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 museums historic 1906 McKim building, and range from Noah Websters 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 countrys achievements and struggles as the Fourth of July holiday approaches. The presentations centerpiece is the manuscript of a work familiar to all Americans, Noah Websters 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 Constitutions 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 1820by which time slavery had become the most divisive issue in the republicMadison 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 Morgans collections of literature, rare books, music, and medieval art are the original manuscript of Oscar Wildes 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 Schuberts 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:
Jean Antoine Houdon's George Washington's Life Mask, 1785
James Madisons letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, 1820
Henry David Thoreau's autograph journal, March 30September 30, 1841
George Washington's inaugural address draft fragment, 1789
Noah Websters An American Dictionary of the English Language manuscript
Alexander Wilsons American Ornithology with engravings by Alexander Lawson, 182829
Also on view
Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal, ca. 150010
Claude Debussys La Belle au bois dormant, 1890
Die geesten of geschiedenis van Romen (Deeds of the Romans), 1481
Raoul-Auger Feuillets Recueil de dances, 1700
Gospel Book, mid-tenth century
Gospel Book (Mathilda Gospels), end of the eleventh century
Joseph Haydns Symphony No. 91 in E-flat Major, 1788
Ernest Hemingways letter to George Plimpton of The Paris Review, 1954
Hyginuss Poetica astronomica, 1485
Marianne Moores letter to Robert B. Young of the Ford Motor Company, 1955
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts Piano Concerto in C Major, 1785
Vladimir Nabokovs Stikhi (Poems), 1916
Ovids Les métamorphoses with engravings after Eisen, Gravelot, Boucher, and others, 176771
Samuel Pepyss notes in shorthand, 1695
Edgar Allan Poes Tamerlane manuscript, 1828
Le roman de Lancelot du lac, ca. 131015
Franz Schuberts Fantasie in G Major for Piano, 1810
Tarot cards from the Visconti-Sforza deck, ca. 1450
Samuel Taylor Coleridges manuscript commonplace book, ca. 1796
Paul Verlaines Parallèlement with lithographs by Pierre Bonnard, 1900
Jacopo Vignolas Regola delli cinque ordini darchitettura, ca. 1564
Oscar Wildes manuscript of The Picture of Dorian Gray, 188990