Museums: At the Exhibition in the New York Library, You Can See Columbus’ Letter and a Lock of Beethoven’s Hair

5:28 pm  |  22.10.2021

The staff of the New York Public Library cleaned up their vast and centuries-old archive. They organized an impressive free exhibition. Here will be shown exhibits covering the 400-year history, including the only surviving letter of Christopher Columbus in which he talks about his «discovery» of America, and the first Gutenberg Bible brought to the US.


First opened in 2018, the Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures includes 250 unique historical objects from the library’s collections, including more than 45 million items from its research collections.

Founded in 1895, the New York Library is the largest public library in the United States and a valuable resource that gives users access to books, information, ideas, and learning. It has served as a center of culture and knowledge for over a century. Under the roof of this library are collected carefully selected collections of great historical value and with rich themes ranging from feminiology to the history of American baseball and computer science.

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Declaration of Independence and Dickens Table

Copy of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence

Among the most important exhibits are a handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, a written desk by Charles Dickens, a letter written by James Baldwin Angela Davis, a map of the 1811 commissioners, and a survey of the island of Manhattan, and more.

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The exhibition showcases for the first time images, letters, manuscripts, works of art, and records that have been collected and preserved by the library over the past 125 years and span 4,000 years of history.

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Some sites will remain visible for a long time, while others will be moved and replaced with new elements over time. The exhibition is divided into nine thematic sections.

Important Highlights

Some of the highlights of the exhibition as described in the press release include:

  • A handwritten copy of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.
  • Original Bill of Rights.
  • A desk, a chair, and a knife for Charles Dickens’ papers, as well as his personal copy of «Christmas History».
  • The first copy of the Gutenberg Bible, printed in 1455, was brought to America.
  • Globus Hunt-Lenox.
  • The only surviving copy of Christopher Columbus’ letter to King Ferdinand’s court, in which he announces his «discovery» and «declares his rights» to America.
  • Toys that belonged to the real Christopher Robin and were the prototypes of the Winnie the Pooh stories.
  • Virginia Woolf’s cane.
  • One of the first six Shakespeare Folios in the library.
  • Book of Poems 1773 by Phyllis Whitley, first black author.
  • George Washington Handwritten Farewell Address.
  • Page of the unpublished chapter of the autobiography of Malcolm X «Negr».
  • The 13th-century edition of the Life of the Prophet (Siyer-i Nebi) is considered the most complete visual portrait of Muhammad’s life.
  • Copy of the official invitation to Edith Wharton’s wedding.
  • Manuscript open letter by James Baldwin to activist Angela Davis.
  • Charlotte Bronte Road Writing Desk.
  • Cover design of «On the Road» by Jack Kerouac.
  • First Edition of Notes to «Star-Strewn Banner».
  • 1811 Commissioner’s Map and Manhattan Island Survey – Preliminary Grid Plan for Future City Growth.
  • Works by Henri Matisse, Edward Manet, Andy Warhol, Faith Ringgold, Romara Birden, and Edward Hopper.
  • Manuscripts and notes by Bob Dylan, Dizzy Gillespie, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven (and a strand of his hair).
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The Entrance is Free

Winnie the Pooh prototypes

The exhibition is opened in the Gottesman Hall of the Stephen A. Schwartzman Building, located on the ground floor of the library in Bryant Park. The exhibition is supported by a donation of $12 million from Dr. Leonard Polonsky and the Polonsky Foundation.

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Polonsky’s exhibition was originally scheduled to open last fall, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed its opening.

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