The Seymour B. Durst Old York Library is a unique collection of books, maps, images, newspapers and memorabilia of New York City. In June 2000, a significant portion of the collection was gifted to the Graduate Center, City University of New York, to make the collection more accessible and to develop educational curriculum through the use of this unique resource.

The late Mr. Durst, a New York City real estate developer began collecting these materials in the early 1960s. By the time he died in 1995, the Old York Library filled nearly every nook and cranny of his five-story East Side townhouse.

The arrangement of the collection was idiosyncratic and reflected Mr. Durst’s themes and interests. It was organized by what he termed the “Durst Quintessimal System” and filled all but four of the 20 rooms in the house. Each room had a different theme and if a book fell into three different categories he would simply buy three copies, one for each related room. Take a tour of the townhouse here

Housed in the Mina Rees Library, there are in all about

  • 9,000 book titles encompassing four centuries of New York City History
  • about 3,000 photos, 20,000 postcards about New York
  • historical maps, and
  • thousands of pamphlets, magazines, guidebooks, newspapers and various New York ephemera.

The Graduate Center’s Reading Room (C196.09) houses 3,000 of the most rare books along with furnishings from the study in Seymour Durst’s original “Old York Library” townhouse. Cataloging of the items housed in the Reading Room is a work-in-progress.

Durst Reading Room

Durst Reading Room


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