The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library is the largest building in the world dedicated to the containment and preservation of rare books, manuscripts, and documents. It was designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill and is located in New Haven, Connecticut. Situated on Yale University's Hewitt Quadrangle, the building was designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and completed in 1963. Established by a gift of the Beinecke family and given its own endowment, the library is financially independent from the university and is co-governed by the University Library and Yale Corporation. The library's iconic building is scheduled to close for major renovation following Yale University’s commencement ceremonies in May 2015. The renovation will replace the building's mechanical systems and expand its research, teaching, storage, and exhibition capabilities, and should be complete in September 2016. A temporary reading room in Yale's Sterling Memorial Library will provide researchers access to the library’s collections during the renovation.
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A six-story above-ground glass-enclosed tower of book stacks is surrounded by a windowless rectangular outer shell, supported only on four massive piers at the corners of the building, which descend 50 feet to bedrock. The outer walls are made of translucent veined marble panels quarried from Danby, Vermont, which transmit subdued lighting from outside, while providing protection from direct sunlight. At night, the stone panels transmit light from the interior, giving the exterior of the building an amber glow. The outside dimensions have "Platonic" mathematical proportions of 1:2:3 (height: width: length). The building has been called a precious "jewel box", and also a "laboratory for the humanities".
A public exhibition hall surrounds the glass stack tower, and displays among other things, one of the 48 extant copies of the Gutenberg Bible. Two basement floors extend under much of Hewitt Quadrangle. The first level down, the "Court" level, centers on a sunken courtyard in front of the Beinecke, which features The Garden (Pyramid, Sun, and Cube). These are abstract allegorical sculptures by Isamu Noguchi that are said to represent time (the pyramid), sun (the disc), and chance (the cube). This level also features a secure reading room for visiting researchers, administrative offices, and book storage areas. The level of the building two floors below ground has movable-aisle compact shelving for books and archives.
The Beinecke is one of the largest buildings in the world devoted entirely to rare books and manuscripts. The library has room in the central tower for 180,000 volumes and room for over 600,000 volumes in the underground book stacks. The library's collection, which is housed both in the library's main building and at Yale University's Library Shelving Facility in Hamden, Connecticut, totals roughly 1 million volumes and several million manuscripts. [SOURCE]
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In the late 19th century, rare and valuable books of the Library of Yale Colleg e were placed on special shelving at the College Library, now known as Dwight Hall. When the university received a multimillion-dollar bequest from John W. Sterling for the construction of Sterling Memorial Library in 1918, the university decided to create a dedicated reading room for its rare books, which became the building's Rare Book Room when the building opened in 1930. Because the bequest did not contain an allowance for books or materials, Yale professor Chauncey Brewster Tinker petitioned its alumni to donate materials that would give the university a collection as monumental as its new building. By the time Sterling opened, Tinker's appeal garnered an impressive collection of rare books, including a Gutenberg Bible from Anna M. Harkness and several major collections from the Beinecke family, most notably its collection on the American West. [SOURCE]
Beinecke Rare Book Library, Two volumes of original Gutenberg Bibles. Image credit Valerio_B
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