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Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library: An Introduction
About the Collections
Its holdings draw hundreds of scholars, artists, and critics from around the world to the reading room each year. Thousands of students from Yale and beyond learn about the history of human thought through hands-on sessions with original artifacts in the Beinecke classrooms. Since its opening, the Beinecke Library has become the principal repository for books in the Yale collection printed anywhere before , books printed in North America before , newspapers and broadsides printed in the United States before , and manuscripts and early printed books from the Middle and Near East, Japan, China, and Korea as well as special formats such as playing cards and maps. On average, the library adds between 10, and 15, books, 1, feet of archival material, and more than 3, discrete manuscripts to its holdings each year. A nexus for original scholarship in a wide range of disciplines, the Beinecke collections are used by scholars and practitioners who have made significant contributions in their fields: from literary and cultural studies to the history of science, music, theater, and art; the history of the book, of photography, graphic design, and architecture; social, intellectual, and political history; medieval, Renaissance, and eighteenth-century Europe; American literature; Western Americana; nineteenth-century imperialism; African American culture; British literature; gay, lesbian, and transgender studies; transatlantic Modernism; postwar counterculture; and contemporary American poetry.
Built in , the building is the largest in the world dedicated to the preservation and collection of rare books and manuscripts. The oldest printed item in their collection is a Gutenberg Bible from approximately one of only 48 known examples of its kind , but perhaps the most famous item is the mysterious Voynich Manuscript, also known by its call number, Beinecke MS The Voynich Manuscript is named for the book dealer who purchased it in , and very little is known about its true origins. Written entirely in a mysterious and most likely fictional language, the manuscript is elaborately decorated with symbols and illustrations of fanciful plant life. The Voynich Manuscript is not on public display, but there is a facsimile of the manuscript by the front desk for curious vistors to peruse. The library operates as a closed-stack system, with visitors given access to works only in a closely controlled subterranean reading room. The library is open to Yale students and faculty, as well as visiting researchers.
What travelers are saying
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The books they donated were the first of many gifts to follow over the next three centuries, including the cryptic Voynich Manuscript and one of the twenty one original Gutenberg Bibles known to exist, which was given to the university in Paul Rudolph, the then Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, decided to hold a competition between four firms for the privilege to design the Beinecke Library. So you start making alterations, and the ultimate thing is a compromise. I believe one of the most important things in doing a building is writing a program, and that entails almost living with the people who are going to use the building, finding out how they hope to work in it, not listening to their solutions but listening to their needs. A primary concern in the design of the library was the control of light.