nyc reflections part 4: know the past, find the future, nypl centennial free book

Roy Blount contemplates the original Winnie-the-Pooh

I have one last snippet to share from our recent, brief trip to New York City. My friend NN, who writes this blog, surprised me with a wonderful gift.

To celebrate its centennial, the New York Public Library has published a free book, Know the Past, Find the Future. A few thousand paper copies were distributed, and NN snagged one for me. (Lucky me!) The book is also available here, also free, in ebook form.

Know the Past, Find the Future features people in all different fields writing about, and photographed with, their favourite item from the NYPL collection. As much as I enjoy "famous people choose a book" lists, this list takes the concept further, because the NYPL collection is so multifaceted and extensive. Maps, manuscripts, musical scores, first editions, photographs, letters - a massive amount of history lives in the NYPL vaults.

Zadie Smith gazes at the first folio edition of Mr. William Shakespeare, Histories & Tragedies. Stephen Colbert holds J.D. Salinger's letters, and says as a young man he felt the Glass family stories had been written specifically for him. Mark Morris cradles photographs of Gertrude Stein, Lou Reed displays a manuscript page by Edgar Allen Poe. Frank Rich, who made his name as a very young chief theatre critic for the New York Times, chooses a set model for Follies, a theatre collaboration among composer Stephen Sondheim, choreographer Michael Bennett, and director Harold Prince.

Every page is a gem. One that brought me special joy was novelist Philip Roth's choice of Saul Bellow's notebooks, manuscripts, typescripts and galley proofs for Mr. Sammler's Planet. Other people and their choices are bound to strike a chord with you, too.

From the book's page at the NYPL:
From Laurie Anderson to Vampire Weekend, Roy Blount Jr. to RenĂ©e Fleming, Stephen Colbert to Bill T. Jones — more than 100 luminaries reflect on the treasures of America’s favorite public library. Marking the Centennial of The New York Public Library’s Beaux-Arts landmark at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, now called the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Know the Past, Find the Future harnesses the thoughts of an eclectic assortment of icons as they ponder an even more eclectic assortment of objects. From among the Library’s vast collections, these writers, artists, philosophers, scientists, musicians, athletes, architects, choreographers, and journalists — not to mention some of the curators who have preserved these riches — selected an item and describe what it means to them. The result, in words and photographs, is a glimpse of what a great library can be.
A list of the people in the book is also on that page, scroll down to "Who's in the Book". Definitely worth a download.

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