A jaunt into Manhattan recently let us visit the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. On exhibit is just a portion of this 125-year-old institution’s many treasures. Well worth a visit, the jaw-dropping free exhibition lets you see first-hand a wide selection of amazing artifacts—Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s handwritten farewell address, and the drafts of literary icons like Maya Angelou, manuscripts by musical geniuses Beethoven and Mozart and Dizzy Gillespie.
A small section shows some of the anti-Nazi pamphlets smuggled into Germany cleverly hidden in packages of food and the like. You can see all six of the Library’s copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio. One of the interesting things about that display is that the descriptions enumerate the subtle—and not so subtle—differences among them. You can see the first great printed book, too—Gutenberg’s Bible—but before modern printing, individual copies of a book were not perfectly standardized. The discrepancies created fodder for innumerable dissertations and theories by Shakespeare scholars.
But, it’s not just books. It’s also stuff. The collection of stuffed animals that inspired the creation of Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, and Kanga. Five batons made for Arturo Toscanini in their unfinished state. Eventually, the wand would be painted white to look like ivory. The costume of ballerina Alexandra Danilova from a century ago. Cole Porter’s cigarette case. Charles Dickens’s desk and chair, and on and on. Globes, Virginia Woolf’s walking stick. Really, a feast for the mind, and every visitor will find at least one thing to love. You might forget to look up, you’ll be so fixed on the displays, but the ceiling of Gottesman Hall, where the exhibit is, is pretty spectacular too.