The Huntington Library is one of the foremost libraries and educational centers in the world. It was founded in 1919 by Henry E. Huntington, an exceptional businessman who built a financial empire that included railroad companies, utilities, and real estate holdings in Southern California. For qualified scholars, the Huntington is one of the largest and most complete research libraries in the United States in its fields of specialization. For the general public, the Library has on display some of the finest rare books and manuscripts of Anglo-American history and civilization. Altogether, the library houses about 6 million items. Visitors to the library will also enjoy the Huntington Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens.
During his lifetime, Henry Huntington amassed the core of one of the finest research libraries in the world, established a splendid art collection, and created an array of botanical gardens with plants from a geographic range spanning the globe. The Art Collections are distinguished by their specialized character and elegant settings in three separate galleries on the Huntington grounds. A fourth space, the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery, hosts changing exhibitions.
The Huntington Art Gallery, originally the Huntington residence, contains one of the most comprehensive collections in this country of 18th- and 19th-century British and French art. The Botanical Gardens are an ever-changing exhibition of color and a constant delight. Covering 120 acres, more than a dozen specialized gardens are arranged within a park-like landscape of rolling lawns. Among the most remarkable are the Desert Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Chinese garden. The camellia collection is one of the largest in the country.
The library was designed in the 1920s by a southern architect named Myron Hunt in the Mediterranean Revival style. He also built for the Huntingtons their residence (1909) and the Huntington Hotel (1914). There are over 400 million rare books, millions of photos, prints, and other rare items in the library. The library also has letters from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln, and it is the only library in the world to hold the first two quartos of Hamlet. The list of the library's famous holdings goes on; works from Alexander Pope, to Jack London, to Mark Twain are some of the most well-known authors whose first-edition scripts are housed within the library.
Throughout the years, the University of Southern California has developed a partnership with the Huntington Library to develop two research centers. The Library's Main Exhibition Hall showcases some of the most outstanding rare books and manuscripts in the collection. The West Hall of the Library hosts rotating exhibitions. The Dibner Hall of the History of Science is a permanent exhibition on the history of science, with a focus on astronomy, natural history, medicine, and light. In 2006, the acquisition of the Burndy Library, a collection of nearly 60,000 items, took place, The Huntington Library has became one of the top institutions in the world for the study of the history of Science and Technology.