Friday, September 13, 2013

And yes, I've visited the Bodleian

Friend Dana in California came across some photos of great European libraries in a magazine, thought of me, tore them out and mailed them.  In my e-mail thank-you I listed a few of the best libraries I’d ever seen on this continent.  One was the Library of the Canadian Parliament.  Years ago, when I was off to Ottawa for a Jane Austen weekend meeting, my sister told me I had to see it.  It seems  that when the rest of the Parliament buildings were destroyed by fire in 1916, some hero blocked off the Library, which remains today as a High Victorian survivor, complete with statue of the Queen herself. 

So here’s the weird part – the very next day niece Amy posted a picture of that library on Facebook.  Complete coincidence.  Startled me.
                                   Some of the most beautiful libraries I’ve seen –

The Beinicke at Yale – those exterior panels are all thin marble, and on the sunny day we visited, the interior was glowing.  The free-standing central glass tower, which was illuminated that day, rose like the shrine to the book it is – and as I happened to have my binoculars, I even located, about three stories down, a first edition of
Pride and Prejudice – three volumes, red leather.

The Peabody Music Stack Room  – back in the 1980s I when I was book-touring (“we have the author in the studio”), my escort in Baltimore said “I’m just going to park here, all I’m telling you is go in to this building  and turn to the first door on the right.”
Baltimore Surprise
The Huntington in Pasadena – that’s where I saw an original manuscript in the handwriting of Henry Thoreau, and its margin a penciled notation by a frantic printer – “CAN’T READ”.
J. P. Morgan’s Study – best spot in all of Manhattan.  One of his three (!) Gutenberg Bibles is displayed open in that dusky quiet room.  I believe it is still, after more than 500 years, the most beautiful book ever printed.




1 comment:

  1. You are, I think, unlikely ever to find yourself in Waco, but should it ever happen, the principal Wonder of Waco, at least in my book, it the Armstrong Browning Library. It's got Maxfield Parrish-style trompe l'oeil frescoes, a gilded dome ceiling, and the largest collection of secular stained glass in the world. Most of this glass has to do with the works of (no, I am not kidding) Robert Browning. Weirder still? Much of it was made in Rochester.