The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, designed by Gordon Bunshaft and constructed between 1960 and 1963, houses thousands of Yale's manuscripts and rare books. Bunshaft chose his building materials carefully, incorporating marble, granite, bronze, and glass. The exterior comprises square blocks of marble encased in a gray granite grid. Each marble panel is only 1.25 thick, allowing outside light to penetrate. Seen from the inside on a sunny day, the walls appear to glow. In the center of the building stacks of some 180,000 books are encased in glass. Other materials are stored underground. While the Beinecke is an active research hub for many scholars and students, it also offers exhibitions for visitors on the mezzanine level.
The library is named after Edwin and
Frederick Beinecke, brothers and Yale alumni who donated funds for the Beinecke’s
construction. Although the building itself dates to the 1960s, Yale’s
manuscript and rare book collection has a much longer history, going back to
1701, the foundation of the College. The ministers who founded Yale donated books
to start the library, which gradually expanded thanks to additional donations
over the following decades. Yale now owns well over a million manuscripts and
Famous holdings include a Gutenberg Bible and Audobon's Birds of America, both permanently on display on the mezzanine. Its most mysterious manuscript is undoubtedly the Voynich: an encrypted late medieval work written in an unknown script in an unknown language, containing numerous illustrations of plant life and medicinal herbs, human figures, and various astrological drawings.