“What Was And What Is”

May 28, 2015

By Nancy Kuhl

In honor of the Beinecke Library’s new temporary reading room, a passage about our permanent reading room—and about the work that was and will be done in both spaces—from poet and scholar Susan Howe’s recent book, Spontaneous Particulars: The Telepathy of Archives. Details about visiting our temporary reading room to conduct research and about the Beinecke’s renovation can be found online here: Beinecke Temporary Reading Room Opens at SML

From Spontaneous Particulars: The Telepathy of Archives by Susan Howe

“Previous work I have done…led me to the massive collection of papers of the 18th-century New England theologian–some say our first American philosopher–Jonathan Edwards, in New Haven at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, one of the largest buildings in the world devoted entirely to rare books and manuscripts. The Beinecke was constructed of Vermont marble and granite, bronze and glass, during the early 1960s. The structure displays and contains acquisitive violence, the rapacious ‘fetching’ involved in collecting, and, on the other hand, it radiates a sense of peace. Downstairs, in the Modernist reading room I hear the purr of the air filtration system, the rippling sound of pages turning, singular out of tune melodies of computers re-booting. Scholars are seated at wide worktables bent in devotion over some particular material object. They could be copying out a manuscript or deciphering a pattern. Here is deep memory’s lure, and sheltering. In this room I experience enduring relations and connections between what was and what is.”