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Book It To NYC

Bibliophiles Have Many Places to Check Out

November 18, 2007
By PHYLLIS R. SIGAL Design Editor

If you love the feel of a brand new novel, the thrill of finding a first edition, the smell of an old, old edition, then book it to New York City.

There are bookstores galore  besides the usual chains, including many specialized bookstores to meet all your needs.

A few museums specialize in manuscripts, while most museum gift shops in the city offer an interesting cache of books for purchase.

A visit to the New York Public Library can take hours and hours if you so desire. And the walk — Library Way — leading to the library, past the Library Hotel, is an adventure in itself.

Library Way

It’s easy to bump into an oncoming pedestrian as you walk along Library Way, which is East 41st Street between Fifth and Park avenues.

Why? Because you are looking downward and reading the 96 bronze sidewalk plaques that feature quotations from literature and poetry.

The quotations are from such masters as Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf, Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, Dylan Thomas, Lucille Clifton, Tom Stoppard, Henry David Thoreau and Albert Camus — to name a few.

Library Way was a project of the Grand Central Partnership, a not-for-profit corporation. It transformed the block into an “entertaining and illuminating promenade” to the New York Public Library Humanities and Social Sciences Library, according to the group’s Web site.

Sculptural artist Gregg LeFevre created the bronze plaques that are truly a joy to read.

Library Hotel

    You can eat, sleep and drink books at the Library Hotel, a boutique hotel just a block or two from the New York Public Library Humanities and Social Sciences Library. Each floor of the hotel is dedicated to one of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal System.

The lobby is lined with books — old and new. Card catalog drawers form the wall behind the guest services desk.

The rooms are enhanced with wall decor in the same vein as the category. For example, in one of the rooms on the math and science floor, astronomy was the theme in a junior suite, while dinosaurs were evident in another.

A selection of appropriately themed books  are available in all of the rooms.

On the Literature Floor, the “menu” of rooms includes Poetry, Fairy Tales and Erotic Literature — the last of which is one of the most popular rooms for a romantic get-away, according to Yogini Patel, director of sales and marketing.

Her business card also titles her “Honorary Librarian.”

Along with the rooms are a reading room, a writer’s den and a poetry garden. Madison and Vine, an American bistro, recently was opened in the hotel.

In the lounge on the top floor, guests can indulge in some tasty drinks: The Hemingway, the Great Gatsby and the Jackie Collins, to name a few.

Patel noted that it was the public library situated just a few steps away that inspired the hotel’s theme.

After a good night’s rest, stop by the Humanities and Social Sciences Library for a book or a tour.

Article Photos

With lions “Patience” and “Fortitude” guarding its doors, the New York Public Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Library presides majestically over the head of the street.

New York Public Library Humanities and Social Sciences Library

The lions at the entrance welcome visitors to the grand building, one of many that are part of the New York Public Library system.

Once inside, you see marble, giant candelabras and fascinating architecture. The architecture, however, is secondary to the vastness of the collection: there are 52 million items. There are 18 million books and millions of other formats, from 4,000-year-old tablets to CD-ROMS.

This building, the library’s central building, was completed in 1911. It is one of the finest examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the nation.

The structure was situated on the site of the city’s reservoir, which took 500 workers about two years to dismantle and to prepare the site.

The construction of the building took nine years at a cost of $29 million in 1911, which is equal to about $500 million in today’s dollars, according to information displayed at the library.

Within the library system are five central libraries and 82 branch libraries.

The Morgan Library

& Museum

Worth a visit is the Morgan Library Museum on Madison Avenue, which once served as the private library for Pierpont Morgan.

Inside the elegant structure can be found such treasures as three copies of the Gutenberg Bible (there is always one on display), Milton’s “Paradise Lost” manuscripts, lyrics from a Bob Dylan song written on a Holiday Inn napkin, the original manuscript of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” medieval and Renaissance illuminated texts, illustrated books, early children’s books, music manuscripts (including Beethoven’s Violin Sonato No. 10 in G Major), and ancient seals and tablets. Some, however, are not available for viewing.

He started collecting later in his life, said Sandra Ho, media relations manager at the museum. “It was the thing to do — collecting. He surrounded himself with good advisers as to what he should invest in.”

Eleven years after Pierpont’s death, his son, J.P. Morgan Jr., made the library and its treasures available to scholars and the public by transforming it into a public library. In 1988, J.P. Morgan Jr.’s former residence was added to the complex, and in 1991, a garden court was constructed to unite the elements.

In 2006, a 75,000-square-foot addition was completed. Available at the museum are a gift shop, cafe, tours and public programs.

Current exhibitions are “Painted With Words: Vincent van Gogh Letters to Emile Bernard” and “Contemporary Artists Select Old Masters,” both through Jan. 6.

The Frick Collection

Once the home of industrialist Henry Clay Frick, the mansion at East 70th Street now houses a collection of Western art ranging from the Renaissance through the late 19th century, including works by such artists as Bellini,  Corot, Fragonard, Goya, El Creco, Manet, Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, Titian, Vermeer and Whistler.

Frick, who grew up in the rural outskirts of Pittsburgh and made his fortune in the Pittsburgh steel industry, came to New York in 1914 and built his new mansion on Fifth Avenue.

The residence and the works he had collected over the years were bequeathed by Frick to a board of trustees, and the museum was opened to the public in 1935.

The paintings, sculptures, decorative art and enamels are displayed as much as possible as if they were in Frick’s private home.

A complimentary audio guide is a great help in negotiating the rooms.

Lectures and special exhibitions take place at the Frick. The current exhibition, which continues through Jan. 27, features the art of Gabriel de Saint-Aubin.

Along with the collection of work, is the Frick Art Reference Library, founded in 1920 by Helen Clay Frick as a memorial to her father. It is one of the foremost resources in the world for the study of European and American art. 

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