Stop 21. Secret Shelves



Sheelagh Bevan, Andrew W. Mellon Associate Curator of Printed Books and Bindings
At the time of the building's construction, it was common to design discreet spaces for book collectors to store volumes of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature featuring erotic engravings. A secret set of shelves, which may have served that purpose, was discovered by library staff in Morgan's private study. When the bookshelves immediately to the left of the fireplace are pushed back, the case in the adjacent cabinet can slide to the right, allowing a hidden set of shelves at the back of the central cabinet to come into view. At the time of their discovery, the shelves were empty. Speculation persists that Morgan concealed his collection of erotica in this space—classic works, such as Fanny Hill, La nouvelle Sapho, and Le diable au corps. Two years after Morgan's death, his son, Jack, sold these and other titles to a dealer in Paris.