The yearbook collection is a comparatively small one, consisting of about 300 volumes, dating from 1831-1959, although most are from the second half of the nineteenth century. Many describe themselves in terms other than yearbook -- register, catalog, almanac, handbook, annual and directory being commonly found in titles and on spines. This collection might easily be considered a first cousin to the directories, for they share the common purpose of conveying useful information. This is evident in the very detailed titles which are found in both collections. A New York yearbook published in 1868, for example, has the title, Kellogg's United States Mercantile Register for the year 1867-8. The object of the Register is to supply to the public a convenient, useful, and popular work adapted to the every-day wants of the entire business community, for all purposes of GENERAL business reference, both as a directory and as a compend of miscellaneous information... The underlined and capitalized words, quoted exactly as printed, are a pointer to the broad nature of this collection as distinct from the directories, which contain only information relevant to individual cities and towns. The yearbooks are shelved separately from the directories under the heading "Yearbooks and Trade Directories." While it is true that the majority are trade publications, a number clearly are not, Sadlier's Catholic Almanac..., for example, which, although it has advertisements for such things as clerical clothing and altar wines, is primarily concerned with lists of clergymen. Similarly, Beadle's Dime Base-ball Player is concerned with the statistics of the game--wherever it was played--for the whole of one year.
In all cases, the publishers of yearbooks were anxious to supply information which was as comprehensive as possible about all of the United States and beyond, for example: The Banker's Directory of the United States and Canada... (Chicago: 1876) and United States Hardware and Metal Trades Directory. Comprising a complete list of the manufacturers, importers, wholesale and retail dealers, commission merchants, brokers, and artisans in all the baser metals, and all goods manufactured from them in the United States and Territories. (Boston: 1875). As can be seen from these titles, yearbooks were comprehensive in terms of the sheer quantity of information they contained, but limited by virtue of being devoted to specific subjects. Each yearbook was essentially about the one thing, and the American Antiquarian Society is rich in the diversity of subjects contained in its collection -- banking, hardware, metal trades, mercantile interests, mines, dogs, horses, baseball, publishers and publishing, newspapers, shipping, shoemakers, real estate and textiles, to name a few. It is evident that, with the passage of time and the increase of trade and population, the immense amount of information required to serve the every-day wants of the entire business community has led our collection to grow quite literally -- several later volumes of The Publishers' Trade List Annual are slightly over eight inches thick.
The yearbooks, which are not yet cataloged, are shelved by subject, and there are approximately fifty subject categories in our collection. A checklist in the acquisitions department is arranged both by subject and title. A number of items of a yearbook nature, which are shelved in such other collections as Institutions, Government Docsuments and Railroads, are also included in the checklist. In some cases, the American Antiquarian Society has only one volume of a title -- possibly the only edition published; in others, a complete run of twenty years or more.
- Jennifer Code, Acquisitions Manager