Times change, the world is forever evolving and nothing stays the same. Except at The Grolier Club in NYC. This historic center of worship for (invitation only) bibliophiles on East 60th street is a unique fellowship of men and women who are passionately devoted to books. Under the guise of ordered sensibility, this club houses an intense passion for all things bookish. Books from the past, first editions, catalogues, histories, bibliographies and anything connected to typography, binding, calligraphy or rarity. For over 130 years this society of like minded collectors have met to preserve the past and enable exhibitions – often through loans from their own personal libraries, that would scarcely be seen in the mainstream. Or anywhere. Just finished is an exhibition about Aldus Manitus, the greatest printer of the Renaissance whose publication of works by scholars like Aristotle, Sophocles, Euripides and Plato ensured that these Greek classics actually survived.
To fully appreciate the passion bordering on eccentricity of these books lovers, you need only talk to Chris the concierge. When I asked him how all these treasures were preserved through the ages, he talked about the emotional connection of people to things. We don’t throw away old photographs because they connect us to our ancestry and culture. Looking back, there was a first Christmas card, a first Testament. These are like a Da Vinci to be honored and respected, because they have an equivalent value, they are the original work. You can hold history in your hand. Like Chris did with a score from Bellini that featured hand written notes from Maria Callas scribbled personally for her performance.
Chris is originally from Cuba and collects baseball books. Cuba and baseball is like Australia and cricket. The connections we have with our past are undeniably emotional, and to find a club almost as old as the MET Museum that helps to preserve and to share our cultures adds to the whole love affair that is New York.