The Most Bizarre Literary Relics at the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library’s Berg Collection is only viewable by appointment. It contains about two thousand linear feet of manuscripts, letters, and notes by notable authors. The original collection was donated to the library in 1940 by Dr. Albert Berg in memory of his brother Henry, and has been expanded since. It is considered one of the greatest collections of literary first editions in the US.


But the Berg Collection also has an assortment of objects that are considerably… weirder.


Have you ever wanted to get a look at a lock of Walt Whitman’s hair? How about Virginia Woolf’s cane? The Berg Collection contains a variety of what the library calls “realia” – everyday objects owned by famous authors. Some highlights include: 


1. Mark Twain’s pen and wire-rimmed glasses

2. Charlotte Brontë’s writing desk, with a lock of her hair inside

3. Vladimir Nabokov’s butterfly drawings

4. Jack Kerouac’s harmonicas. Also, a card upon which he wrote the word “BLOOD” in his own blood.

5. The death mask of E.E. Cummings

6. Charles Dickens’ writing table and brass lamp



Image Via New York Public Library



Feature Image Via New Yorker