The volumes in this series are officially titled The Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York, but commonly called “Valentine’s Manuals” for David T. Valentine, the clerk of the Common Council. Valentine was instructed to compile the volumes that included the city’s annual reports and directories. Valentine thus became the first person to preserve New York City’s records. The manuals were published from 1841/2 until Valentine’s death in 1866. There was no volume for 1867 and the following year, the manuals resumed publication for a few years under successive clerks—Joseph Shannon (1868 and 1869) and John Hardy (1870).
The first manuals were very small and modest. The 1841 volume was 3.25 inches by 5 inches and had 186 pages. By the 1860′s they had become impressive, highly-illustrated tomes with large color folding maps.
Two index volumes to the manuals were published independently in 1900 and 1906, one by Otto Hufeland for historical content and the other by Richard Hoe Lawrence for illustrations and maps. A reprint comprising both volumes was published in 1981 and is out of print. These indices are essential for anyone who wishes to use the Valentine’s Manuals for research.
The second set of Valentine’s Manuals were produced by Henry Collins Brown, founder of the Museum of the City of New York and author and publisher of almost countless books about New York, who, inspired by the Valentine’s Manuals, ambitiously produced a continuation of the Valentine series. Brown intended to “fill the gap between 1866, the year in which Valentine discontinued his work, and 1916, when [h]e commenced.” Like the original Valentine’s Manuals, he included historical facts, many reproductions of old maps and prints, and instead of current city information he offered social history on various periods of New York history. Themes included “New York in the Elegant Eighties” and “The Golden Nineties.”
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