Oh poor, poor me. Burger and a beer for lunch here at the cafe in the Morgan Library & Museum in Midtown, as I slaved over some light editing on a manuscript:
Then a tour of an exhibition there titled “Marks of Genius: Treasures from the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.” (Yawn, you’re thinking. But wait!)
- Good dad: one of the seven letters that Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame sent home to his seven year-old son, while Grahame and the boy’s mother were on holiday in Cornwall. The story told serially in these letters became the classic children’s book.
- Wonders of caffeine: a handwritten copy of Kafka’s short story Das Urteil (“The Judgment”), which he wrote in one sitting from 10:00 p.m. one night to 6:00 a.m. the next morning.
- Yuck: A journal started by 16-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, after she eloped (at 4:15 a.m. in the morning!) and traveled to Europe with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (who thereby abandoned his first wife, pregnant at the time, who had likewise been only 16 when they were married). First words: “Mary was there. Shelley was also with me.”
- Slacker: 1687 edition of Newton’s Principia mathematica, which provided the foundation for the whole of classical physics, from the inverse square law to the three universal laws of motion. Most of the work for the book had been done when he was 24 years old.
- Oh good grief: early copy of Thomas More’s Utopia. He asked his friend Erasmus to have it “handsomely set off with the highest of recommendations, if possible, from several people, both intellectuals and distinguished statesmen.” Guess he hadn’t read Abbot on book blurbs.
- Doh!: A beautiful edition of the Geography of Ptolemy (ca. 90 – ca. 168) from the library of Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile, the ones from “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue …” Yep, you got that right: 14 centuries later and folks were still using Ptolemy’s map of the world to plan shortcuts from Europe to the Indies. Where was Google Maps when it was really needed!
- And (drum roll, please, even though I’m skipping so much) my favorite!
The rest of the museum and library were humdrum by comparison. I mean, look at this pathetic excuse for a private library:
One museum down. Only 1,999 museums, zoos, botanical gardens, and historic houses to go. (Insert appropriate emoticon here, please.