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Extraordinary Gifts: Rare Books Presented to The New York Society Library, 1754-2012

January 23-December 31, 2013

Both members and nonmembers are welcome to visit the exhibition any time the Library is open.

Extraordinary Gifts Image

This exhibition honors a legacy of inspired giving that has shaped the Library from its founding in 1754 down to the present day. 

The exhibition affords a glimpse into the intellectual and cultural lives of early New Yorkers and sheds light on the Library’s past as it relates to the political growth of the young American nation. Members’ gifts across the centuries reflected their changing attitudes toward reading and book collecting, and these trends are traced through the objects on display. The exhibition is the result of a collaboration between Head of Exhibitions Harriet Shapiro and Special Collections Librarian Erin Schreiner. In Schreiner’s words, books donated to the Library during the 258 years of its existence are “living traces of the history of our members, New Yorkers, and the times in which they lived.”

Extraordinary Gifts showcases a wide range of donations from the earliest to the most recent. Highlights include the first English translation of Homer’s Iliad, published in 1611, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s copy of The Poetical Works of Lord Byron, and a first edition in serial form of Charles Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Recent gifts include Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, inscribed by the author to Jean Detre, and the first British edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, presented to the Library by Romano I. Peluso. 

We are grateful to all the members who have helped build our rare book collection into the jewel it is today.

About the Peluso Family Exhibition Gallery

All Past Exhibitions

Upcoming Exhibition: From the Western Front and Beyond