The Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University contains over 500,000 volumes, many dating back to the early decades of printing. Beyond the books, the library is responsible for preserving and cataloging over 17 miles of manuscripts. In a series of rotating exhibits, the library places a small fraction of its collection on display for the broader public to enjoy.

A public library is the most enduring of memorials, the trustiest monument for the preservation of an event or a name or an affection
- Mark Twain

What You Will See

The library is host to printed material in many forms: books, manuscripts, musical scores, sketches, and personal letters. Its collection extends to cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals, and papyri dating back almost 4,000 years. Few of these are on public view. Instead, visitors are treated to regularly-rotating exhibitions exploring some small corner of the library's collection. Exhibits at the university understandably tend toward the academic but are still presented in an accessible and engaging way.

Why You Should Go

The library, located on the 6th floor of the Butler Library, is one of the few indoor spaces at Columbia University open to the general public (though government ID is required for entry). The collection is one of the most important in the world, containing the archives and papers of such figures as John Jay, Andrew Carnegie, and Serge Prokofiev, and such organizations as Random House and Amnesty International. Watch the calendar for exhibitions of particular note, or just stop by an explore one of the world's great collections of the written word.

more...