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Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times

 

“Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times: Highlights from the Huntington Library,” is a permanent exhibition featuring some 150 rare objects drawn from the Library’s extraordinary collections. The exhibition begins in the 15th century with the spectacular Ellesmere manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and ends in the mid-20th century with materials intended to provide insights into the diversity and development of California and the American West. Arranged chronologically around highlighted key works, the sweeping exhibition provides thematic juxtapositions and unexpected insights into the collections, and into history itself.

 

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For example, a First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays, published in 1623, is displayed alongside books that inspired the Bard and rare items that reflect the world he lived in. Items related to Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War are seen together with materials that illuminate two other major events that occurred in the United States during the war: the passage of the Pacific Railroad Act in 1862 and the preservation of Yosemite as a wilderness area in 1864. Susan B. Anthony and her pioneering fight for women’s suffrage anchor a section in which the works of her contemporary, Mark Twain, are featured.

 

Additional thematic groupings showcase great treasures such as Audubon’s masterpiece, The Birds of America, and Mr. Huntington’s prized copy of the Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed in the West from movable type, as well as the original manuscript of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.

 

The Exhibition Hall itself—a space that first opened in 1920—provides a beautiful setting for these highlights while reflecting the building’s historic past. Along with the 2012 restoration of the original marble and cork floor, three dramatic chandeliers have been fabricated based on archival photographs of the original fixtures (and updated with state-of-the-art LED lighting) to evoke the space as it looked in Henry Huntington’s day. A former “Trustees Room” off the entrance foyer offers a multimedia look at day-to-day Library activities that are hidden from public view, including scholarly research and conservation activities.

(top, left) John James Audubon (1785–1851), The Birds of America, London, 1827–38. In his landmark work, Audubon set out to identify and meticulously portray all 435 bird species found in the United States and its territories. The large format, known as a “double elephant folio” due to its enormous format, was chosen so that he could render the birds life-size. Birds too large to fit on a page were depicted in poses that could be accommodated within the space. Small birds were often shown in flocks. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.     (top, right) Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1343–1402), Ellesmere Manuscript  of The Canterbury Tales, England, ca. 1400–1405, illuminated manuscript on vellum. In one of the most enduring works of English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer presented a broad spectrum of medieval English society and vividly described daily life with unprecedented detail. Written in the dialect of Middle English that was used in London at the time, Chaucer’s masterwork  reflects a growing interest in literature written in English, rather than Latin. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.     (bottom, left) Gutenberg Bible, Mainz: Johann Gutenberg, ca. 1455. The first substantial work printed with movable type outside of Asia, the Gutenberg Bible marks the launch of printing on a massive scale.  This innovation had radical implications for communication. The rapid spread of information was unstoppable, and an exchange of different ideas shaped countless events, from navigation and exploration to the questioning of religious and political power. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.     (bottom, right) Jack London (1876–1916), White Fang, autograph manuscript, 1905–06.  White Fang, written in little more than three months, told the story of a part-wolf, part-dog, and its domestication during the Klondike gold rush at the end of the nineteenth century.  As in his earlier novel, The Call of the Wild, London used a canine protagonist to explore such universal themes as morality, redemption, and the nature of civilization. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

(top, left) John James Audubon (1785–1851), The Birds of America, London, 1827–38. In his landmark work, Audubon set out to identify and meticulously portray all 435 bird species found in the United States and its territories. The large format, known as a “double elephant folio” due to its enormous format, was chosen so that he could render the birds life-size. Birds too large to fit on a page were depicted in poses that could be accommodated within the space. Small birds were often shown in flocks. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 

(top, right) Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1343–1402), Ellesmere Manuscript  of The Canterbury Tales, England, ca. 1400–1405, illuminated manuscript on vellum. In one of the most enduring works of English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer presented a broad spectrum of medieval English society and vividly described daily life with unprecedented detail. Written in the dialect of Middle English that was used in London at the time, Chaucer’s masterwork  reflects a growing interest in literature written in English, rather than Latin. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 

(bottom, left) Gutenberg Bible, Mainz: Johann Gutenberg, ca. 1455. The first substantial work printed with movable type outside of Asia, the Gutenberg Bible marks the launch of printing on a massive scale.  This innovation had radical implications for communication. The rapid spread of information was unstoppable, and an exchange of different ideas shaped countless events, from navigation and exploration to the questioning of religious and political power. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 

(bottom, right) Jack London (1876–1916), White Fang, autograph manuscript, 1905–06.  White Fang, written in little more than three months, told the story of a part-wolf, part-dog, and its domestication during the Klondike gold rush at the end of the nineteenth century.  As in his earlier novel, The Call of the Wild, London used a canine protagonist to explore such universal themes as morality, redemption, and the nature of civilization. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 


Dibner Hall of the History of Science

Located in the Library Exhibition Hall, "Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World" showcases some of science’s greatest achievements, from Ptolemy to Copernicus, Newton to Einstein. The 2,800-square-foot Dibner Hall of the History of Science comes as a result of the marriage of The Huntington’s history of science materials with the Burndy Library, a 67,000-volume collection of rare books and manuscripts donated to The Huntington in 2006 by the Dibner family of Connecticut. The exhibition highlights four areas of exploration: astronomy, natural history, medicine, and light. A gallery on each focuses on the changing role of science over time, particularly the astonishing leaps in imagination made by scientists over the years and the importance of written works in communicating those ideas. Works in the exhibition represent centuries of thought, showing how knowledge has become more refined over time. MORE
 (top, left) Views of the Natural History Gallery.  Graphics displayed on the wall illustrate the changing understanding of the natural world over the centuries. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.  (top, right) View of the interior of the Light gallery. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.  (bottom, left) Views of the Astronomy gallery. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.  (bottom, right) An early obstetrical manual, The byrth of mankind, otherwise named The woman’s booke (Eucharius Rösslin, 1613), is displayed next to a small ivory mannequin from 1540 depicting a pregnant woman.  Used for teaching purposes, the figure’s abdomen could be lifted off to reveal internal organs and a tiny fetus. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

(top, left) Views of the Natural History Gallery.  Graphics displayed on the wall illustrate the changing understanding of the natural world over the centuries. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 

(top, right) View of the interior of the Light gallery. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 

(bottom, left) Views of the Astronomy gallery. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 

(bottom, right) An early obstetrical manual, The byrth of mankind, otherwise named The woman’s booke (Eucharius Rösslin, 1613), is displayed next to a small ivory mannequin from 1540 depicting a pregnant woman.  Used for teaching purposes, the figure’s abdomen could be lifted off to reveal internal organs and a tiny fetus. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 

About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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