Visit a used book store and, after about an hour, all the old books will start looking pretty much the same—the pages get yellowed, the edges become ragged, and the binding starts to disintegrate. What you end up with is shelf after shelf of cheap, trashy, tatters, but that's not so with the New York Public Library's collection of its old books. We went back to the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Bryant Park last week to get a closer look at Rare Books Division, a 280,000 volume-strong collection filled with striking, unique works dating back hundreds of years into history, including everything from the first book published in North America to the book in which Ernest Hemingway jotted down his Nobel acceptance speech.

Books don't simply blend in to the shelves here in the Rare Books Division. Each one has its own special history, and Curator Michael Inman shared some of those stories with us Thursday in a behind-the-scenes look at the collection. We snapped a few photos so we can share these stories with you, too, but as the man said, you don't have to take our word for it. You can visit the Rare Books Division yourself—both online and in person!