On my trip to New York City in September, I decided I wanted to see if there were any “mappy” things around town. I did a quick Google search and stumbled across this room at the New York Public Library. It was an added bonus that I had never been to this library before on my many visits to NYC. I checked the hours and found a time to fit it in my schedule. The website seems to indicate that you need to make reservations, but I opted to just go. While it did seem like a lot of people there were coming for a specific assignment, the room is open and inviting.
New York Public Library
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street
New York, NY 10018-2788
Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division
First Floor, Room 117
According to their website, “the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division is one of the world’s premier map collections in terms of size, scope, unique holdings, diversity and intensity of use”. The room was established in 1898, and while it not be apparent by the size of the room, they house over 433,000 sheet maps and 20,000 books and atlases that span several centuries. It is definitely an excellent resource for those wanting to do more research and have particular maps in mind! Map heaven indeed!
Wondering who Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal are? According to Wikipedia, Lionel Pincus was an American businessman and philanthropist who donated millions to the library, particularly towards the renovation of the map division. More on his life here. Princess Firyal is of Jordan and she’s a socialite and philanthropist. They were said to be companions later on in their lives (whatever that means). Actually, the story does get stranger – read more about it here: The Princess, the Pincus Billionaire, and the Pierre Penthouse. Sounds like some power struggles went on over a very expensive NY penthouse between Princess Firyal and Pincus’ two sons. But anyway, back to the map room!
I got off at Grand Central Station Subway stop and walked just about 5-10 minutes to the library. The building is a large, grand white building and it wasn’t hard to figure out that I had reached my destination. I stepped inside and went in search for the room. It didn’t take me a far walk until I came across a sign that pointed to where the room was. I followed it down a hallway and came across the brown and gold double doors leading into the room. It is only one average sized room, but the decor on the walls, and especially the ceiling are spectacular. I couldn’t help but admire the intricate and ornate gold designs covering the ceiling. Throughout the room are various maps on display, as well as a couple globes. All the books in the room are related to geography, and there’s a counter in the room where you can talk to someone about seeing any of the other maps they have if you need it for research. I stuck to the maps and books already out on display which kept me quite busy!
One of my favorite finds was this Dr. Seuss book, “There’s a Map on my Lap”. Colorful photos and even more colorful poems to accompany it!
My favorite part:
“You will have great adventures
your whole life, and so
I give you these maps.
Oh, the places you’ll go!
You may travel the world,
but no matter how far,
with a map on your lap
you will know where you are.”
The library also has the very limited edition “Earth” book, copy number 358 out of 2000 actually. It is a massive book (my hand shown below for comparison). It is filled with maps from everywhere in the world, beautiful photos, and descriptions for all the countries listed. I’d love to have one of these books, but I fear I’d need to buy a larger coffee table to fit it!
The library also has an excellent bookstore. Snapped a few photos inside. Lots of great map items to buy!
What a fun trip! I think I probably could have sat there all day if I had the time. But alas, it was time for me to head out! What a lovely fall day in NY!
Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend!