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Blog Posts by Subject: Manuscripts and Rare Books

Romantic Interests: Love (and Music! and Fashion!) in the Time of Cholera

In the early months of 1832, London was experiencing a devastating public health crisis. A cholera outbreak, which originated in India and had had been lurching across Europe for years, finally arrived in Britain's metropolis. Officials were ill-equipped to contain the infection. The city was nearly quarantined, and eventually the "Cholera Morbis" claimed thousands of lives — among those that of William Godwin, Jr., the younger ... Read More ›

United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Tales from the North Carolina Record Books

Project archivist Melissa Haley is processing the records of the U.S. Sanitary Commission's Department of North Carolina. Here she shares fleeting glimpses of wartime lives captured on the pages of supply inventories. Over to Melissa:

Even the seemingly driest of archival records can tell a story. Supply volumes of the United States Sanitary Commission’s Department of North Carolina are a case in point. At first glance, they are simply lists of relief items: how many quilts, lanterns, Boston crackers, bottles of sherry wine, quinine, bars of chocolate, cans of 

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The Music Division's Patron Saint, Katharine Drexel

On Sunday, the first of October, 2000 in Rome, Pope John Paul II presided over the ceremony that would elevate Philadelphia born Katharine Drexel to sainthood. It’s doubtful that few, if any of the thousands present that rainy day in St. Peter’s Square were aware of the connection between the second American saint to be so designated and the collections of the Music Division of The New York Public Library.   Katharine Drexel was born on 26 November, 1858 in Philadelphia. As a child of the prominent Drexel ... Read More ›

Spencer Collection Book of the Month: The Rain of Crosses

The New York Public Library business card logoDid you know that The New York Public Library has an official color? I didn't either, and I've worked here since the Dark Ages (before the Internet). But we do, as I found out when I ordered new business cards recently. The color is red.

That's fine with me—I've always liked red (political considerations aside), and besides it gives me an excuse to select as the Spencer Collection Book of the Month for April a small volume containing two illustrations in vivid red. It is appropriate also because Easter falls in April this 

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Howard Ashman and Our Digital Future

Howard Ashman's disks at the Library of CongressThe Performing Arts Library has an amazing collection of manuscript and typewritten drafts from some of the greatest writers and musicians in the world.  The processes that led to groundbreaking experimental music compositions like John Cage's Music of Changes or Imaginary Landscape No. 1 are documented in the artist's papers. The Fred Ebb collection allows a researcher to peer into the creative process that led to lyrics like "Life is a Cabaret" and 

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Jane McGonigal and NYPL present Find the Future: The Game

For 100 years, The New York Public Library's landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street and its world-renowned collections have inspired people everywhere to find their futures. In honor of the Centennial Celebration, pioneering game designer Jane McGonigal helped the Library kick off its Weekend Festival with Find 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Accounts and Vouchers

Project archivist Elizabeth Delmage has tackled the job of making sense of the U.S. Sanitary Commission’s financial records, beginning with boxes of bundled documents and volumes. The richness of information in these materials provides a window into 19th-century commerce, the history of technology in America and, of course, the world of military supplies and humanitarian relief.

Elizabeth shares her work and discoveries in the record group known as Accounts and Vouchers to date: Daunting stack of USSC bundlesWhen I first started surveying these records, it 

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Yakov Kreizberg, 1959-2011

It can be a strange thing when professional life intersects with the personal in the form of archival documents.

For the past week, the music world has been mourning the death of conductor Yakov Kreizberg, age 51, who had been a rising star, especially in Europe. Though he performed infrequently in the United States, I had a close connection to him:  We were best friends during our college years at Mannes College The New School for Music, 1976-1979. 

One of our classes was Dr. 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: A Sense of History

The various “relief” activities of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, whether “general relief,” “field relief,” or “special relief,” are reflected throughout its own records, now held in the NYPL's Manuscripts and Archives Division. The group of material known as the “Special Relief Archives,” however, is not quite what you would expect to find from its name. Project archivist Melissa Haley discusses her 

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The Research Fellowship that Uncovered a New Story of 19th Century New York

Portrait of Evert Duyckinck. NYPL, Print Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.University of Missouri Ph.D. candidate Steven Carl Smith was sitting in a coffee shop near campus when he got the e-mail that changed his life as a young historian.

It was from The New York Public Library, informing him that he had received one of 21 fellowships to do short-term research at its landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

“I had to really 

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Spencer Collection Book of the Month: A Wotton Binding

Volume bound for Thomas Wotton (Detail)After I'd spent four Sunday evenings in January engrossed in the doings of the Earl of Grantham and his household on the PBS "Masterpiece Classic" series Downton Abbey, this month's choice for Spencer Collection Book of the Month was obvious: a book that lingered for more than three centuries in the company of barons and earls, before being exiled from their presence in exchange for cold, hard cash.

Like

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Start a New Hobby with the Help From NYPL's Periodical Collections!

Would you like to learn how to knit or improve your bird watching skills? The DeWitt Wallace Periodicals Division currently holds over 100 hobbies and leisure activities magazines for hobbyists, amateurs and enthusiasts alike.  

We have periodicals ranging from antique trading to

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Spencer Collection Book of the Month: Correspondence of St. Jerome

When I started blogging last May, I hoped to post frequently, but my "day job" of cataloging the books I'd like to write about kept getting in the way. This year, I made a New Year's resolution to blog more regularly. To get started, I thought I would pick a "Spencer Collection Book of the Month" at the beginning of each month and write a short post about it—just enough to share with my readers some of the things that make it special, because the Spencer 

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Elements of Cartography

The title of this post comes from an important textbook that every formally trained student of cartography will recognize. Arthur Robinson (1915-2004), a towering figure in the world of cartography and geography, first published Elements of Cartography in 1953. Now in it sixth edition, Elements remains an essential teaching tool in both cartographic literacy and the basics of mapmaking.

In Elements, the reader is reminded that every 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Giving

A colorful USSC emblemIt may seem surprising to learn that even though the United States Sanitary Commission was officially endorsed by the U.S. government in June 1861, by mutual agreement this civilian organization did not receive federal funding for its work. The USSC's extensive activities—camp and hospital inspections, medical studies and publications, and especially, a wide variety of relief efforts for soldiers—were bankrolled entirely by the private sector.

Project archivists Melissa Haley, working on the records of the California Branch and 

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Happy 240th, Beethoven! And thank you, Beethoven Association!

What better way to celebrate Beethoven’s birthday than with a unique portrait of Beethoven.  The impressive oil-painting above usually hangs in The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts on the 3rd floor in the Research Division.  (Due to recent reconfiguration of public space, the painting is temporarily taking a rest from public view.)  It measures 57 x 46 inches and has an impressive provenance.  You can see some of its former owners by looking at the

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Mario Vargas Llosa at The New York Public Library

Not that it happens very often, but when asked who my favorite contemporary writer is I always split it down the middle between Charles Portis and Mario Vargas Llosa.  Vargas Llosa's La Casa Verde - The Green House - is one of my all-time favorite novels along with The War of the End of the World,

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Before the Big Mac: Horn & Hardart Automats

115 East 14th Street. March 1933. credit: Robert Byrnes Collection of Automat MemorabiliaAsk anyone about the "Big Mac" and immediately one imagines an image of a double hamburger on a sesame seed bun. The golden arches are everywhere.  On Broadway and 42nd Street, New York City boasts one of the largest McDonald's in metropolitan America. 

Say the words "Horn & Hardart," you will probably get a different reaction.  Go back thirty years or more...

Horn & Hardart Automats were a common sight around the city.  

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Puccini's La fanciulla del West 100 years ago

The December 10, 2010 performance of the Metropolitan Opera’s production (which opens tonight) of Giacomo Puccini’s La fanciulla del West will mark the 100th anniversary of the opera, which had its premiere at the Met on the same date in 1910 featuring a stellar cast of Emmy Destinn, Enrico Caruso, and Pasquale Amato with Arturo Toscanini conducting.

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Romantic Interests: Shelley's Ghost appears in Oxford; Godwin's Juvenile Library gets Animated

Twelve treasures from the New York Public Library’s Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle will be featured in Shelley’s Ghost: Reshaping the Image of a Literary Family, a major exhibition which opens today at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library.

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