The Lilly Library

Friday, March 21, 2014


In January I had the chance to visit the Lilly Library in Bloomington, Indiana. Oh my goodness that places is a bibliophile's dream! I toured the building and checked out the current exhibit on Ross Lockridge, Jr. (the author of Raintree County). I liked the space and was glad I visited but wasn't impressed. Then as I was making my way back to the entrance a staff member asked if I wanted to see some of the collections. They took me through a locked door and proceeded to bringing out a dazzling collection of literary gems.


I saw a 1477 edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (top left corner of photo), a tiny series of books each the size of my thumbnail (top right), Syvia Plath's hair (eww, bottom left) and drawings and cards from her childhood and a drafts of Vonnegut's novels with his notes and edits (bottom right.)


I was completely blown away! The librarians brought out one items at a time and I was given gloves to wear before I could touch some of them. I was like a kid in a candy shop.


The absolute highlight for me was a 1623 First Folio edition of Shakespeare's complete works (see above). Not only did I get to see it, I got to turn every single page and read my favorite passages from Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing. It was heaven! I had no time limit so I just sat there slowly reading through some of my favorite pieces of literartue in an edition published only seven years after the author's death.

Anyway, if you are going to be in Indiana for any reason I would highly recommend making a sidetrip to Bloomington for this incredible library!  

Photos by moi (except the one I'm in).

11 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

WOW! I had no idea. And Lilly...is this the Lilly from Eli Lilly? Has to be. I kinda backed up a few steps over Plath's hair. That is a little creepy!

Jillian said...

Wow, Plath's hair... interesting and must have been fascinating, but certainly EWW. I would love to go there!! And love the shirt :)

Meg @ write meg! said...

How cool and interesting! I've been dying to get to the Shakespeare Library in D.C. but haven't made the time yet (sigh). That first folio is awesome!

Captain Nick Sparrow said...

I love getting more than I've bargained for. Glad you got the deluxe tour!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - It's one of the Lilly's but not Eli Lilly.

Jillian - Thanks! Out of Print is my favorite.

Meg - I wanted to check that out too while I was there, but we didn't get to it. If you go, post pics!

Captain - It was awesome!

majoringinliterature said...

That sounds absolutely incredible! You're so lucky you got to see those precious pieces up close. :)

Kat @ NoPageLeftBehind said...

You know what's sad? I lived in Bloomington for years and never visited the Lilly Library (despite knowing some of the literary gems it contains)! It is one of the few things left on my Bloomington bucket list...next time I visit I will have to make a point to go there. Great post! I'm glad to know the librarians there are so helpful!

Susan Bybee said...

Plath had beautiful hair. I wonder if that was cut before or after she died.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

majoringinliterature - It was such a treat!

Kat - No way! It was on my list for a couple years before I could find time to take a day trip there.

Susan - I believe the hair was from a haircut when she was a little girl.

bibliophilica said...

I love the Lilly Library. Their "Conservator" (I think that's the right word for the manuscript guy) visited our book club when we read "On the Road" (he is the keeper of the scroll of "typing paper" it was written on)., and I also visited on one of the semi-annual bus trips the IN State Museum used to have for their volunteers. I enjoyed seeing the Shakespeare folio too. What an awesome place!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

bibliophilica - It really is awesome. I can't wait to go back!