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Blog Posts by Subject: Manuscripts and Rare Books

Bloomsday in the Berg Collection

James Joyce's Ulysses is a novel unique in the history of English literature, perhaps all literature, in that it has a day dedicated to its celebration all over the world. The day is named for Leopold Bloom, one of the novel's three chief characters.Read More ›

Culinary Delights in Lady Anne Percy’s Receipt Book

Around 1650, a teenage Lady Anne Percy compiled a collection of receipts now held in the NYPL's Manuscripts and Archives Division as part of its Whitney cookery collection. "Whitney MS 2" includes over four hundred medical and cookery recipes from friends, family, and contemporary printed cookbooks. Read More ›

A Black Tulip Comes to the Pforzheimer Collection

Here at the Pforzheimer Collection, our big acquisition of the year is a black tulip, one of the rarest items in the Shelleyan world: Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire, 1810, Shelley's first book of verse. Lost to the public eye shortly after its publication and believed, till 1898, to have vanished altogether, only three other copies are known. Even the Bodleian Library, holder of the best Shelley collection in the world, does not own it.Read More ›

The Nican Mopohua and Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

Among the many treasures of the New York Public Library are documents created as the New World was explored and settled by Europeans and a hybrid culture emerged. James Lenox (1880-1880) whose books, manuscripts, and maps formed the great base for the Library's collection was interested in the history of the Americas. This blog post focuses on a set of documents long referred to as the Monumentos Guadalupanos, or Guadeloupean Monuments, and one document in particular, the Nican Mopohua. A facsimile edition of this historic manuscript is currently underway from SYL Creaciones Graficas and Read More ›

Romantic Interests: Peacock's Science of Cookery

Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866), novelist, poet, trade company official, steam engine expert and gourmet—a Renaissance man of the Romantic age—once convinced his friend and fellow poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a passionate vegetarian, to cave in to meat-eating.Read More ›

NYPL on the Road: September Exhibitions Featuring Works from the NYPL Special Collections

Traditionally summer is a less busy time for registrar staff as the most ambitious shows open in the Fall and the Spring. However we have been busy this summer and have received many requests for exhibitions. You should make sure to check out the following shows in NYC that feature NYPL loans:

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USSC Processing Project: The United States Sanitary Commission Records Open for Research on July 16, 2013

We are delighted to announce that archival processing of the records of this important Civil War humanitarian organization has been completed. The collection will be available for research in the Manuscripts and Archives Division reading room beginning on July 16, following usual procedures. A draft guide to the collection will be made available at that time.

A snapshot of USSC shelvingThe project marks the first comprehensive arrangement of the entire collection since 1878, made possible by 

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Meet the Scholar: Nerina Rustomji

Nerina Rustomji and her book, "The Garden and the Fire: Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture."About 6 years ago, I was taking an undergraduate class on the history of the Modern Middle East taught by Professor Nerina Rustomji of St. John's University. The class opened my eyes to the complexity of the region. She challenged us to look differently at the historic and ongoing conflicts in the area and America's intricate relationships with Middle Eastern countries before September 11th. 

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Srimathi Gina: A Life Devoted to Indian Classical Dance

A photograph found loose in a binder of Indian classical dance terms and definitions; although the photograph is unmarked, the dancer is believed to be Gina Blau.One needs to only glance at the papers of Gina Blau (also known as the performer Srimathi Gina) to see that her study of Indian classical dance was truly her life's passion. From the highly detailed (and copious) writings in her many notebooks, to the intricate drawings of various hand positions—or 'mudras'—of Indian classical dance, there is a thoroughness and sense of 

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The Adagio Dancers, the Ballroom Dancers and Richard Stuart

Today, the word adagio is rarely used to describe ballroom dancing. If you told someone that you were going adagio dancing, most likely, this would draw a blank stare. Substitute the words adagio dancing with ballroom dancing, the recognition factor would increase tenfold.

The widely accepted definition of adagio is acrobatic balance with counterbalance. It is 

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Focus On: Recent Acquisitions in the Manuscripts Division

The Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library supports historical research. Each year, individuals with all levels of library experience arrive at the Division's Reading Room to consult collections assigned the classmark, or call number, 'MssCol.' In an effort to provide a glimpse into activities of the Manuscripts Division, kindly accept this blog series 'Focus on,' as I seek to highlight recent acquisitions, research opportunities, and new publications.

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Freedom to Dance: The Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive, Part 2 - White Oak Dance Project

The cover of one of the many White Oak Dance project programs within the collection.When Baryshnikov founded the White Oak Dance Project with choreographer Mark Morris in 1990 the focus was to give choreographers a venue for developing new works, as well as creating a touring arm to present them. The project also revisited modern works from previous decades, presenting 

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Leon Dabo’s Notebook: An Interview with Frank Goss

In 1955, the artist Leon Dabo (d. 1960) donated a thin manuscript volume to The New York Public Library. Prolific during his time, Dabo is perhaps best known as a muralist and landscape painter. Dabo also spent many years in New York, and was involved with organizing the artistic community, including a part in shaping the 1913 Armory Show. Seemingly an address book, the volume Dabo donated also contains a handful of small sketches. Looked at as a whole the pages provide information about his social life and artistic 

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Camouflaged Anti-Nazi Literature

In the early eighties, rare book librarian John Rathe pulled down a dusty box, wrapped in twine, from a remote corner of the Rare Book room. Attached to the box was a label that said: "Do not open until war is over." Which war? The Civil War? The War of 1812? What he discovered was a box filled with disguised anti-Nazi tracts hidden in packets of tea and shampoo and concealed in miniature books both popular and scholarly.

Notice the concealed pamphlets sticking out of the packets of shampoo, tea, and tomato seeds.

A Brief History

On January 30, 

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Vegetable Drolleries

Revolt at the Salad BarHave you seen the Library's long-running exhibition "Lunch Hour" yet? If not, this is your last chance, for it closes on Sunday, February 17. To whet your appetite, I'd like to present a delightful volume that was recently added to the Spencer Collection.

The work is Drôleries végétales (Vegetable Drolleries), also known as L'Empire des 

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New Mendelssohn Discoveries in the Music Division

Felix Mendelssohn's signature from Drexel 4903It is still possible to discover amazing things in the New York Public Library in 2013, its 108th year of existence. What's even more amazing about this story is that the discovered items have been with the Library since its founding and have gone unnoticed until now. I am happy to write this story in anticipation of February 3, 2013, the 203rd birthday of composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.

Part of my work in the Music Division involves cataloging scores — not newly published materials, but a portion of the over 

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Winter Fun for Kids and Cats

This snowy Saturday afternoon has brought to mind a couple of scenes from nineteenth-century children's books in the Rare Book Division. First, a scene of "Wintervergnügen" (winter fun) from Jugendspiele zur Erholung und Erheiterung (Tilsit, 1846). This is a two-volume work, one devoted to girls and one to boys. Sledding is categorized as one of the boys' games (Knabenspiele), but of course that needn't stop 

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Transmissions from the Timothy Leary Papers: MPLP, the New Standard?

During the past several years, the archives profession has been rocked by a paper by Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner titled "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing."[1] Through examining surveys of archival processing practices, Greene and Meissner proposed that switching the emphasis from physical arrangement and preservation practices to intellectual arrangement and description would expedite the processing of most collections. The upshot of their findings was a plea to end backlogs for unprocessed collections. This method (now 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: After Antietam

September 17, 2012 marked the 150th anniversary of the battle of Antietam, often called "the bloodiest day in American history." With Alexander Gardner's images before us, we can easily imagine the horrific strife of those few hours that left behind over 23,000 casualties. Other contemporary materials can show us what it was like for a soldier to experience that single day within the context of a long and grueling campaign. Project staff member Joseph Lapinski describes such an item encountered in the USSC's 

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Transmissions from The Timothy Leary Papers: What I Thought I Knew

When I first started the Leary Processing Internship in June, I had what is probably the most common impression of Timothy Leary. I had obviously heard about him before, but honestly, all I knew about him was that he was famous for his line "turn on, tune in, drop out." To me, he was simply the LSD guru of the 1960s. Not having grown up in his heyday, I only knew what was best and most widely known about him.

Fast forward two months, and here I sit at my desk at the New York Public 

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