinctive forms that fall outside all the categories that dominate in the collection such as the printed book, manuscripts, photographs, and broadsides. Such items, which we will call Architectural Novelties, are best explained in images. This exhibition highlights a selection of items from the Avery Classics collection that are both comprehensive and eccentric in their treatment of architecture.

Examples of metal work for ecclesiastical and domestic use : manufactured by Hart, Son, Peard & Co. Cover

Avery’s Architectural Ephemera Collections

Avery Classics is home to a significant collection of ephemera. This exhibit describes some of the brochures, pamphlets, advertising materials, postcards, and other forms of architectural ephemera within Avery Classics.