The Morgan is not only a repository for some of the world's rarest books and manuscripts—it's an important museum of art as well. The library's holdings include treasures such as one of 23 copies of the original Declaration of Independence; an edition of the collected works of Phillis Wheatley, the first known African-American poet; Mozart's handwritten score of the Haffner Symphony; the only extant partial manuscript of Milton's Paradise Lost; an important collection of Mesopotamian seals; and a manuscript article by Albert Einstein describing how he developed his General Theory of Relativity.
The library also possesses medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts and many old master drawings and prints. In addition to maintaining this fine trove of primary source materials for scholars, the library mounts four large and eight smaller exhibitions every year. Drawing on its holdings and the loans from other institutions, these shows present some of the greatest works ever rendered on paper, ranging from Edward Curtis' early 20th-century photographs of Native Americans to precious drawings from important European collections.
J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) was an immensely influential banker and, fortunately for New York City and the nation, a generous philanthropist and collector. The Morgan Library—built between 1902 and 1906 as a Renaissance-style palazzo—was originally Morgan's private library. It was designed by McKim, Mead & White, the firm that also designed much of the campus of Columbia University, the Brooklyn Museum and dozens of other structures throughout the United States. Constructed of pinkish Tennessee marble, it combines features of Italian Renaissance garden casinos and urban palazzi. The richly colored and ornamented interior possesses an opulence that can only be described as regal. Since its incorporation as a public institution in 1924, the library has grown to occupy half a city block, including the adjacent brownstone, which belonged to Morgan's son, J.P. Morgan, Jr. and had 45 rooms. In 2006, the Italian architect Renzo Piano completed renovations and additions that brought a new auditorium, new galleries and a new reading room with electronic resources.
Every year on the first Sunday in December, the Morgan Library & Museum hosts a day-long holiday celebration for families, featuring readings, storytelling, dancing and singing, based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
Historical tours of the permanent collection and tours of the changing exhibits are offered by appointment only.