Unbelievable Public Library in New York

A great place to go if you are ever in New York City is the NY Public Library’s main branch at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street. Because it is a library, a lot of tourists steer clear of the landmark building and head a couple blocks west to the bright lights, big city experience of Times Square.

Suckers.

Unbelievable public library You have seen this unbelievable public library in countless movies, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Ghostbusters, Spiderman and The Day After Tomorrow. It is absolutely worth visiting, if only to see the stunning Rose Main Reading Room with its frescos and epic ceiling.

The Rare Book Division is the NYPL’s answer to the restricted section of the Hogwarts library, only lots bigger, containing old volumes of Shakespeare next to penny dreadfuls, first editions of the greats and much, much more. It’s the kind of place that would make Dean Corso break into a cold sweat.

But I am here to let you in on a secret: the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division is the place to check out. It is another beautiful room, but the real treasure is their 433,000 original sheet maps and 20,000 books and atlases dating back as far as the 1400’s.

NYPL Map RoomPersonally, I think crinkly old maps are wide-eyed fun, right up there with creepy tintypes and postcards yellowing with age. When I first discovered the Map Room, I spent hours in it, requesting maps of European cities like London, Vienna and Budapest from the 17th and 18th centuries, Paris from a time before the Cimetière des Innocents was demolished and the bones of thousands were removed to the catacombs of Montparnasse.

I was blown away that they would actually hand these precious map babies over to me, the mad, impetuous fools. The good news is they’re still doing it.

To access the maps, you need a library card (but you don’t need to be a resident and you can get one online), then it’s open season. They also have really large printers so you can get photocopies of the maps you love, but making map requests in advance is highly recommended.

When it comes to reading, I’m old school: I still prefer physical books to e-readers. What about you? Leave a comment below and let me know.

  • When I was a kid, one of my favorite places to hang was the Phoenix Public Library. I was transported to another world by the ambiance; old, musty smells; and passageways that seemed haunted. I and my best friend at the time used to have the most marvelous adventures, following sinister characters and making up fantastical tales about the equally sinister activities they were engaging in at the library. Goes without saying that we got into some trouble. 🙂 Thanks for taking me back in time and bringing back some super cool memories.

  • When I was younger, reading was the greatest past time around. Reading mystery books while sitting in the attic window of an old house. The surroundings were perfect to enhance the words of the book. And…if I was lucky, it was storming outside. Thanks.

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