The Society holds over 1,300 separately published American engravings ranging from 1716-1900 fully cataloged in the General Catalog. This collection includes portraits, landscapes, seascapes, allegorical prints, and scenes of everyday life.
The strength of the collection of American engravings has always been the works of colonial engravers, particularly those active in New England, more specifically, Boston. The formation of this portion of the collection dates back to the 1819 bequest of William Bentley, a Salem clergyman. Other early prints, including portraits of the first six presidents of the United States, came from the Society's founder Isaiah Thomas. In 1954, Clarence S. Brigham compiled the definitive work on the engravings of Paul Revere, which the Society published. An illustrated inventory of Paul Revere's works at the Society is online. The Society has holdings for other major Boston engravers of the eighteenth century--James Turner, Nathaniel Hurd, and Thomas Johnston. Like Revere, these craftsmen engraved maps, bookplates, currency, membership certificates, book illustrations, and political prints.
Access to citations for 16,800 American engravings and engraved book illustrations issued before 1821 is available through the Catalogue of American Engravings. The project located and described materials in the collections of the Society and in libraries and museums across the country.
Nineteenth century holdings of engravings include several important collections. An illustrated box list of the Charles Peirce Collection of Social and Political Caricatures and Ballads features engraved American and British cartoons. Engravings may also be found in the David Claypoole Johnston Family Collection illustrated box list.