By Hand: Celebrating the Manuscript Collections
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
121 Wall St.
New Haven, CT 06511
By Hand celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library with an exploration of its manuscript collections. The exhibition begins where the Yale College Library collection of early manuscripts began, with a mirror of humanity, a copy of the Speculum humanae salvationis given by Elihu Yale. It ends with the manuscripts and drafts of “Miracle of the Black Leg,” a poem written by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey while she was a research fellow at the Beinecke Library in 2009.
Manuscript, from the Latin term for “written by hand,” derives from the ablative case: locational, instrumental, situated always in relation to something or someone else. Like the term, this exhibition explores the reflections of humanity in the Beinecke’s manuscript collections, presenting them as markers of the social contracts of love, creativity, need, and power that bind us into historical record even as they bind us to one another.
The exhibition ranges across the Beinecke Library manuscript collections, in an extraordinary display of the Library’s manuscript holdings, from papyri of the 2nd century A.D. through working drafts by contemporary poets, from manuscripts in the original Yale Library to recent additions to the collections. On view are manuscripts, notes, and proof copies of works by Langston Hughes, Rachel Carson, Edith Wharton, Zora Neale Hurston, Terry Tempest Williams, James Joyce, F. T. Marinetti, Goethe, and others; the Voynich Manuscript, the Vinland Map, the Lewis and Clark expedition map and journals, the Martellus map; the last paragraphs of Thoreau’s manuscript of Walden; letters, postcards, poetry, and notes by Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Georgia O’Keeffe, Franz Kafka, Mark Twain, Erica Jong, and others; early manuscripts from a tenth-century Byzantine prayer roll, a fragment of lyric verse on papyri, the Rothschild Canticles, a fourteenth-century ivory writing tablet, and the first illuminated medieval manuscript known in a North American collection.