Sunday, September 30, 2007

Philadelphia ---- Liberty Bell

As a bell, the Liberty Bell was a washout from the word go. It was ordered from Whitechapel Foundry in London, for the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House, now Independence Hall, in Philadelphia. While being hung for the first time in March of 1753, the bell developed a crack and was sent to two local foundry workers to be melted and recast. The tone of the recast bell did not please so it was recast once more. Since no one liked the sound of this one either, a new bell was ordered from Whitechapel. On arrival it too was not acceptable and the recast bell was left in place while the new one was used for the clock in the cupola.

But the bell served its purpose, being rung to call the Assembly together, to summon the people for various announcements and events and it tolled often. On July 8th 1776, supposedly it rang out to summon the citizens for the reading of the Declaration of Independence. However this story is doubted by historians since the steeple was in very bad condition at the time. Just before the British occupied Philadelphia in October 1777, all bells were removed from the city and hidden for it was feared they would be melted down and turned into cannon. The Liberty Bell was hidden in the Zion Reformed Church in Allentown, but it was returned to Philadelphia and put into storage, until rehung in a newly built steeple in 1785.

But what about the crack you ask? No one is entirely sure when it began to develop but by 1846 the bell was not ringable, despite all efforts to repair it. However, shortly before, in 1837, the bell had been adopted by abolitionists as a symbol for the movement, when it began to be used by the New York Anti-Slavery Society. In fact they gave it its name, Liberty Bell, since previously it had been called simply the State House Bell and thus began its transformation into a symbol of freedom, adopted by many different causes over the years. After the 1880s the bell made many journeys from city to city throughout the country, in an effort to unite it and heal rifts. One such journey was made after the Civil War, however it has remained in Philadelphia since 1915.

Today it resides in the Liberty Bell Center, a very modern building, opened in October 2003. This Center is across from Independence Hall as part of the Independence National Historical Park and the bell is cunningly placed so that you can see Independence Hall in the background and such that it is visible to all, even when the Center is closed. The Center also has exhibits showing the bell's connection to various causes and many examples of items decorated with the bell since it has been very popular for that purpose over the years.

A showcase of objects decorated with the Bell

Perhaps you'd care for some Liberty Bell bookends, complete with cracks

For those who are interested here are some statistics, which you can pass right on by if you are not:

Composition: 70% copper, 25% tin, small amounts of lead, zinc, arsenic, gold and silver

Size of Crack: The crack is approximately 1/2 inch wide and 24.5 inches long.

The strike note of the Bell is E-flat

Bell Stats

  • circumference around the lip: 12 ft.
  • circumference around the crown: 7 ft. 6 in.
  • lip to crown: 3 ft.
  • height over the crown: 2 ft. 3 in.
  • thickness at lip: 3 in.
  • thickness at crown: 1-1/4 in.
  • weight (originally): 2080 lbs.
  • length of clapper: 3 ft. 2 in.
  • weight of clapper: 44-1/2 lbs.
  • weight of yoke: 200 lbs.
  • Length of visible hairline fracture: approx. 2' 4" (this and next measurement made by Park curator Bob Giannini in 1993)
  • Length of drilled crack: approx. 2' 1/2"
  • yoke wood: American Elm (a.k.a. slippery elm)

A replica of the Liberty Bell, forged in 1915, was used to promote women's suffrage. It traveled the country with its clapper chained to its side, silent until women won the right to vote. On September 25, 1920, it was brought to Independence Hall and rung in ceremonies celebrating the ratification of the 19th amendment.
The original Liberty Bell announced the creation of democracy; the Women's Liberty Bell will announce the completion of democracy.

– Katherine Ruschenberger, suffragist, New York Times, March 31, 1915.

Its life as a working bell may have been short lived but the Liberty Bell has endured as a symbol of freedom and embraced by everyone looking to advance that cause. I don't believe that will change anytime soon since freedom is still under attack in many places and for many people.

Apologies once more for the spacing. I think I will have to give up on wraparound.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fridge Meme

Well there's not exactly a fridge meme, although Ian at Shades of Grey suggested the word when he posted a photo of his fridge here after Welshcakes of Sicily Scene posted several shots of hers, here and here.

But since you "enjoyed" the photos of my bookshelves for the Photo Hunt I thought you might see how a similar situation exists with my fridge, or my temporary photo gallery/filing cabinet.

Please feel free to post a photo of your fridge and don't forget the two originators of the idea.

In my case, it's the theme that is ORIGINAL

Saturday Photo Hunt ---- Ordinarily Original

UPDATE: JMB has officially lost it. She copied down the theme as ordinary and never checked it again. ipanema has kindly pointed out that the theme is ORIGINAL! That's too bad because JMB is going ahead, in her own ORIGINAL way, with her ORIGINAL post. She promises to get it together for next week.


Commonly encountered; usual.
The usual or normal condition or course of events
the regular or customary condition

At our house we are "drowning" in books. We have a large house and today I counted twelve bookcases which hold our books, usually at least two rows deep and sometimes three. They also seem to rest on every flat surface except in our living room where two quite tidy bookcases reside and there are no bookcovered surfaces. But in every other room the ordinary everyday situation regarding books is shown below. But I can also tell you what books I own and in which of the twelve bookcases or on which flat surface you will find any one of these books.

Only two rows deep in this bookcase in the family room, but rather chaotic

One of three bookcases in my bedroom, the smallest,
yes, in the cupboard below too,
totally out of control

Two deep, on top of my bedroom chest of drawers
A rather eclectic mix, it's true.

So many books, so little time!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Philadelphia ---- Independence Hall

After our interesting journey to Philadelphia, described here, and after checking into our hotel, we set out on foot for Independence National Historical Park and, as the brochure says:

"where so much of our (meaning American) Colonial, Revolutionary and Federal-period heritage is preserved."

Several years ago, while in Washington, DC, we visited the National Archives where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are displayed, now sealed in argon gas, in their newly renovated home in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom*. The room was softly lit and people waited quietly in line to enter the rotunda and slowly filed past the various documents, stopping to inspect them more closely on occasion and even though I am not American I found it a quite moving experience.

But it was here, in Philadelphia, in the Pennsylvania State House, in June 1776, at a meeting of the Continental Congress, that Virginia delegate Richard Lee proposed that the colonies, now in armed conflict with England, be proclaimed free and independent states. Thomas Jefferson drafted the formal declaration, with revisions by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, and the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. That night John Dunlap, official printer, hastily produced an unknown number of printed copies and these were dispatched next morning around the colonies. Twenty four of these copies, Dunlap Broadsides as they are known, remain in existence today.

On several occasions the US Supreme Court held sessions in this room which was the courthouse in the building

Of course I learned all this on the tour we took of Independence Hall, as the State House is now known, with a Park ranger. Rather a bored one I might add, as he gave this talk for the millionth time I am sure, but rather unenthusiastically. Perhaps it was because it was one of the last tours of the day which we managed to join without the palaver of getting tickets at the Visitors' Centre, elsewhere in the park, and returning later.

The restored Assembly Room in Independence Hall where the Declaration and the Constitution were hammered out and finally signed

In 1781 the new nation adopted the Articles of Confederation, however, in 1787, a Convention was called in Philadelphia to reform these and delegates put together and signed the Constitution which was finally ratified by the last of the states in June 1788. Philadelphia became the nation's temporary capital in 1790 while the permanent site in Washington, DC, was readied and in 1800 the US Government moved to the current capital city.

A side room, restored with furniture of the period.

Another room inside the Hall, restored as a Guards' room

Finally, if you are still with me, for your amusement, from this site:

Delegates from the original 13 states formed the Contented Congress.
Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the
Declaration of Independence. Franklin discovered electricity by rubbing two
cats backwards and declared, A horse divided against itself cannot stand.
Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.

*The Rotunda for the Charter of Freedoms in the National Archives taken from here.
Click to enlarge, if it pleases you. It is indeed an impressive setting for these historic documents.

Excuse the spacing above, it looks fine in the preview but somewhat awry on publishing.
If I knew how to fix it I would.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Philadelphia --- The Rodin Museum

The French sculptor, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) is now considered among the greatest sculptors of all time but it wasn't always that way and he suffered great criticism in his lifetime for his adherence to naturalism in his sculpture. However slowly he built a solid reputation and he began to receive commissions. He also spent a period of time in Italy where he studied the work of Michelangelo, who obviously had a great influence on the direction of his sculpture.

One of his best known sculptures, The Thinker, sits outside the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia which for me was a highlight of our visit to Philadelphia.

In 1923 Jules Mastbaum, a very rich Philadelphia philanthropist began collecting Rodin's work with the idea of creating a museum for the city. He assembled the greatest collection of Rodin outside of the Paris Rodin Museum and he commissioned architects to design a beautiful neoclassical museum and garden. Sadly he died in 1926 before its completion but the museum opened in 1929, showcasing 128 of Rodin's sculptures and plaster studies.

Interestingly enough, The Thinker, was a study made for his famous commission, The Gates of Hell, upon which he worked from 1880 until his death in 1917. Originally a 27.5 inch bronze and entitled The Poet, after Dante, The Thinker later became enlarged and a separate work and has been cast 61 times in all, with a copy on his tomb in Meudon, France where he died.

The outer entrance to the Philadelphia Rodin Museum, with The Thinker on the white pedestal, rather lost in the background

The formal pool and garden between the outer entrance and the museum itself. You can just see The Thinker centred in the opening

The main gallery of the Rodin Museum, with The Burghers of Calais in the centre
This larger than life monumental group was a commission from the Mayor of Calais and was completed in 1889.

A close-up of the figures of The Burghers of Calais

Entitled Mignon, this exquisite bronze represents a twenty-five year old Rose Beuret, Rodin's lifelong companion for more than fifty years, despite his many other lovers. Mother of his son, his model, and finally his wife at the age of 72, she died two weeks after the marriage.

The Martyr, a life-sized bronze figure of a woman, conceived for The Gates of Hell but not cast until 1925, after Rodin's death.

The exquisite sculpture Eternal Springtime, a mere twenty eight inches of beauty, grace and passion. This sculpture was very popular and Rodin repeated it often in marble and bronze

I have so many more photos, some good, some not so good, from my visit but this post is already too long. All photos are mine except the one below. Since The Gates of Hell casting at the entrance to the Museum was one of the not so good photos, mainly because they were at the top of a staircase and I could not stand far enough away to photograph them completely I have used this one which can be copied freely. It is the casting at the Musée Rodin in Paris.

I can not tell you how much I enjoyed this museum. The splendid building, its design and its beautiful situation in the park were indeed a worthy setting for this wonderful collection, so carefully assembled by Mr Mastbaum.

If you ever go to Philadelphia, do not omit this treasure from your itinerary. It's definitely worth a visit.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Wishful Thinking

I've always wanted to have personalized license plates or Vanity Plates* as they are often called. I enjoy reading the clever things that people squish into the limited space available. In BC they cost $100 initially and $40 annually. Not cheap but not too bad for a little personal indulgence.

No, I didn't break down and use JMB plates on my black Mercedes. In fact it isn't even my Mercedes. Imagine my delight when I received an email from fellow Blogpower member, Colin Campbell of Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe, with this photo attached. Seeing it while out and about, he photographed this very fine Mercedes at Heathpool in, as he says, one of the snootiest parts of Adelaide, where he lives. Adelaide that is, probably not snooty Heathpool, else surely he would have used a kinder adjective.

Speaking of snooty, one time I parked in the rear parking lot of a small store next to a Rolls Royce with the vanity plate No 1. Inside the store, I said facetiously to the only other customer, "Where's Number 2?" "Oh," he said, "that's the wife's." Duh! Set myself up there!

So what does JMB drive, you might well ask. Here it is, in all its glory! A 1994 Ford Taurus, of a strange celedon green colour, which was the height of fashion in 1994. Nowadays the only advantage of that colour is that everyone knows it's my car, since fashion quickly passed on by to some other colour and most people have replaced their 1994 cars. I'm still waiting for the clever vanity plates and I'm sure JMB is already taken.

I would like to thank my blog friends who take photos of JMB's things for me. Besides Colin, Vijay, of Scan Man's Notes kindly thought of me when he saw this near where he lives in Salem, India. He actually posted this photo on his blog here.

Yes, my very own bricks. Now I am glad to say that I am moving up in the world from a pile of bricks to a very nice black Mercedes. That's definitely progress to my mind. In fact a Neil-Armstrongean-giant-leap for JMB, as Vijay put it. If anyone sees a castle with my name on it, please be so kind as to take a photo and send it to me.

Thanks Colin for taking the photo and sending it to me. It did make my day!

*For a seriously detailed list of Vanity Plates check out this website.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday Photo Hunt ---- Paper


So many of my photos on this blog come from Granville Island. Last Thursday, when we walked there, planning for this theme, I thought I would probably get some photos from a wonderful paper shop, Paper-Ya, which sells handmade and specialty papers and related items. I took a photo of the outside of the store and walked in with my camera. Immediately a store person approached me and said no photographs. I said I would not use flash, but she was adamant. After some discussion I retreated. I have bought a lot of paper and paper products in there over the years, including the special handmade parchment that my daughter's wedding guests signed eleven years ago. I'll think twice about being a customer there in the future.

My friend reminded me of a paper artist who is sometimes in the market and sure enough he was there at his table. He was sitting cutting designs with his cutting tool and discretely I took a photo of his wares but he noticed and called out, "Will you send me a copy?" What a difference. Please photograph my art! I took a few shots and hoped that some of them would be good since I wanted to please this gracious man by sending him a good photo. I asked for his card which he carefully folded for me and which showcases his technique and he asked me to email a photo. May I present ndavid, paper artist. Please click on the images to see them enlarged.

And some of his detailed artwork, created from paper.

And more.

A little closer look.

Thank you Mr David for allowing me to photograph your beautiful artwork. I'm afraid I was a little flustered after my experience at the paper store and then I was concentrating on taking photos. Only after I left did I realize that I should have bought something and that it would be a pleasure to buy something so carefully created and so beautiful. Next time I see you, I will.


UPDATE: If you came by and there were no images, I apologize. I don't know when they disappeared but I have now reloaded them. I cannot believe that I did anything so I am going to assume it was some technical problem with Blogger. I can still see the extra boxes from where they have disappeared and hopefully will fix this in time. Thank you for your patience.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Philadelphia -- First Impressions

Philadelphia or Vancouver? That was the choice we had to make in 1961 when my husband was offered a job at both the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. It wasn't easy since they were offering a larger salary at the Franklin and we knew that Philadelphia was an interesting city, with a rich historical and cultural heritage for a North American city, but Vancouver won out because he wanted to teach as well as do research.

This year, when we went to New York to visit our daughter, we decided to see what we had missed by choosing Vancouver instead of Philadelphia. The fact that we had never been there, coupled with a King Tutankhamun exhibit at the Franklin Institute was the deciding factor in our choice for a side trip.

Philadelphia is known to be a city conducive for walking so I booked accommodation in a hotel in the centre, within walking distance of most of the things we wanted to see. We hired a car to make the two hour journey there, and it was very interesting navigating the one way narrow streets of Philadelphia to find our hotel. We then parked the car in the hotel garage and didn't take it out again for three days, preferring to either walk or take the purple Phlash tourist bus which travels between twenty different stops which hit the highlights for most tourists and for the bargain price of $1 or free for seniors.

The very beautiful City Hall in Philadelphia, also shown at the top of the post

First an aside about the trip to Philadelphia. I had arranged to rent a car from the local car rental agency in my daughter's hometown. Being the micro-manager that I am, I went to pick it up the day before we were to leave. I went over the car briefly with the agent, no scratches, tank full, nice clean new car. No problems. I drove it home only to find out that suddenly messages were flashing on the dashboard. Trunk ajar! Oil needs service! Neither of which were likely to be true, and in fact were not, but this car was not acceptable. Back to the agency where the only car left was a larger, fully loaded Mazda 6 which he would give me for the same price but had dried paint spilled on the upholstery of the back seat. Well, as this was the only available car, I accepted it.

Now it's not that I am a bad navigator and I can certainly read maps, but the old scientist loves the maps and seeing where we are, mile by mile. So usually I drive and he navigates and both of us are happy. To go to Philadelphia you take the New Jersey Turnpike and to get to that road you have to cross the Hudson River. In actual fact it starts at the end of the George Washington Bridge but last time we took that bridge it took forever to get across, so very cunningly we decided to cross the river higher up, at the Tappan Zee Bridge, go down the west side of the river and meet up with the NJ Turnpike at the GW Bridge. Simple, right? Well the old scientist misdirected me at the Tappan Zee Bridge turnoff and put me in a little town at the side. No problem, round again and across the bridge. Down the west side of the river and here we were at the end of the GW bridge, with a myriad of possible lanes. Which road do we take, I demanded. This one, no that one? Next thing I knew we were on the approach to the GW bridge going back into Manhattan! As I paid the toll I asked the person in the booth how to get back to New Jersey. She gave me very precise directions, which of course made me realize that I was not the only idiot who had done this. In fact, the three cars in front of me, with New Jersey number plates, went through exactly the same manoevres to get back there. Needless to say the old scientist was fired as navigator and he sulkily read his book in the back seat. Navigation was taken over by my son, the chartered accountant, and several hours later we arrived at the hotel.

One of the city's beautiful parks with stately trees and fountains

So what was my overall impression of the city itself? I loved it. Walking about the streets, I found it had a very nice feel. There were trees and flowers everywhere. It seemed wherever you walked, suddenly you came across a green space, with a park full of trees and a fountain and there were many pieces of public art displayed throughout these parks and elsewhere in the city. This is due to the vision of William Penn who in the late seventeenth century planned five open-space parks for the centre of Philadelphia. His plan for Philadelphia was one of the earliest city planning ventures and the city was laid out on a rectangular grid system which makes it a very easy city to navigate.

Next time I'll take you with me to the Independence National Historical Park, or the Rodin Museum, or the Franklin Institute for the King Tut exhibit or one of the other interesting places we visited in Philadelphia.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pizza -- Comfort Food?

Thai-style Barbecue Chicken Pizza, as served to my son recently, at the Culinary Institute of America

Welshcakes Limoncello had a very informative post on the subject of pizza recently, including a recipe for the Modica variety, which is where she lives in Sicily. It made me think about pizza in general. Since you all know that I am an Italophile you will probably find my thoughts about pizza rather strange.

There is a very good summary of pizza on the Wikipedia site here, where it discusses the original Italian varieties and the different regional varieties in the USA. Frankly my personal experiences with pizza in Italy have led me to prefer American-style pizza.

Yes, blasphemous I know. I even tasted pizza in Italy long before I tasted it in North America, so it's not that I prefer what I tried first. I just don't care for crust so thin and hard it is impossible to cut with a knife and fork, which is how you eat pizza in Italy. It never seemed to be quite round either. Of course each person orders an individual pizza in Italy. Toppings seem to be more limited too.

When I did the home stay with my Italian "family" in Verona for two weeks, Saturday night was take-out pizza night and we all ordered our individual choices. It was recommended that I try one of the regional favourites, Radicchio and Spek. It was perfectly dreadful but I had to manfully eat every last bite because I did not want to offend. I find radicchio a trifle bitter even at the best of times, but cooked on pizza, no thank you. Never again.

One of the best pizzas I have had in Italy was made by my friend Grazia, in Bologna. Pizza bianca. Simple: a very good crust, brushed with olive oil and topped with crushed garlic, rosemary leaves and sea salt and cooked to perfection. Absolutely delicious.

You see, I prefer my pizza with a slightly thicker crust, not bready but thicker than Italian pizza crust. I loathe anchovies so you can leave those off mine. Most other toppings I like. I'll even admit to liking Hawaiian pizza with ham or Canadian bacon and pineapple. So refreshing.

I did find the pizza shown above and served at the Culinary Institute of America rather an odd combination: Thai-style Barbecue Chicken. However my son enjoyed it and saw nothing strange about it at all. It did have a superb crust, as I can attest to, having tried a piece.

Well as to pizza being comfort food, I would have to say yes. There are times when I just long to have pizza. There's a great pizza place near my son's house, on the other side of Vancouver. Carpozzi's Pizza. It's run by a mom and pop Italian couple and the crust is just perfect for me, not too thick to be doughy but not too thin to be hard. Secondo me, la pizza perfetta!

I am truly grateful to the Italians for coming up with something so delicious and I am also grateful to the Americans who took this dish and ran with it. And for the better, in my humble opinion.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday Photo Hunt ---- Plastic


Vancouver is a great city for recycling. We have a very good reputation for this and when I travel I am constantly amazed, being well indoctrinated in these matters, when I try to recycle something only to find that it is not recyclable in that particular area.

That said, on July 20th, the outside civic workers of Vancouver commenced a strike action which is still going on today, September 15th. Despite judicious packing of our recycling blue bin, it is frankly overflowing. Luckily we wash out everything before putting it in the bin, so odour is not a problem. But space is becoming an issue. So please, Mr Garbageman, negotiate a settlement soon, and go back to work.

Hopefully the red nicotiana and blue salvia soften the Symphony in Blue Plastic image


Friday, September 14, 2007

Temptation 8 ---- Windsurfers

Labour Day Weekend has passed and Fall has arrived in Vancouver. Cool weather with sunshine prevails. But I have a few more photos in the Temptation series before we leave the memories of Summer behind.

Here, at the Jericho Sailing Club, some young people were enjoying a windsurfing lesson as we walked along the foreshore. Click to see the colourful sails against the North Shore mountains.

Windsurfing is very popular here and you see these little sail boards darting along the shoreline.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New York Public Library

One of the things we always do when we go into New York, from my daughter's house just outside the city, is to visit the New York Public Library. Located very close to Grand Central Station, it has a wonderful gallery which usually has a display of interest to us.

So on the Saturday we went up to the City to see the Blue Man Group, we headed to the library as soon as we arrived at Grand Central. To our delight we found that on Saturdays there is always a guided tour of the display and then later a guided tour of the library itself. All the interior photos here were hastily taken as I went on this tour while the outside ones were taken more leisurely.

Since I started this blog, I carry a notebook and in it I write details of topics which I think could make an interesting post. I don't know what people think of the "little old lady" who hastily scribbles in her notebook, but frankly I don't care. I'll post separately about the Gallery show but for now I want to talk about the Library itself.

We started the tour in the foyer of the Library, seen here, where any bag you are carrying is searched on entry but not on leaving. Apparently you can steal a book but not blow the place up with C4 carried in via your handbag. Hmm. Actually, I'm sure they have some sophisticated electronic system guarding the books.

We met Carol, our guide, near one of the four huge stone candelabra, electrified of course, where she filled us in on the history of the building and the institution itself. In 1895 it was decided to amalgamate the Lenox and the Astor libraries, two existing private libraries, along with a bequest of money from Sam Tilden to form a public library, into the New York Public Library. Dr John Billings was its first director and he hired the architects Carrère and Hastings to design the Beaux-Arts style marble building. Construction took place between 1901 and 1911 when it was officially opened by President Taft.

The New York Public Library consists of four non-lending research libraries, with the building at 42nd Street being the Humanities and Social Sciences Library. The three others are the Library for the Performing Arts, the Science, Industry and Business Library and the Center for Research in Black Culture which are housed at other locations.

These four libraries were and have always been funded privately, with no government support whatsoever. However the Foundation which runs these libraries also run the 87 circulating libraries in New York which are city and state funded.

Carol consistently used the term Library of Record, for this indeed is its function. To gather all the records of any description, be they manuscripts, books, maps, letters, etc. The building houses various reading rooms and special collections. For example there is the Map Division, the Jewish Division, the Tobacco Collection, the Shelley and his circle Collection, the Music Division, the Periodical Room. These are just a few of the collections which are available to anyone who asks, although some divisions require a card.

The Public Catalogue Room which you can see is now computerized

After you find your desired book or article in the catalogue room, shown above, you submit your request and the material should arrive in the reading room within half an hour. A pneumatic tube system for this process was installed in 1911 and is still used today since it functions so well.

A quick shot of the Main Reading Room, as we passed through

The magnificent Rose Main Reading Room, 78 feet wide by 297 feet long, with 52 feet high ceiling which I wrote about in my post on general thoughts about the Library is on the third floor, with seven floors of stacks underneath, extending below street level. However there is more material stored in warehouses offsite so you may have to wait a week if your material is stored elsewhere.

Of course one of the main treasures of the New York Library is its Gutenberg bible, the first to be brought to North America, although not the last. It is displayed in a glass case in the centre of a gallery which is lined with paintings.

Gutenberg printed 180 Bibles in the early 1450s, with around 48 remaining today. They have usually been rebound because the binding was the first part to deteriorate. They were printed in Latin on vellum or paper and this one is on vellum. The type for all was in black, in two columns, and space was left for hand painted decoration and illustrations to be added later, although this copy is not heavily illuminated. It also has handwritten notes in Latin, in the margins. It is stored closed and when on display the opened pages are changed constantly to ensure even exposure to the light.

An interesting feature of the Library is the special users' area on the second floor. It is reserved for authors with signed publishers' contracts who may apply and use the premises for 6 months. There are also 15 Fellowships granted by the Library each year which give space and a stipend to the recipients for a nine month period to work on their special projects and interact with each other and take part in some public forums.

Although I have been to the New York Library many times, I had never taken a tour before and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Libraries have always been special places to me and as a schoolgirl I used to go to the Mitchell Library in Sydney to do research for various essays. It's a wonder I didn't become a librarian!

While I was in the middle of writing this post, I noticed Richard Havers, over at Havering On was writing about his candidate for the most beautiful library in the world, Dublin's Trinity College Library. I can attest to that since I visited it in 1960. He linked to Richard Charkin's post about libraries, which recommends a few more wonderful libraries that you might find of interest. While even more are suggested by Charkin's commenters.

Since I've bored you to death on this topic, I'll revive you with a photo of one of the New York Library Lions, which grace the approach to the building and make the building unmistakable in any photo.

Fortitude, guarding the steps of the Library

Just one thing more, I promise. The Lions were nicknamed "Patience" and "Fortitude" by Mayor La Guardia in the 1930s. He chose these names because he felt that the citizens of New York would need to possess these qualities to see themselves through the Great Depression. Patience is on the south side (the left as one faces the main entrance) and Fortitude on the north.