The New York Botanical Garden


Reference and Reader Services

The holdings of the Mertz Library number over one million accessioned items and the archives contain over a mile of materials. The Library provides access to several electronic databases. Navigating through these collections can be a daunting task for members of the general public as well as for experienced researchers. Reference librarians are on duty during opening hours to assist visitors in locating materials they might need and to provide guidance, advice and referrals to collections and materials related to visitor inquiries both onsite and via telephone and email. If you have a question or need assistance finding something, please ask. We are here to help.

Current Projects

History of botanical illustration class

Head of Information Services and Archives, Stephen Sinon, offers students in the Garden’s Continuing Education division an overview of the major monuments in the history of botanical illustration and natural science. From woodcuts to lithographs, the work of the great illustrators is examined firsthand along with a viewing of the Mertz Library’s oldest, rarest and lavishly illustrated items. Enrollment in this class is limited however the class will be held four times per year.

Scan on demand

For those wishing to capture the beauty of a particular illustration or seeking to acquire images from the Library’s collections for their own research and publications, we offer several options including the opportunity for researchers to use their own digital camera or for Library staff to provide high resolution, color, digital scans of images requested. A variety of delivery methods are available.

Product Development

The Shop in the Garden has its own retail product development staff which work closely with the Library to locate images for products which appear exclusively through the Shop as well as for product lines which might be created working with outside retail clients. Products which feature images taken from the rare book and folio collections of the Mertz Library are labeled as such with the original source identified. Past items have included glassware, ceramics, trays, ties, tee shirts, scarves, paperweights, tea sets and stationary as well as the usual posters and note cards.

Class tours

Show and tell tours are given by appointment by librarians to various classes and visiting groups. Display themes in the past have included general orientations, bulbs and Latin paleography however displays can be drawn from the library’s collections to illustrate a wide variety of themes in the sciences and humanities. If you would like to arrange a themed tour for your class or group, please contact the Reference Desk.

Collection Research projects

Librarians are always researching the history of items from the collections for future exhibitions but a special research project of note concerns the Mertz Library’s oldest item the Circa Instanz, dating to circa 1190 A.D. While much has been written about this manuscript, ongoing research is being done on the provenance of the work and its most recent owner, physician and early clinical pharmacologist Dr. Emil Starkenstein (1884-1942).