Cathedral Of Books

Baltimore Literary Experience

A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life. ~ Author Norman Cousins

For an author, what better way to spend a birthday weekend than exploring Baltimore’s treasured Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University.  George Peabody, a Massachusetts-born philanthropist, dedicated the Peabody Institute and Music Conservatory to the citizens of Baltimore in appreciation of their “kindness and hospitality.”

Recognized as one of the most beautiful library spaces in the world,” when I walked into the “Cathedral of Books” I gasped when I saw the formidable sight before me.

Paul Espinoza, the library curator gave an informative overview of the background of the philanthropic figurehead the library is named for, the history of the athenaeum, and showed a few antiquarian books dating back to late 1500s. Approximately 300,000 “special historical collection” volumes are housed within the structure which used to be entirely lit with lanterns. This fact brought a vivid picture to mind of Victorian garbed scholars and researchers huddled over dimly lit desks trying to read linen covered tomes. “The Peabody” collection of books by H.L. Mencken, just one of Baltimore’s native sons who was a notable author is impressive. What a prolific writer Mencken was.

Above: Entryway to Peabody Conservatory of Music

Although I grew up in Baltimore, I was not aware of several impressive book depositories known as the Sheridan Libraries.  Each a treasure in it’s own right in my native city.

I’d like to thank our cousin Meg Heisse for sharing her knowledge of the Sheridan Libraries and for arranging this special birthday outing for my twin sister and me as part of our rare joint birthday celebrations.  It was a wonderful day spent in a most meaningful way. Jan and I ended with a lunch of scrumptious shrimp salad on croissants  and Meg enjoyed a colorful Mediterrean salad  at City Cafe in the heart of downtown Baltimore!

Stained glass at City Cafe in Baltimore.

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