This week I had the opportunity to visit the Beinecke rare books and manuscript library in New Haven. I was actually born and raised in New Haven and had seen this unique building many times, but to me it was just the odd stamp-shaped library whose books are not allowed to be borrowed. The panels that make up the building are Vermont white and grey veined marble, one and a half inches thick, which allows natural light to filter through the building but without damaging the rare books.
Upon entering the building, one is greeted by a glass tower, six levels high, filled with approximately 180,000 rare books—first editions, manuscripts, letters, etc. There is additional space in the Beinecke’s underground stacks for one million volumes. I could not stop staring at this impressive, gorgeous tower and taking photos of it from all angles. Here are a few of the ones I took:
Anyone can visit the library during its operating hours and view the Gutenberg Bible and Audobon’s Birds of America which are on permanent display. There is also seating around the main floor for anyone to study, read or sit quietly:
In addition to these permanent books on display, there is also a collection of rare books and manuscripts to view that changes every few months. The current display is a group of Medieval English Manuscripts from the Takamiya Collection:
For additional information about the building, an audio tour, and a description of its rare books, manuscripts and papyri visit their website: http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/about/about-building
Any researchers, even those not associated with Yale University, can request to view books and other materials through the library’s website. There is a rigorous process for identification and the materials can only be viewed in their reading room which, as one can imagine, is closely monitored. I requested to look at their Dorothy M. Richardson collection, the treasures from which I will share in a future post.
(The title for this post “Noli hoc tangere” (don’t touch this) was a clever suggestion from one of my Latin students who came up with this caption after I showed my photos and shared my experience in class.)