Washington, Webster & Thoreau On View at The Morgan Library

New York, NY, June 22, 2012—Just in time for Independence Day, The Morgan Library & Museum is exhibiting several objects from its noted holdings of important Americana. The items were chosen to reflect the country’s achievements and struggles as it marks the Fourth of July holiday. The works are on view in the museum’s historic 1906 McKim building and are part of a larger exhibition of twenty-nine items from the Morgan’s permanent collections. They will remain on view through September 8.

No Fourth of July celebration would be complete without a nod to the nation’s first president, George Washington. On view is Washington’s striking life mask, a plaster cast made by noted French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon in preparation for his clay bust and final marble life-size sculpture of Washington. Made when the President was fifty-three, the life mask is unique and represents his truest likeness.

Also on view is a rare fragment of Washington’s inaugural address draft. The speech he delivered from the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in April 1789 differed significantly from the contents of the earlier draft in which Washington praised the Constitution’s “balances arising from the distribution of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial powers” and declared that “no government before introduced among mankind ever contained so many checks and such efficacious restraints to prevent it from degenerating into any species of oppression.”

Another Presidential writing on view, this one from James Madison, reminds us of a darker time in American history. Writing to the Marquis de Lafayette in November 1820—by which time slavery had become the most divisive issue in the republic—Madison observed, “All these perplexities develop more & more, the dreadful fruitfulness of the original sin of the African trade.”

Noah Webster spent twenty-seven years and learned twenty-six languages in preparation for his work familiar to all Americans, An American Dictionary of the English Language. On display is the manuscript for Webster’s Dictionary, which was finally published in 1828 when he was seventy years old. His was the first major American dictionary, and the last ever to be compiled by a single individual.

From the time he graduated from Harvard College in 1837 until shortly before his death at the age of forty-four, Henry David Thoreau filled volume after volume of blank books covered in marbled paper with his observations, thoughts, and revelations, firmly believing that a closely examined life would yield infinite riches. Thoreau later used a slightly revised version of the journal entry on view in his “Natural History of Massachusetts” essay for the Transcendentalist magazine The Dial.
 
The following is a complete list of the twenty-nine items on view in the McKim building this summer:

Americana
Jean Antoine Houdon’s George Washington’s Life Mask, 1785
Henry David Thoreau’s autograph journal, March 30-September 30, 1841
James Madison’s letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, 1820
George Washington’s inaugural address draft fragment, 1789
Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language manuscript
Alexander Wilson’s American Ornithology with engravings by Alexander Lawson, 1828-29
 
Also on View
Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal, ca. 1500-10
Claude Debussy’s La Belle au bois dormant, 1890
Die geesten of geschiedenis van Romen (Deeds of the Romans), 1481
Raoul-Auger Feuillet’s Recueil de dances, 1700
Gospel Book, mid-tenth century
Gospel Book (“Mathilda Gospels”), end of the eleventh century
Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 91 in E-flat Major, 1788
Ernest Hemingway’s letter to George Plimpton of The Paris Review, 1954
Hyginus’s Poetica astronomica, 1485
Marianne Moore’s letter to Robert B. Young of the Ford Motor Company, 1955
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C Major, 1785
Vladimir Nabokov’s Stikhi (Poems), 1916
Ovid’s Les métamorphoses with engravings after Eisen, Gravelot, Boucher, and others, 1767-71
Samuel Pepys’s notes in shorthand, 1695
Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane manuscript, 1828
Le roman de Lancelot du lac, ca. 1310-15
Franz Schubert’s Fantasie in G Major for Piano, 1810
Tarot cards from the Visconti-Sforza deck, ca. 1450
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s manuscript commonplace book, ca. 1796
Paul Verlaine’s Parallèlement with lithographs by Pierre Bonnard, 1900
Jacopo Vignola’s Regola delli cinque ordini d’architettura, ca. 1564
Oscar Wilde’s manuscript of The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1889-90

The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

The Morgan Library & Museum
The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States. Today, more than a century after its founding in 1906, the Morgan serves as a museum, independent research library, musical venue, architectural landmark, and historic site. In October 2010, the Morgan completed the first-ever restoration of its original McKim building, Pierpont Morgan's private library, and the core of the institution. In tandem with the 2006 expansion project by architect Renzo Piano, the Morgan now provides visitors unprecedented access to its world-renowned collections of drawings, literary and historical manuscripts, musical scores, medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, printed books, and ancient Near Eastern seals and tablets.

General Information
The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016-3405
212.685.0008
www.themorgan.org
Just a short walk from Grand Central and Penn Station

Hours
Tuesday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; extended Friday hours, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. The Morgan closes at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

Admission
$15 for adults; $10 for students, seniors (65 and over), and children (under 16); free to Members and children 12 and under accompanied by an adult. Admission is free on Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is not required to visit the Morgan Shop.
 
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