In 2006, after three years of repairs, New York’s famous Morgan Library reopened, which houses a number of rare books, as well as manuscripts, sculptures, musical notations, paintings and drawings by old masters. You can find it in the Murray Hill neighborhood in Manhattan, USA.
The Murray Hill neighborhood was named after Robert and Mary Murray. They considered themselves Quakers, i.e. members of a certain religious society that rejected ceremonies and traditional dogmatic theology. In colonial times, they owned vast tracts of land in the area of today’s bustling Midtown. Today, only side streets lined with avenues of trees remind us of calmer times. Some of the wealthiest and most socially prominent residents of the city lived in these streets. Among them was the New York banker, financier and art patron John Pierpont Morgan, who lived from 1837 to 1913.
According to citypopulationreview.com, Morgan was one of the richest men in America and possibly the world, his fortune reaching 1.39 billion US dollars. Perhaps this is also due to the fact that his money-making system was not controlled in any way at the time. In addition, he was also an active collector of gems from the period known as the “Gilded Age”, or “Gilded Age” in Czech. Although Morgan’s contemporaries were not very unanimous in their opinion of his erudition, his Morgan Library (originally called the Pierpont Morgan Library) is considered to contain one of the most important collections in the world. As its first director jokingly noted, it contained almost everything except the original version of the Ten Commandments.
When you step inside, you’ll feel like you’re in a marble palace. Artistic and literary treasures will be displayed all around you. Morgan first started collecting only books and manuscripts, among which was the “Mainz Psalter” book of psalms from 1465. Later, his interest expanded to include sculptures, Renaissance paintings, paintings by old masters such as Michelangelo and Rembrandt, and other artistic treasures. Before long, his collection had grown to such a size that it no longer fit in his home, so he commissioned architect Charles McKim to build a one-story neoclassical building to house his treasures. She was supposed to grow up on East 36th Street, and so it did.
According to tradition, the library was built from blocks of marble fitted together without using the slightest amount of mortar. Exterior decoration was provided by Adolph A. Weinman, who created sculptures depicting art and other disciplines. Sculptor Edward Clarke Potter’s lions stand proudly at the entrance to the library. He later created similar lions for the New York Public Library. The interior of Morgan’s library originally consisted of a rotunda at the entrance, an East Room lined with books, a North Room serving as an office, and Morgan’s study called the West Room.
The library was only opened to the public in 1924, 11 years after Morgan’s death. Morgan’s son Jack performed the grand opening. Morgan’s house at the intersection of 36th Street and Madison Avenue was demolished four years later and replaced by an addition that became the entrance to the library. A painting by Hans Memling called “Portrait of a Man with a Pink” is on display in the West Room today. It dates from 1475 and is probably the most famous canvas in the entire local collection. The magnificent East Room, in turn, houses one of Gutenberg’s three Bibles. The Bible is kept in a room with a magnificent vaulted ceiling, a stone fireplace and is flanked by a three-level library accessed by footbridges. A selection of hundreds of works from the 14th to the 20th century can be viewed in the Munich Pinakothek in the premises of the State Graphic Collection. Among other works by Michelangelo Buonarroti, Francisco de Goya,
Today, the Morgan Library’s collection includes about 12,000 drawings, musical and literary manuscripts, paintings and sculptures, according to director William M. Griswold, and is constantly expanding with new purchases. In 1992, one important historical document, the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln, was added to the collection. In 1998, the Carter Burden Collection of American literature, which consists of more than 80,000 volumes. These are dated from 1870 and their price is estimated at eight to ten million dollars. In 1988, the library bought the then house of Morgan’s son, the so-called Morgan House with 45 rooms. The building has been converted into an educational center and bookstore, which is connected to the Morgan Library by a courtyard with a garden.
The surroundings of the library are also worth exploring in more detail. You can see the luxurious Morgans Hotel or the De Lamar Mansion from 1905, which was built for a Dutch businessman. Also beautiful is the 1864 Church of the Incarnation, whose rectory features stained glass windows by William Morris, Louis Comfort Tiffany and John La Fargo. The sculpture of Daniel Chester French and August Saint-Gaudens also catches the eye.
Towards the east, you will find several millionaire residences, such as the house from 1911 with plastic friezes, which today houses the Guatemalan consulate, or the house where the Advertising Club was active. Between Lexington Avenue and Third Avenue lies New York’s smallest historic district, the so-called Sniffen Court. It houses interestingly designed houses that were created by rebuilding former stables and which are supplemented by ten brick shelters for carriages dating from the mid-19th century.