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The Original Library p3

A visit to the J.P. Morgan Library, Manhattan, which included a complete set of Les Nuits de Paris by Restif.

The Library, in the East Room, features three levels of books lining the walls, and there were rare manuscripts on display in glass cases. You could read from an opened hand-written Mozart Symphony No. 35 in D Major, 1782. It had once been owned by Mad King Ludwig. And there was a letter written by a 15-year-old Queen Elizabeth 1. She had quite a flourish in her signature. I wonder what she’d think of texting.
Plus there were illustrated gospels and other amazing things. That’s in addition to the three levels of amazing books. You can only see the ground level books up close, spines out, and locked behind glass and protective metal, all patrolled by discreet and helpful security guards. There were two staircases hidden behind bookcases, that led to the upper balconies. And there was another massive fireplace, next to the jewel-covered Lindau Gospels from the French workshops of Charles the Bald, circa 870-80. The bald and the beautiful.
I’ll provide a bit of a J.P. Morgan reading list. He seemed quite fond of French writers. The collection included Oevres de J. Racine, 1784, and many other books by the playwright. There were the complete volumes of Les Nuits de Paris by Restif, 1788 — I’ve only read a short paperback best-of version of this. Restif would wander around Paris at night writing about the people he met. Then there was Voltaire’s Philosophy de Newton; Candid by Voltaire; Nouvelle Adventures De Don Quichotie, Paris, 1704; Bibliotheque de Marie Antoinette (Dauphine) 1770; Histoires des Amans Fortunez, Paris, 1558; Memoire de Conde; Memoires de Casanova, in numerous volumes; Itineraire de Jerusalem. There were numerous volumes by Balzac, like Le Livre Mystique. There was the Histoire de Manon Lescaut; Memoires de Qualite in six volumes; and a red and gold volume, Jacques Le Fataliste, 1884; Liasons Dangereuses, in two beautiful green and gold volumes; The Hermit by Longueville; Robinson Crusoe, and not to mention Robinson De Rousseau, published in Paris in 1823. There was Fontaine’s Fables in a nice gold and red volume –good fantasy colors; Vancouver’s Histoire des Voyages, nine books in four volumes; Dante’s Comedia; Perrault, Contes Des Fees, from 1799.
Then there was an eclectic mix of thousands of other volumes; Les Danse Des Morts by Jules Labitte; also Le Triomphe de La Mort.
There were also a lot of children’s books, and other miscellany. Useful Birds and Their Protection by Edward Forbush, 1907; Catalogue of a Collection of Miniatures by R. Cosway; The Master Cat by John Marshall, 1821; Winter Evening Every Boy’s Book; Strange Adventures of the Gooroo Simple, in a green and gold volume. Then there books like the Armenian Psalter, from Amsterdam, 1664; The Book of Common Prayer; and a 1550 Concordance to the Bible. Well worth a visit.

-copyright Simon Sandall.