The digital collection draws upon the Library's exhibition, "Victorian Ornament: Excerpts from Design History," Dec. 9, 1989 - March 10, 1990, Edna Barnes Salomon Room, and supplements it with additional works through the 1920s. Holdings from the Victorian period, 1839-1900, are particularly strong covering America and Western Europe; these are often pattern or illustrated advice books. Other movements with representative, and often rare, titles include: Neoclassicism, Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, and Art Deco.
The Art & Architecture Collection has long been a repository of unusual plate books, with a core antiquarian collection dating to the initial creation of the Art Division. Many came from the private library of the architect Thomas Hastings, of the partnership, Carrere and Hastings, responsible for the Library's landmark classical revival building on Fifth Avenue. In the second half of the twentieth century, the department acquired additional significant titles retrospectively in response to growing recognition of the collection's depth and rarity.