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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Is that really a Harry Potter book on the shelf of the Morgan Library?

Balzac, Dickens, Twain.....Rowling. Wait what?


Was that really a Harry Potter book I saw while browsing the rare books lining the shelves at the Morgan Library? A quick check with the docent confirmed what I thought my eyes had seen. Turns out that the Morgan is still a working library and not all books are from Pierpont Morgan's original private collection which was started in the early 1900s.

I have had a life-long love of not only reading but also of books themselves. I enjoy visiting historic bookstores and ancient libraries. I love to think of who has held those pages, cherished those words, and what it all sparked in their mind. The Morgan Library and Museum had been on my New York bucket list. I like that it's a lesser known Manhattan site with an interesting collection of items that extends beyond books to art and manuscripts from across the ages. I benefited from visiting on a weekday when crowds were less, especially since the main rooms -- the study, rotunda, library, and librarian's office -- are such an intimate spaces.

One of the most meaningful things I learned on my visit was about a interesting woman who shared my love of books. Belle da Costa Greene was the librarian that Morgan hired to organize and augment his collection and she worked for him and his son for over 40 years. Described as sharp-eyed and share-witted, Belle quickly became a leading figure in the rare book world. She had an air of mystery to her and it was later revealed that she was the daughter of Richard T. Greener, the first African-American to graduate from Harvard College.

She was known for her designer wardrobe and one of Belle's best lines was

"Just because I am a librarian, doesn't mean I have to dress like one."

I wonder if Bella would have seen the value in Harry Potter and added the books to Morgan collection. After all, the Morgan does remind me of the kind of magical library that would appear in a Harry Potter book.

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