NYC - New York Public Library Main Building: McGraw Rotunda - The Story of the Recorded Word - Gutenberg Showing a Proof to the Elector of Mainz
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 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. This panel shows the great innovation that ushered in the modern world--Gutenberg's invention of the printing press and moveable type in about 1450. Printing made the dissemination of information and ideas fast and inexpensive, and so changed communication forever. Gutenberg's first printed book was the Bible, and the Library owns one of the forty-eight known copies.
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.