Stop 38: On the Shelves



Jesse Erickson, Astor Curator of Printed Books and Bindings
While this room was designed with one tier of bookshelves, the scale of Morgan’s collections necessitated blocking up windows and the addition of two further tiers. The shelves along these walls contain just part of the Morgan’s vast collection of rare printed books. The collection ranges from the earliest examples of printing, called incunables, made in the fifteenth century, to first editions by authors living today.

Much of what you see was originally collected by Pierpont Morgan himself. While he did acquire large caches and whole libraries, Morgan was primarily looking for books that had something special to offer: distinguished provenance, an author’s annotations, or a rare binding, features that would make a printed book, which was produced in multiples, a unique object.

The collection has grown and developed since Morgan's original acquisitions. In the bookcases to either side of the fireplace are more-recently donated collections, including, on the left, the Elisabeth Ball Collection of Early Children's Books, and, on the right, the Dannie and Hettie Heineman Collection of literary and scientific volumes.