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NYC - New York Public Library Main Building: McGraw Rotunda - The Story of the Recorded Word - Moses with the Tablets of Law

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 and symbolizing the creative, inspirational nature of writing. Beneath the prophet, the Children of israel are dancing and worshipping the golden calf.


The second mural, The Medieval Scribe, to the right of the samedoor, depicts a monk of the Middle Ages copying a manuscript while, behind him him, is a scene of destruction and rapine. 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.

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Taken on November 24, 2007