Beincke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

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Exterior view of the Kniecke Library
Interior of the library
Interior view of the beincke rare book library

The Beincke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (BRBL) at Yale University in New Haven (Connecticut) is one of the world's largest archives of rare books and manuscripts .

The library goes back to a foundation of the beincke family (Edwin J. Kniecke, Frederick W. beincke and Walter beincke) and is financially independent from Yale University. The six-story building is located in the center of the university campus, known as the Hewitt Quadrangle or beincke Plaza . It was designed by the architect Gordon Bunshaft and the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and built by the George A. Fuller Construction Company of Hamden, Connecticut between 1960 and 1963.


The core of the modern building consists of a six-story tower with library shelves, which is surrounded by a windowless, rectangular structure. The outer walls are made of translucent, white-gray-veined Vermont Danby marble , which allows indirect lighting, but at the same time protects against direct daylight and harmful ultraviolet radiation . The marble panels are each about 3 cm thick and bordered by gray Vermont granite . Three floors of shelves are below the Hewitt Quadrangle. In the library courtyard is a sculpture garden with works by Isamu Noguchi , which are supposed to symbolize earth (a pyramid), sun (a circle) and luck (a cube). The library also includes an exhibition hall in which a copy of the Gutenberg Bible is on display, reading rooms, catalog rooms, a microfilm archive and offices. The Gutenberg Bible, which can be viewed in a display case, is turned over by the library staff once a day.

In the square of the building is the sculpture Gallows and Lollipops by Alexander Calder . During the 1960s, the sculpture stood Lipstick on a Caterpillar track of Claes Oldenburg on the library grounds. The plant later moved to the forecourt of neighboring Morse College.

The design of the Kings Library lineup, the original centerpiece of the British Library , a gift from George III. , in a glass tower in the new building of the British Library from 1998 is considered a tribute to the modern elegance of the beincke library.


The Gutenberg Bible

John Davenport , the founder of New Haven, had started collecting books as early as 1650. Most of them were theological writings. In the late 19th century, the rarer and more valuable books in the Yale College Library were moved to the Old Library (now Dwight Hall). These then moved to the Rare Book Room of the Sterling Memorial Library , which was built thanks to a donation from John William Sterling , who died in 1918 , and opened in 1930. With the opening of the Kniecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library on October 14, 1963, the collections of the Sterling Memorial Library Rare Book Room as well as the Collection of American Literature, the Collection of Western Americana and the Collection of German Literature were united under one roof. The James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection was added only a little later, and so the beincke library developed into the repository of all books in the Yale collection that had been printed before 1601. There are also books from Latin America before 1751, books from North America before 1821, newspapers and flyers from the United States before 1851, European treatises and pamphlets before 1801, books from Slavic and Eastern Europe, the Near and Middle East, and the 18th century as well as some special books outside of these categories.

Special collections owned by the library

Card from the Care Yale Tarocchi

Even in the early years of Yale, copies from the early years of book printing can be traced; in 1714 an illuminated manuscript of the Speculum humanae salvationis was acquired as a gift from Elihu Yale , but there was no planned acquisition strategy. Only in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries did the research interests of the professors and the willingness of patrons lead to the establishment of internationally significant holdings from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

One of the focal points is the history of letterpress printing with the collection of over 3,500 incunabula - including the copy of the Gutenberg Bible acquired in 1926 from the Abbey Library in Melk - and its own collection of Aldinen , prints from the workshop of Aldus Manutius , which are worldwide on this scale is unique.

First editions of authors and texts from Greek and Roman literature also include numerous prints from the 16th century.


  • Stephen Parks (Ed.): The Kniecke Library of Yale University . Yale Univ. Press, 2007, ISBN 0-300-13398-7 (English)

Web links

Commons : Kniecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Bruce Fellman: Leading the Libraries . Yale Alumni Publications, Inc. February 2002. Retrieved December 16, 2019.

Coordinates: 41 ° 18 ′ 41.7 "  N , 72 ° 55 ′ 38.2"  W.