Visiting the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

starlightexp

This past weekend I visited the Cary Yale collection at the Beinecke in CT and thought I would share how it went here. I applied a few weeks back for a research pass to do investigations in the collections and today both my partner Jason and I drove out and had a look, and what we saw was astounding…

The Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale, it must be said, is the ugliest building on the campus. When you drive there you are met with the quaint colonial town of New Haven then with the faux English Gothic buildings of Yale and smack dab in the middle the strange Borge Collective like structure of the Beinecke. When you enter it’s a cube inside a cube layout with a center cube of glass walled stacks going up and down the center of the building in a multi floor column of rare book deliciousness. First one goes over to a locker along the backside of the main hallway and stores all your personal belongings. You can bring notebooks and laptops but that’s about it. Then you get to go down stairs to the Reading Room and sign in. We completed our registration with them before hand but being our first time there we had to have out pictures taken and such and such. I had already requested several times so we were directed to the Reading Room.
This is a closed stack library meaning that you can’t just wonder and browse but rather you need to request and wait. You search the library’s holdings and fill out your request numbers in the database where they are then printed out at the Pick Up desk and a runner goes up into that great glass walled cube of books and manuscripts and brings the requested materials to the deck where they then page you to pick them up. They allow you one item at a time and you must use certain precautions when using the items. There are special grey foam wedges to hold the bindings of the centuries old books on and special weights you use to keep them open. Once you are done with an item you place it back in it’s box and hand it back to the desk and retrieve your next request. One is allowed to photograph with a phone or camera but not set up a tripod or professional equipment so believe me when I tell you my phone got it’s second big workout of the month after the Boston Collage tarot haul.
The main reason for going was to see the oldest tarot deck still in existence a deck called the Cary Yale after it’s last owner and the school. It was a wedding present given at the marriage of two very powerful families back in 1428. The deck was hand painted and hand leaved in gold and silver. The it truly is a work of art. While this was the main reason to go it turned out to be only the beginning of a stunning journey into this collection.
The Cary Yale cards need to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. The luster of the gold and deep sheen of the silver with the strokes of jewel like colors painted on the cards is stunning. The cards are housed in special holders and matted on either side with about 2 inches of cream board so you never actually touch the cards themselves. Each is kept in it’s own big grey box and taking them out is like opening up a big box of magic.
Throughout the day we saw so many amazing things. We read through old handwritten witchcraft notebooks from the 1700’s complete with magic circle diagrams and spell work instructions, found rare cartomancy decks that have never seen the light of day on the internet and handled binder after binder of antique cards. Part of the wonder of seeing these cards in person is being able to see the true colors and textures of them. I’m working on a restoration of an old deck so seeing these was very enlightening.
One the card highlights we saw was the Este Tarot of which 16 survive from 1450. I had not seen this deck before and so had no clue what to expect. I went up to get my item from the desk and they hand me a 2ft x 1ft x 1ft red box that must have weighted 20 pounds. I got back to our research table and took the lid off. The front of the box thunked open revealing a set of 16 slots and in each slot a familiar cream colored card holder. Pulling the first card out I could not help but gasp at the beauty. They were stunning piece of art as you will see in the photos.
Some of the requests came in binders which were the best. What made them cool was that if I requested a deck numbered EG123 the binder may house EG100-EG125 so I was handed a binder with 25 stunning tarot decks in it rather then just having the one. It meant that we now had to look back at the catalogs to see what all we had but it also meant that we saw things we never would have requested and they were awesome.
The day when on like this for several hours and even I was beginning to get a little overloaded with tarot and information but I made one final request that turned out to be the most astonishing one of the day. It was a whim request for some tarot ‘blocks’. We had to wait a while for them but the curator came out wheeling a cart with 4 heavy boxes on it.The boxes were about 3ft x 2ft x 3in. and inside were the original printing blocks for a deck in the very style that I am working on restoring. This was gold. Here was all the original hand carved line work in full detail. I just about lost my shit when I saw these. I picked them up and handled them, drooled on them, studied them and photographed them. They had 64 of the 78 cards so it was not the full deck but it’s enough to be able to see how the lines were made and how they were composed before the colors were inked on. There are a few more trips back now that we understand how to navigate the collections, but they will be doing a year and a half long renovation to the building so it may take some more planning to get what we need as they are closing certain collections for a while but the alchemical and occult collection is next. So while this was a goldmine of information there are several other collections still to pour through.
 

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rachelcat

That's amazing! (I see what you mean about the Borg Cube!)

That Visconti card is truly beautiful. Reproductions just can't touch real gold, huh?

And very cool that you were able to handle the printing blocks. Wow, what an experience!

I keep threatening to go to the National Gallery to view the Rosenwald sheet, but the print collection is only open on weekdays. Your visit is much cooler, I have to say!
 

kalliope

Thank you so much for sharing your experience! It sounds like quite a wonderful day, and I love that you got to discover some surprises by chance, too.

The printing blocks look amazing, as does the Este deck (is that the one in the photo w/ the matted card partially pulled out of the storage slot?) Do you have any snapshots you could share of one of the unknown/rare cartomancy decks or one of the witchcraft notebooks? I'd love to get a sense of those.

Anyway, this was a fun read, and I'm (goodnaturedly) jealous of your trip! Thanks again. :)
 

Yves Le Marseillais

Tarot woodblocks

This past weekend I visited the Cary Yale collection at the Beinecke in CT and thought I would share how it went here. I applied a few weeks back for a research pass to do investigations in the collections and today both my partner Jason and I drove out and had a look, and what we saw was astounding…

Bonjour Starlight,

I also saw woodblocks in Marseille (those of Nicolas CONVER tarot) and share your feeling and pleasure.

I took pictures of them and it was very informative about this cardmaker.

I am curious to know what say curator informations re this woodblocks you discovered with such pleasure.
Have you a name a date a place about this moulds?

Thanks for sharing your journey in this Collection.

Salutations from Marseille

Yves
 

Rose Lalonde

What a great day!! I saw the library in a documentary once, and was very impressed. I got a bit of vicarious joy reading about your visit and the chance to see those decks in person. :)
 

starlightexp

This past weekend I visited the Cary Yale collection at the Beinecke in CT and thought I would share how it went here. I applied a few weeks back for a research pass to do investigations in the collections and today both my partner Jason and I drove out and had a look, and what we saw was astounding…

Bonjour Starlight,

I also saw woodblocks in Marseille (those of Nicolas CONVER tarot) and share your feeling and pleasure.

I took pictures of them and it was very informative about this cardmaker.

I am curious to know what say curator informations re this woodblocks you discovered with such pleasure.
Have you a name a date a place about this moulds?

Thanks for sharing your journey in this Collection.

Salutations from Marseille

Yves

First off HUGE fan of yours :)


Country of Manufacture: Germany
Maker: Joseph Henseler, Rauns, Kempten
Date of Manufacture: 1780(circa)
Dimensions: 362 x 254 x 32 mm. (blocks), 114 x 61 mm. (card).
 

starlightexp

Thank you so much for sharing your experience! It sounds like quite a wonderful day, and I love that you got to discover some surprises by chance, too.

The printing blocks look amazing, as does the Este deck (is that the one in the photo w/ the matted card partially pulled out of the storage slot?) Do you have any snapshots you could share of one of the unknown/rare cartomancy decks or one of the witchcraft notebooks? I'd love to get a sense of those.

Anyway, this was a fun read, and I'm (goodnaturedly) jealous of your trip! Thanks again. :)

I do have more pics! here area few more,
 

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kalliope

I do have more pics! here area few more,

Thank you, these are fantastic and strange and beautiful! How amazing it must have been to thumb through those cards and books all day.

Good luck with your next project, and hope your research pays off!
 

Sumada

OMG! Thanks for sharing Edmund. I am SO jealous...
 

Teheuti

How very exciting. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.