28 August 2017
The Morgan Library and Museum and the New York Public Library
The Morgan Library and Museum
The Morgan Library and Museum in New York City (225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016) has a large collection of medieval and early modern manuscripts. It is easy to get to on public transport and the staff is very helpful. There are lockers for storing jackets, bags and other possessions that cannot be brought into the reading room.
The most important thing to remember when planning your visit is to book a seat and order manuscripts at least four weeks before you arrive. This is especially important if you are planning your research trip in conjunction with the International Medieval Congress at the University of Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, as the library is always busier around that time and there is limited seating. Before any codex can be viewed, all materials need to be approved. So be prepared to explain your research (either in an email or in your initial application) and why it is necessary for you to view this manuscript and not a microfilm. For example, consider what codicological or paleaographical information can only be gleaned through hands-on engagement with the manuscript.
You can book a space in the Sherman Fairchild Reading Room and request materials online. The catalogue is also available online. Photography for private study purposes is allowed, but make sure that you read the guidelines and incorporate the small Morgan Library label provided in your images.
The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library (476 Fifth Avenue, 42nd St and Fifth Ave) has approximately 300 medieval manuscripts in its collections. Parts of the Renaissance and Medieval Manuscripts Collection have been digitized and can be accessed online or in the catalogue The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at The New York Public Library, by Jonathan J. G. Alexander, James H. Marrow and Lucy Freeman Sandler (New York & London: NYPL & Harvey Miller Publishers, 2005). The library is easy to get to on public transport. Jackets, bags and other possessions that cannot be brought in to the reading room should be left in the cloakroom on the first floor. Plastic bags are usually provided but when I was there the cloakroom was completely out of them.
Medieval codices can be found in two different collections (the Archives and Manuscripts Division and the Spencer Collection). Material from these two collections are viewed in different rooms (Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room for Rare Books and Manuscripts and Wallach Division Prints and Photographs Study Room), both contained in the same main building. To request to view material you need to contact different divisions or collections. All the relevant information can be found online. As all medieval and Renaissance manuscripts are rare and often fragile, it is important to book well in advance, so as to give you time to explain why it is necessary to view this material in person. When visiting the library, be prepared to consult the microfilm or digital copy before the manuscript. Photography for private study is allowed, but make sure that you read the guidelines and note what folios you have photographed.
To access the New York Public Library, you will need to get a temporary library card. You can register for it online beforehand and collect it in person. Guidelines are available for international visitors, and for those resident in the USA and New York City.
By Sara Öberg Strådal.
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