Can you walk into Donald Trump’s library? What about Warren Buffet’s, Bill Gates or Mark Zukerberg’s private collection? You might get in but you will likely leave in handcuffs. Ah, but I found a library of one of America’s wealthiest men, now deceased, and it is open to the public for only $18 a pop.
Lured from my walk along Madison Avenue by a sign on a lamp pole that had an image of Edgar Allen Poe, I ended up checking my coat and laying down my crisp twenty dollar bill. The bill had ironically been recently spewed from a Chase Manhattan Bank ATM owned by J.P. Morgan, Inc.
Jenna Kernan soaking it all in.
The Museum is The Morgan Library and Museum and the exhibit on Poe is remarkable. There was the poem I memorized at age twelve in Poe’s own hand.
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
~Edgar A. Poe~
This museum began as a private collection of rare manuscripts by financier Pierpont Morgan in 1890. He collected books, manuscripts, drawings and prints. Mr. Morgan’s library was built between 1902 and 1906 right next to his New York residence on Madison Avenue and 36th Street. I have to get me one of those adjacent libraries. Now accidental visitors like me can stumble around muttering, “How is it possible I have never even heard of this place before?”
- Mrs. Dickens’ appears to have missed a spot on Extreme Cheapskates
by 150 years. She has conserved paper, if not her sister’s vision,
by writing both horizontally and diagonally on the page.
Meandering along, I ended up in a gorgeous library that has a page from A Christmas Carol on temporary display and the page is written in Dickens’ own hand. It’s the scene where Scrooge finally comes to dinner surprising his nephew Fred greatly. I studied the edits Charles had made, noticing where he had scratched out adjectives and substituted more active verbs. The site made me smile. It is a familiar dance for many writers.
Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in only six weeks and he wasn’t even signed up for National Novelist Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Writers will understand the reason that in October he was in a mad flurry to complete a story in time to have the work published for Christmas.
The Morgan Museum has a copy of the manuscript on display this month. Here is what they have to say about the exhibit (from their website www.themorgan.org )
Every holiday season, the Morgan displays Charles Dickens’s original manuscript of A Christmas Carol in Pierpont Morgan’s historic Library. Dickens wrote his iconic tale in a six-week flurry of activity, beginning in October 1843 and ending in time for Christmas publication. He had the manuscript bound in red morocco as a gift for his solicitor, Thomas Mitton. The manuscript then passed through several owners before Pierpont Morgan acquired it in the 1890s.
How is it possible that I have never been in this museum before? If it were in any other city, I am sure it would be the crown jewel of the town. I can’t explain why I never visited. I am not on Madison Avenue often and when I am usually in midtown I generally visit the New York Public Library, but from now on I will be keeping an eye on upcoming exhibits and preparing to transfer another twenty dollar bill from J.P. Morgan’s ATM to J.P. Morgan’s Museum.