I ❤ old books and I cannot lie…
I just got back to Kansas City on Wednesday night from a whirlwind trip to D.C. visiting my sister, seeing Adele perform LIVE in concert (best concert ever!) and visiting LIBRARIES and viewing rare old books.
If you’re like me, the acts of reading and writing are not the only things in life that bring you great joy connected to the written word. Even viewing old copies of said books—especially books you love—is enough to make you giddy with excitement!
D.C. is a fantastic place to view old books. I visited both the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare Library on my trip and I cannot gush enough about my experiences as both libraries. I can’t believe that I’d never visited either of the places before. Shame on me.
At the Folger Shakespeare Library, I wandered through a tour of the library itself led by a great tour guide who told us the story of the library’s founding and founders, the Folgers. I also got to view for a SECOND time in the span of 5 months a copy of the renowned First Folio, a book that is absolutely priceless. A copy came to Kansas City in June in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and I viewed it. The copy at the Folger Library was just as gorgeous. Plus, it was opened to a different spread so I got to experience a different section of the book.
The Folger Library also had a fantastic exhibit on display called “Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity.” This exhibit celebrates the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare and heralds the upcoming 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen and compares and contrasts how each author and their works are marketed, received and celebrated by people today. The exhibit featured kitschy things like salt and pepper shakers, books inspired by the original works, Colin Firth’s shirt and, best of all, FIRST EDITIONS of Jane Austen works! The exhibit is interesting and the hall is stunningly beautiful. The building from the outside is very unassuming. The exhibit is free and so is the tour of the library, so if you’re in D.C., make sure to reserve time to visit.
The Library of Congress has many buildings you can visit. But if you can only make time for one, go to the Thomas Jefferson Building. When you step inside, you will be absolutely mesmerized by the ornate beauty of it. The outside is nice, but gives you no inkling of the beauty within.
Similar to our surprise at the beautiful sculptures, tile floors and ceilings, and the gorgeous reading room, we were equally surprised at the great exhibits they had inside!
The first exhibit we saw was America Reads, a display of the 40 most important books in America as selected via survey. The display boasts dozens of first editions that made me swoon including: The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick and more! I couldn’t believe that I was face to face with such relics.
The library also had a second exhibit where you could view the books that Thomas Jefferson had in his library aptly titled Thomas Jefferson’s Library. I don’t really know a whole lot about Jefferson. But apparently he loved books and loved to read. It was so cool to be able to see those books and also to read about the way he set up his library. He apparently had his own shelving plan and the display recreated his method.
There are many more exhibits in that one building than we even had time for, so there’s lots more to see (including a complete copy of the GUTENBERG BIBLE!).
If you can make it to D.C in the next few months to view these great exhibits and more, I definitely recommend it. It’s worth the trip! Happy book traveling!