Think of 34th street in Manhattan. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you live in NYC, you probably thought of the busy streets of Herald Square. If you’ve visited the city, you probably thought of the massive Macy’s department store and the Empire State Building. In any case, your first thought most likely had nothing to do with a library. And yet, just a few blocks east of Macy’s, you’ll discover an extraordinary book collection.
Hidden in plain sight, on the corner of Madison Avenue and 36th Streets is the Morgan Library & Museum. Though many have never heard of it, it’s been standing in the same place for over a century.
It’s a stunning place to explore. This library has nothing to envy major national libraries. The extraordinary collection includes the scraps of paper on which Bob Dylan wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “It Ain’t Me Babe”; autographed and annotated libretti from Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart; and manuscripts of Charlotte Brontë, Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott’s novel “Ivanhoe”.
Most notable amongst the books inside are the Gutenberg Bibles. As of 2009, only 49 copies of this bible survive and only 21 of those are complete. While the most prominent libraries around the world have 1 or 2 copies of it, the Morgan Library is the only library to house 3 copies. Even the Vatican Library only holds 2 incomplete volumes. You can view a digital copy of one of the bibles here.
But it’s not only the collection that’s impressive. The interior design of the building is just as amazing. There’s a rotunda with a domed ceiling with painted murals inspired by Raphael. Another breathtaking room is Morgan’s study. A dark room with rich scarlet upholstery that covers the walls, as well as a matching red carpet. The furniture are all antique pieces that draw a picture of what it would have been like to visit this library back in the day.
A bit of history
The library was founded by John Pierpont Morgan, Sr. in 1906 to home his personal collection. JP Morgan was one of the most prominent financiers and bankers of his time, and his name is still synonymous with banking and investments today. He was also an avid collector, buying books, pictures, drawings, paintings and other art objects. He loaned many of these to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, of which he was the president. Many others were kept at this library. After his passing, the library was made a public institution in 1924 by his son J.P. Morgan, Jr.
$14 Seniors (65 and over)
$13 Students (with current ID)
*Free to members and children 12 and under (must be accompanied by an adult)
**Admission is free on Fridays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Tuesday through Thursday: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Closed Monday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street
New York, NY 10016