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Posts from the Rare Books Division

Madame du Châtelet and Fighting the Invincible Force

Madame du Châtelet was a French noblewoman of the Enlightenment who came from a wealthy family, married into a position of prominence, raised several children, and studied as a member of the Republic of Letters. However, in her native France, the Academy of Sciences, universities, and many intellectual gatherings excluded women. She was forced to pursue a path of independent study.Read More ›

Love Letters 101: Epistolary Lessons from Rare Books

Universal letter-writers were guidebooks meant to teach young men and women the art of writing and speaking fluently on a variety of subjects—including love.Read More ›

Beyond the Title Page: Watermarks, Colophons, and Publishing Dates

What started as a simple comparison of beautifully illustrated books on fashionable dress, trades’ dress, and ethnic costume held in both the Art and Architecture Collection and the Rare Book Division turned into an open-ended bibliographic exercise with many rabbit holes to get lost in. Read More ›

Short-Term Research Fellowship: Evert A. Duyckinck's Social Network

A look at the papers of two brothers who were at the center of New York publishing in the mid-1800s.Read More ›

Glimpses of Alice

To celebrate Lewis Carroll’s upcoming birthday—and my un-birthday!—let’s venture down the rabbit hole to explore depictions of Alice, his most famous creation, here at the library.Read More ›

Aylmer Bourke Lambert and the Most Princely of Pines

Evergreens, pines, conifers. As the year draws to a close, many of us have welcomed these needly trees into our homes as part of long-established Christmas tradition. But before this tradition took root in England (via Germany), one Englishman devoted his life all throughout the year to the genus Pinus. Read More ›

Charles Dickens and His Christmas Stories

A Christmas Carol continues, year after year, to be reworked, adapted, dramatized, enjoyed at home, and read in public settings. Perhaps less familiar are the dozens of Christmas stories that Charles Dickens penned in the twenty-five years that followed its publication. Read More ›

A Birthday Huzzah for Mr. Ford Madox Ford

December 17 marks British author, editor, and all-around literary icon Ford Madox Ford’s 141st birthday. To celebrate the occasion, I explored his writings in the Rare Book Division—and found some fascinating glimpses into his life and work.Read More ›

Where Did Times New Roman Come From?

An interesting footnote to the development of Times New Roman trickles down to us in the present day. The original hardware for the typeface—the “punches” that helped create the molds for casting type—were created jointly by the Monotype Corporation and the Linotype Company, the two main manufacturers of automated typesetting machines and equipment at that time. Both companies subsequently made sets of the type 

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Ben Franklin on Cooking Turkey... with Electricity

The options for cooking a turkey are seemingly endless, but leave it to founding father Benjamin Franklin to invent one more — electrocution.Read More ›

From Stage to Page with the Cranach Press's Hamlet

The Cranach Press enlisted the help of an international stable of artists and scholars to produce hand-made books that doubled as works of art. My favorite is an edition of Hamlet based on the text of Shakespeare’s Second Quarto. Read More ›

Imagining Ichabod Crane: Illustrated Editions in Rare Books

While the initial printing of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow contained no illustrations, the tale has since inspired many artists to create works evoking the strangely funny but frightful events in the story.Read More ›

Medium Rare: Ghostly Stories from Rare Books

On Halloween, we pull back the curtain between real and unreal, reveling in the spooky, mysterious, and inexplicable. What better way to celebrate the holiday than communing with the spirits and ghosts who reach out to us from the pages of the Rare Book Division?Read More ›

Happy Birthday, Moby-Dick!

In honor of the White Whale’s birthday, I have decided—like Herman Melville’s own sub-sub-librarian—to share “a glancing bird’s-eye view of what has been promiscuously said, thought, fancied, and sung of Leviathan” since Moby-Dick’s first appearance in 1851.Read More ›

Spies Among Us: World War I and The American Protective League

In the wake of the United States’ war declaration against Germany on April 6, 1917, dozens of extralegal vigilance organizations such as the Knights of Liberty, American Rights League, Boy Spies of America, American Defense Society, Sedition Slammers, National Security League, and the Terrible Threateners sought to ensure Americans’ full participation in the war effort, often through measures of intimidation, harassment, surveillance, and outright violence. Read More ›

Journey to the Center of the Library: Rare Books and Provenance

Columbus’s voyage made me think of the voyages our books take before arriving on the shelves of the New York Public Library. Who printed it? Who owned it previously? From whom did we buy it? Researchers are often interested in these questions, which all attempt to uncover a book’s provenance. In the Rare Book Division we look for clues, both within the book and in secondary sources, to answer questions of provenance and understand a book’s complete voyage.Read More ›

Before Kermit, There Was Catesby

My devotion to Kermit has led to a love for frogs in print as well, from Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books to Ken Kimura's 999 Frogs. And whenever I examine illustrated natural histories in the Rare Book Division where I work, I'm always on the lookout for Kermit's amphibious ancestors.Read More ›

400 Years of Banned Books

September 21 – 27 is Banned Books Week, when libraries and other members of the book community support the freedom to read and raise awareness of challenges to this freedom. Sadly, the banning of books is not a new phenomenon—while Catcher in the Rye or Huckleberry Finn come to mind, you can find books banned as early as the sixteenth century in the Rare Book Division.Read More ›

Mark My Words: Printers’ Marks in the Rare Book Division

The penguin. The borzoi. When we peruse our bookshelves, we see spines decorated with the symbols of publishing houses. But this tradition is not modern: starting with the second book ever printed, members of the trade were making their presence known. These marks were words and illustrations carved into wood and included at the beginning or end of a book to indicate the printer responsible. In NYPL’s Rare Book Division, we have a treasure trove of printers’ marks to explore. Read More ›

Lydia Maria Child and Archival Research

By all accounts, Lydia Maria Child should be famous. An author, abolitionist, and advocate for human rights a full generation before that stance became widespread, Child remains an unsung hero—even though we continue to sing her lyrics to “Over the River and Through the Wood.” Read More ›
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