The first Bible printed in North America. An aria handwritten and signed by Mozart—when he was 9. A Shakespeare First Folio. Original artwork featuring American Indians by American Indians. The original printed (and never-bound) instantiation of Voltaire’s Candide. A book of misprints by indie-rock poster artist Jay Ryan. Letters from Thomas Jefferson, Jack Kerouac, and Ernest Hemingway. And rare correspondence between a slave man and his freed wife.
These make up just a handful of the 125 unique and stunning items that are now on display at the Newberry’s anniversary exhibition, The Newberry 125, which will be open from September 6 through December 31. All three of the library’s galleries house this huge exhibition, which is sponsored by The Jacob & Rosaline Cohn Foundation. Accompanying The Newberry 125 is a related exhibition, Realizing the Newberry Idea, 1887-2012, made up of 50 items that directly pertain to the history of the Newberry itself.
Newberry in a Barrel: It was September 6, 1887, when the Newberry opened its doors to the public. This was almost 20 years after its benefactor, Walter L. Newberry, died, leaving a complicated will that finally led to the library’s receipt of his bequest. Newberry died in 1868 at sea, and his body was preserved shipboard in a large empty rum barrel before being interred in Chicago. He is buried at Graceland Cemetery.
The Exhibition: Beautiful and downright ugly; handwritten, printed, painted, and drawn; parchment, wood, paper, and leather—this varied, stunning exhibition of 125 maps, letters, paintings, books, manuscripts, photographs, posters and other media best represents the Newberry’s mission, its record of collection development, and the community of learning it has engendered throughout a 125-year history.
Ward Off Procrastination: The grand opening of The Newberry 125 has come and gone—so now what? While the exhibition runs through December 31, and we admit three and a half months is a substantial period of time, beware the procrastinating voice in your head telling you it’s an eternity. From now until the end of the exhibition, we will be posting behind-the-scenes coverage to Facebook, Twitter, and our special Newberry at 125 blog in order to inspire your visit. Additionally, the Newberry will be hosting Newberry 125 events related to the quasquicentennial, including special staff lectures that allow you to explore more deeply the items you’ll encounter at The Newberry 125.