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Annual summer display at the Morgan Library to include Noah Webster's dictionary
Tarot card from the Visconti-Sforza deck, Italy, Milan, ca. 1450. Painted by Bonifacio Bembo or family. The Morgan Library & Museum, New York.
NEW YORK, NY.- The Morgan Library & Museum will open its vault again this summer for an exhibition of twenty-nine exceptional items from its permanent collections, including its noted holdings of important Americana. The works will go on view Tuesday, June 5 in the museum’s historic 1906 McKim building, and range from Noah Webster’s Dictionary manuscript, to revealing letters by Ernest Hemingway and James Madison, to music manuscripts by Mozart, Debussy, Schubert, and Haydn. The display will remain on view through September 8.

The items from American history are chosen with an eye towards celebrating the country’s achievements and struggles as the Fourth of July holiday approaches. The presentation’s centerpiece is the manuscript of a work familiar to all Americans, Noah Webster’s classic An American Dictionary of the English Language. Webster spent twenty-seven years and learned twenty-six languages in preparation for his Dictionary, which was finally published in 1828 when he was seventy years old. His was the first major American dictionary, and the last ever to be compiled by a single individual.

When George Washington delivered his inaugural address from the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in April 1789, its content differed significantly from that of an earlier draft, a rare fragment of which is on view. In his draft, Washington praised the Constitution’s “balances arising from the distribution of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial powers” and declared that “no government before introduced among mankind ever contained so many checks and such efficacious restraints to prevent it from degenerating into any species of oppression.”

Another Presidential writing, this one from James Madison, reminds us of a darker time in American history. Writing to the Marquis de Lafayette in November 1820—by which time slavery had become the most divisive issue in the republic—Madison observed, “All these perplexities develop more & more, the dreadful fruitfulness of the original sin of the African trade.”

Included among the other works from the Morgan’s collections of literature, rare books, music, and medieval art are the original manuscript of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, revealing more overt homoerotic passages that were deleted before publication; an extremely rare set of fifteenth-century Italian tarot cards; Franz Schubert’s earliest surviving work, composed when he was just thirteen years old; and a fourteenth-century illustrated Arthurian legend of Lancelot.

The following is a complete list of the twenty-nine items on view in the McKim building this summer:

Americana
• Jean Antoine Houdon's George Washington's Life Mask, 1785
• James Madison’s letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, 1820
• Henry David Thoreau's autograph journal, March 30–September 30, 1841
• George Washington's inaugural address draft fragment, 1789
• Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language manuscript
• Alexander Wilson’s American Ornithology with engravings by Alexander Lawson, 1828–29

Also on view
• Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal, ca. 1500–10
• Claude Debussy’s La Belle au bois dormant, 1890
• Die geesten of geschiedenis van Romen (Deeds of the Romans), 1481
• Raoul-Auger Feuillet’s Recueil de dances, 1700
• Gospel Book, mid-tenth century
• Gospel Book (“Mathilda Gospels”), end of the eleventh century
• Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 91 in E-flat Major, 1788
• Ernest Hemingway’s letter to George Plimpton of The Paris Review, 1954
• Hyginus’s Poetica astronomica, 1485
• Marianne Moore’s letter to Robert B. Young of the Ford Motor Company, 1955
• Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C Major, 1785
• Vladimir Nabokov’s Stikhi (Poems), 1916
• Ovid’s Les métamorphoses with engravings after Eisen, Gravelot, Boucher, and others, 1767–71
• Samuel Pepys’s notes in shorthand, 1695
• Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane manuscript, 1828
• Le roman de Lancelot du lac, ca. 1310–15
• Franz Schubert’s Fantasie in G Major for Piano, 1810
• Tarot cards from the Visconti-Sforza deck, ca. 1450
• Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s manuscript commonplace book, ca. 1796
• Paul Verlaine’s Parallèlement with lithographs by Pierre Bonnard, 1900
• Jacopo Vignola’s Regola delli cinque ordini d’architettura, ca. 1564
• Oscar Wilde’s manuscript of The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1889–90





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