Blood red walls. Long, deep crimson curtains draped from high above. Vintage portraits of subjects in severe poses. Black alabaster statues of Grecian figures. Spot-lit corners.
Sounds like it could be a Gothic castle in the hinterlands of eastern Europe.
Instead, it’s the library of J.P. Morgan at 37th & Madison in New York City.
Yesterday, I visited the home of this impressive collection of rare books, manuscripts, and what the museum’s Wikipedia entry says was once known as “incunabula” — pamphlets and other printed materials printed before the year 1501 (the Gutenberg Bible is a well known example).
The library has three wings filled with books, manuscripts (including some original music manuscripts from notable composers like Puccini, seen here, at right), and some artifacts, all part of a massive collection by the banker and financier John Pierpont Morgan.
There are a lot of Holy Bibles, many many many Bibles — a Quaker Bible, a Gladstone Bible, Bibles spelled “Byble,” and Holy spelled “Holie,” some Bibles published in the 16th century — and a Koran and a Talmud.
I was there during a “free Friday” evening at the Morgan, which means there was a lot of visitor activity and hubbub surrounding these shelves and cages and glass cases, but none of this took away from the feeling of being enveloped by hundreds of years of published words in rich and beautiful bindings.
Accompanying this permanent collection was the museum’s current exhibit of paintings associated with the writer Henry James, including portraits of the writer, as well as a special exhibit on Henry David Thoreau and his famous journals.
Overall, well worth a visit, on a free Friday night or for the twenty dollar admission fee on any other day of the week.