Meet Belle da Costa Greene


Transcript: Hello. I’m Colin B. Bailey, Director of the Morgan Library and Museum, and I am delighted to introduce you to Belle da Costa Greene, the Morgan’s first director.

Widely recognized as an authority on illuminated manuscripts and deeply respected as a cultural heritage executive, Greene was one of the most prominent librarians in American history. She ran the Morgan Library for forty-three years—initially working for J. Pierpont Morgan and then his son, Jack, and later becoming the inaugural director of the Pierpont Morgan Library, a post she took up in 1924.

Greene’s education as a librarian began in 1896 at the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in Northfield, Massachusetts, today the Northfield Mount Hermon School, where her application stated an interest in librarianship. She would continue this course of study in 1900 at the Amherst College Summer Library School. Greene was then employed at the Princeton University Library, where she met J. Pierpont Morgan’s nephew, Junius Spencer Morgan. It was Junius who recommended Belle to his uncle. In 1905, Greene became J. Pierpont Morgan’s private librarian, and the rest is history.

During her decades-long career as Librarian and Director, Belle da Costa Greene not only acquired countless significant collection items, but also made immeasurable contributions to bibliography and scholarship. She facilitated widespread collection access through object loans and ambitious photographic services and she promoted the work of distinguished women scholars. Belle da Costa Greene was innovative in her approach to collection development and special collections teaching and frequently served as a consultant for other cultural institutions. Today, several fellowships and academic honors are named after Belle Greene, ensuring that her life continues to inspire and promote the work of young scholars and librarians.

As you move through J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library, look for the audio symbols to hear Erica Ciallela, one of our Belle da Costa Greene fellows, speak about Greene’s illustrious career as a librarian, curator, and dynamic New Yorker. Thank you for joining us at the Morgan. We hope you enjoy your visit.

Otto J. Schneider
Belle da Costa Greene in the North Room of J. Pierpont Morgan's Library, 1909
ARC 3271