Throughout his life, J.P. Morgan collected rare books, manuscripts, art, and other historical artifacts. Today, the Morgan Library and Museum houses this collection, along with Morgan’s personal library. Morgan had the library built next to his residence located in Midtown between the Empire State Building and Grand Central Station. Today, the museum preserves Morgan’s library, residence, and his collection.
Visitors to the museum are able to step into Morgan’s library, which features beautifully painted ceilings, ornate decorations, and a grand fireplace in the center of the room. The most impressive part of the library, however, is the books. There are three floors of bookshelves surrounding the room, with the upper two floors accessible only by a small walkway lining the room. Visitors are unable to go to the upper floors, but they can walk around the bottom floor, peering into the cabinets to see volume after volume of old Bibles, classics, and other works. Within the room are a few of the manuscripts and rare books in the collection, including one of the three Gutenberg Bibles that the Morgan Library owns.
Morgan’s library also features a smaller room, also lined with books, that has artifacts from the ancient Middle East, the Roman Empire, and the Carolingians. Many of these artifacts also pertain to writing; there are stone tablets with ancient Assyrian and Akkadian, as well as many stone seals. The library also contains J.P. Morgan’s study, which again has a beautiful ceiling and a large fireplace. This room, however, has fewer books and features Morgan’s desk, some chairs, and a sofa. Select pieces of art are scattered around the room. In one corner there is a vault with more books and a lovely portrait of Martin Luther and his wife by Lucas Cranach.
Along with the library rooms, the Morgan Library has several rotating exhibits, featuring pieces from the collection, usually based on a common theme. Some of these exhibits pertain to the rare books and manuscripts in the collection, but others include drawings, paintings, and sketches. In addition to the museum, there is also a dining room in the Morgan Library, where guests eat their meal in the Morgan family dining room.
The Morgan Library and Museum houses an impressive collection of art; the fact that most of the pieces were originally purchased by an individual and placed in this magnificent space is even more impressive, and makes the setting a bit more charming than a standard museum. The house and library are both works of art in their own right. The Morgan Library’s collection also features works not often seen in other museums–rare books and manuscripts. These are interesting pieces that should not be missed. The Morgan Library and Museum, though not as popular as other New York museums, is certainly worth a visit.
Note: The museum is free Friday evenings from 7-9.