Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Photos by Salt Water New England
 Beinecke houses one of the world's largest collections of rare books and manuscripts and currently has about half a million volumes and several million manuscripts.


The building was designed by Gordon Bunshaft and completed in 1963.  The "window panes" are made of 1¼ inch thick marble panels which filter light so as not to damage the books and manuscripts.  The frames of the windows are made of Vermont Granite.

Temperature and humidity are under tight control.














Photographs from SWNE/Personal Archives


If you do go to visit the Yale libraries, try to visit Beinecke on a sunny day. The translucent marble walls are absolutely stunning to see from the inside when the light is bright outdoors. Also, at night from the plaza, the building seems to glow. (Gary)
A few years ago I was lucky to have a guided tour of the library, including the giant cube where the rare books are housed. An interesting data point: only certain staff members are allowed in the cube, and have to be specially trained. This is in part because the primary fire suppression method is a system that sucks all of the oxygen out of the cube; this method is used since water or foam would damage the valuable books. Once the system is activated, the oxygen is removed very quickly (if memory serves, less than a minute). This means that any staff member in the cube has only a short time to escape, since no one can survive in an oxygen-free environment. Prior to learning that, I had never thought that being a librarian could be hazardous. (Mike) 

Photo of etched portrait of English poet John Keats and his undated manuscript "Hither hither love", taken about a year after Beinecke opened. 


13 comments:

  1. Just so very impressive. Thank you.

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  2. Yep, a real showpiece!

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

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  3. Oxford’s Bodleian library has lent a collection of rare and historical documents to Yale’s Beinecke. The documents are going missing. Oxford’s DI Lewis and DS Hathaway are dispatched to America to investigate. As they cross the plaza, lamenting the expected lack of a proper pint, a siren blares and people run from the building. The fire alarm has gone off and the library evacuated. When they are allowed to enter, the empty building is eerily calm. A body lies on the floor of the Cube...

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    1. Keep going! Mory's instead of The Trout. Saybrook instead of Brasenose. Would love to see this!

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  4. I will probably never see it in person. So very interesting. Thank you.

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  5. One minute, huh? https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2010/02/04/myths-abound-about-beinecke/

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  6. My apologies. I didn’t mean to perpetrate a falsehood. I took the docent at her word.
    -Mike

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    1. Mike, Don’t apologize. The docent was more right than wrong. In the electronics industry and large computer centers, people who work in areas with halon fire suppression are indeed trained that they have mere moments (Let’s not quibble over the distinction of one minute vs three) to evacuate before they asphyxiate.

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  7. Am I the only one who thinks that the modernist design is inappropriate in that location? The sides look like huge grey waffles.

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    1. They look like TV sets — the old kind, with screens more square than today's proportions — was an early criticism.

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  8. Had to laugh about comment of mystery set at these two libraries! A discovery of witches by Deborah Harkness is exactly that!

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