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Blog Posts by Subject: Manuscripts and Rare Books

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 ›

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 ›

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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