The Morgan Library & Museum is a National Historic Landmark that houses an astonishing collection showcasing the history of the written word from ancient time until the 20th Century. Like the New York Public Library, it is one of the treasures of the U.S. literary capital of New York City.
The mission of The Morgan Library & Museum is “to preserve, build, study, present, and interpret a collection of extraordinary quality, in order to stimulate enjoyment, excite the imagination, advance learning, and nurture creativity…
“A global institution focused on the European and American traditions, the Morgan houses one of the world's foremost collections of manuscripts, rare books, music, drawings, and ancient and other works of art. These holdings, which represent the legacy of Pierpont Morgan and numerous later benefactors, comprise a unique and dynamic record of civilization, as well as an incomparable repository of ideas and of the creative process.”
The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier and industrialist Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913). Morgan, the man who some consider to have been a robber baron, was also one of the preeminent literary collectors in the country during his day and left a legacy of being one of the most important cultural benefactors in the United States. As early as 1890 Morgan had begun to assemble a collection of illuminated, literary, and historical manuscripts, early printed books, and old master drawings and prints.
In 1924, eleven years after Pierpont Morgan’s death his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. (1867–1943), made the library into a public institution, thus making its collections readily available to scholars for research and to the general public for their enjoyment and enlightenment.
In Pierpont’s lifetime, the library was known as “Mr. Morgan's library.” It was designed by Charles McKim of the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, and built between 1902 and 1906. Completed three years before McKim’s death, it was considered to be the architect’s masterpiece.
Located at Madison Avenue and 36th Street, adjacent to Morgan’s New York residence, the original structure was an Italian Renaissance-style palazzo which, according to the museum’s website, was intended “to reflect the nature and stature of its holdings… epitomizing America's Age of Elegance.”
In 1928, the Annex building was erected on the corner of Madison Avenue and 36th Street, replacing Pierpont Morgan's residence; it connected to the original McKim library by means of a gallery. In 1988, J.P. Morgan's former residence was added to the library complex. The 1991 garden court was constructed as a means to unite the various elements of the Morgan campus and in 2006 the architect Renzo Piano designed the library’s 75,000 square-foot expansion, which added fifty percent more exhibition space and more robust visitor amenities.
The Morgan Library & Museum’s holdings range from Egyptian art to Renaissance paintings to Chinese porcelains. The collection contains illuminated, literary, and historical manuscripts, early printed books, and old master drawings and prints, and even the earliest evidence of writing as manifested in ancient seals, tablets, and papyrus fragments from Egypt and the Near East. The Morgan boasts such treasures as original Gutenberg Bibles, original manuscripts written in the hand of such revered authors as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, and manuscripts and printed materials significant to American history.
Through purchases and gifts from benefactors the Morgan has continued to actively acquire rare materials. These range from the important artifacts of books and the written word as well as such treasures as music manuscripts from historically important composers (such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart); a fine collection of early children's books and manuscripts (like as Peter Rabbit picture letters and other works of Beatrix Potter), etc.
The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street
New York, NY 10016
Tel: (212) 685-0008