NYC - New York Public Library Main Building: McGraw Rotunda - The Story of the Recorded Word -The Medieval Scribe
The Story of the Recorded Word, a set of four large arched panels by Edward Laning, were executed for the McGraw Rotunda of the New York Public Library Main Branch from 1938 to 1942 as part of a Works Progress Admistration (WPA) Project, with supplies furnished by Isaac Phelps Stokes, author of the Iconography of Manhattan Island. Laning depicted the story of the recorded word across each of the murals.
The first mural, to the left of the entrance to the Catalog Room, Moses with the Tablets of Law, depicts Moses, as recorded in the Book of Expodus, descending from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments.
The second mural, The Medieval Scribe, to the right of the same door, depicts a monk of the Middle Ages in his monastery patiently copying a manuscript while, behind him him, is a scene of destruction and rapine. The work of such scribes saved the thought and history of the past. Before printing, writing existed only in handwritten manuscripts which were always in danger of loss or destruction. Such medieval manuscripts were illuminated with drawings, and decorated with gold, and became art objects of great beauty and value. The painting dramatizes the important work of conservators.
In the third, to the left of the doorway to Room 316 is Gutenberg Showing a Proof to the Elector of Mainz, which depicts Johann Gutenberg showing a proof of his Bible to Adolph of Nassau, Elector of Mainz. The fourth, to the right, The Linotype-Mergenthaler and Whitelaw Reid, depicts America's contribution--Ottmar Mergenthaler at the keyboard of his linotype as his patron, Whitelaw Reid of the New York Tribune, examines a page printed by the new device, while behind him is the Brooklyn Bridge and, nearby, a newsboy shouting headline. Overhead, in the vault, Prometheus brings to mankind fire and knowledge stolen from the gods.
The McGraw Rotunda, actually rectangular in shape, is set beneath arched bays, paired Corinthian walnut pilasters over 17-feet high,. The New York Public Library's (NYPL) main building on Fifth Avenue, is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by architects Carrère & Hastings and opened in 1911. One of the world's leading libraries, it is famed for its possession of a Gutenberg Bible and a Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica.