McGraw Rotunda, New York Public Library, New York City

The McGraw Rotunda on the third floor of the New York Public Library Main Branch, around 1911-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:New York Public LibraryN

The main branch of the New York Public Library, located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, was completed in 1911, and the first photo was probably taken soon after, as it is part of a series of photos that the Detroit Publishing Company took to show the interior of the new building. The rotunda includes walnut paneling and a valuted ceiling, and the present-day photo also shows the murals that were added after the first photo was taken. Located on the walls and on the ceiling, the murals are entitled “The Story of the Recorded Word,” and were painted in 1937 by Edward Laning. One of them depicts Johannes Gutenberg holding a page from his famous Bible, which was the first book to have been printed using movable type. Appropriately, the McGraw Rotunda is also home to the New York Public Library’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible, which can be seen in the center of the 2016 photo. It was the first Gutenberg Bible in the United States, when James Lenox brought it here in 1847, and today it is one of only 49 existing copies in the world.

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