City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
New York Society Library
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The New York Society Library (NYSL) is the oldest cultural institution in New York City. It was founded in 1754 by the New York Society as a subscription library. During the time when New York was the capital of the United States, it was the de facto Library of Congress. Until the establishment of the New York Public Library in 1895, it functioned as the city's library as well. It has been patronized by a wide variety of literary and political figures, from George Washington to Wendy Wasserstein. Its special collections include books from the libraries of John Winthrop and Lorenzo Da Ponte.
Since 1937 the library has been housed in the former John S. Rogers Mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the fourth location in its history. The stone Renaissance Revival building was one of the earliest recognized as a New York City landmark in 1967, and was further listed on the National Register of Historic Places (as the John S. Rogers House) in 1983 in recognition of both its architecture and the library's historic role in the city.
The library's collection of 300,000 volumes includes audio recordings and periodicals as well as books on a broad range of subjects. It is open for browsing and research by the general public; only members may borrow or use the upper floors. The library is a non-profit organization supported primarily by its membership fees and endowment.