Printed Treasures of the New York Public Library

<p>An illuminated woodcut map of the world from Ptolemy's <em>Geographia</em>. Dating from 1482, it's one of the earliest examples of printed material in the New York Public Library's collection.</p>

<p>Detail of the illuminated woodcut map. Europe and northern Africa are relatively accurate, but Asia is shown as an expansive blob and the Americas do not even exist.</p>

<p>The Rare Books Room on the third floor of the NYPL is open to regular patrons and researchers. Boxes line the shelves with tantalizing labels like, "Lincoln Originals."</p>

<p>Curator Michael Inman considers this item his "fire item," the thing he would try to save if the library were to burn. It's Columbus' letter to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain announcing the discovery of the New World, and it's the only one of its kind believed to exist. </p>

<p>Detail from the Columbus letter, which specifically notes that the voyage "encountered no monsters, as expected."</p>

<p>This book, <em>Doctrina Breve</em>, is the first (surviving) book ever printed in the New World. It comes to the NYPL from its origin in Mexico, where Bishop Juan de Zumárraga ordered its printing in 1543.</p>

<p>The collection also includes books that are notable not because of what they're about or when they were made, but because of who owned them. This copy of Milton's <em>Paradise Lost</em> was owned by William Wordsworth, as his signature at the top right indicates. </p>

<p>And though it focuses on American works, the collection includes many European items, like this Shakespeare First Folio.</p>

<p>The first page of <em>Henry the Sixth</em>, or as the book calls it, the firft Part of Henry the Sixt. </p>

<p>Note how, despite dating from 1563, this book can be touched with bare hands. Curator Michael Inman says most items in the collection can be touched with bare hands—for one, your hands aren't usually <em>that</em> dirty, and cotton gloves can easily damage the delicate paper fibers. </p>

<p>The collection is filled with curios, too, like this tiny, quarter-sized edition of "The Sun," a love poem miniaturized mostly for novelty. </p>

<p>Plenty of New York-related material fills the collection. This is an issue of publisher William Bradford's <em>New York Gazette</em>, the first newspaper in New York but not necessarily about New York—most articles focused on events that were happening in England. </p>

<em>Spiritual Milk for Boston Babes</em> is the first children's book ever published in North America, and the Library's copy is the only one known to exist.

<p>A pocket-size edition of the <em>New England Primer</em>. The short verses and vocabulary lists inside helped children learn to read, like a colonial equivalent of <em>Hooked on Phonics</em>—except the <em>Primer</em> included words like "abusing," "drunkenness," and "fornication."</p>

<p>Not everything in the collection is books. These papers are the first paper money printed in New York. The wavy edge at the top was an anti-counterfeiting measure—to be considered valid, the top of your money had to align like a puzzle-piece with the other half of the shilling note, which was kept at the bank.</p>

<p>A first edition of <em>Call of the Wild</em>, which the author himself has signed not as Jack London, but as simply, "The Wolf"—a nickname only Jack London could get away with.</p>

<p>Attached to the first pages of the <em>Call of the Wild</em> is a photograph of London outdoors with a dog, which London identifies as <em>the</em> Buck from the novel.</p>

<p>Opening pages of William Blake's <em>Milton</em>, an epic poem that Blake penned and then published himself. Blake went so far as to hand-etch his own printing plates and hand-color each edition, which may explain why he printed only a handful of copies.</p>

<p>An apocalyptic scene from Blake's <em>Milton</em>. Because Blake's illustrations are so colorful and almost psychedelic, the NYPL has digitized the book and <a href="">put it online</a>.</p>

<p>Magazines and dime-store novels make into the NYPL's collection. The library also collects restaurant menus dating back as far as the late 1800s. </p>