Books and Blooms at the Huntington Library

Los Angeles, for me, is a constellation of remarkable places, separated by a spider web of terrible, soul-killing traffic. The Huntington Library is an oasis well worth the drive. Gardens? Check. Art? Check. Books? Check. I loved it.

We began with the gardens. There are 12 of them. My favorite (in, admittedly, dull, uneventful March) was the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, a recreation of scholar gardens in Suzhou and one of the largest Chinese-style gardens outside of China. Even off-season this space was–stimulating. The tea house, called the “Hall of the Jade Camellia,” is a delicious stop along the way (one of several dining options on the grounds).

Architecture of Garden of Flowing Fragrance, Huntington Library

Bridge at The Garden of Flowing Fragrance, Huntington Library, Los Angeles

Koi at The Garden of Flowing Fragrance, Huntington, Los Angeles

Chinese garden wall, Huntington Library, Los Angeles

The serene Rock Garden, Huntington Library, Los Angeles

But the centerpiece of The Huntington for me was the library, home to over 420,000 rare books and one of the world’s most expansive collections of manuscripts, photographs, prints, maps, and other materials on the history of science and technology and British and American art, literature, and history. Qualifying scholars can become Huntington readers. For the rest of us, the highlights of this treasury are displayed in the Library Exhibition Hall. These are breathtaking.

The Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, ca. 1400–1405

The Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (ca. 1400–1405): Lavishly decorated, it is believed to include Chaucer’s portrait and was likely created [not long after Chaucer’s death] by a scribe who knew and worked with the author. It is named after Sir Thomas Egerton (1540-1617), Baron Ellesmere, an owner of the manuscript, whose family kept it in excellent shape until Huntington purchased it in 1917.

Paradise Lost first issue, Huntington Library, Los Angeles

The first edition of John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667)

Sir Isaac Newton's signature, Huntington Library

John Hancock's letter appointing George Washington the commander of Continental Army, Huntington Library

A letter signed by John Hancock ordering George Washington to take command of the Continental Army.

John James Audubon, The Birds of America, Huntington Library

John James Audubon’s giant The Birds of America (1827–38): each 2- by 3-feet page presents American birds in lush life-sized splendor. I did not expect to be as moved by it as I was.

Letter from Charles Dickens, Huntington Library

Charles Dickens had quite a signature

Mark Twain's signature, Huntington Library

I could spend hours at the library: the Ellesmere Chaucer and the Gutenberg Bible; The First Folio and maps, objects, and volumes that conjure Shakespeare’s times; writings by Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein; the Declaration of Independence and letters by Lincoln and Susan B. Anthony; my favorite authors and drafts of their work–an exciting, exciting journey through time. Our day here flew by, and I can’t wait for the next visit.

Diana statue, Huntington Library

Diana, hunting

Los Angeles: 

In the area: 

9 thoughts on “Books and Blooms at the Huntington Library

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  4. Beautiful gardens! I love the picture of the koi fish! And what a splendid collection at the library. It reminds me of the times as a child when I used to visit the reading room at the British Museum in London with my father.

    • The gardens are gorgeous, even in the off-off-season, when we visited. I did love the book collection the most–and it also spirited me away to my childhood at the great libraries and museums, looking at fragile, ancient texts and feeling my first sense of awe at the human spirit. Thank you for stopping by.

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