New Haven Off The Beaten Path Tips by emilesc

New Haven Off The Beaten Path: 15 reviews and 23 photos

Beinecke Rare Books Library at Yale - New Haven

Beinecke Rare Books Library at Yale

The Legend of Beinecke

(Continued from the last library tip. 2008 update: replaced old photo with one I took at night.)

And then there's the most fascinating library of all - the Beinecke Rare Books Library, home of one of the world's five Gutenberg Bibles and other precious documents. Its policies are probably no different from other rare book libraries; students are made to wear cotton gloves while perusing the rarest of the archives, for instance. One student claimed, however, that he was supervised the entire time he read an original copy of Thomas More's Utopia, and that he wasn't allowed to use his hands - instead he was supplied with a a sterling silver page turner.

Whether or not it is true, I would be remiss if I didn't pass on my favorite story of all. Legend has it that in case of a fire, the employees and anyone else in the building have a minute to get out before all the oxygen shuts off in order to protect the books. In that case, I hope the employees get paid a lot to work in a death trap.

This story has led to countless myths about the building. In case of a nuclear war, we're told, the building will sink into the ground. I don't know if this takes place via remote control, and if someone's still in the building, if they escape via the underground library or steal away in an Aston Martin afterwards - I'm just amused by the story. Call me a geek, but there you go.

One night, my classmates and I shared these stories over dinner and tried to one-up each other with outrageous Beinecke tales. The winner was the student who said he'd heard that during a nuclear war, Bieneke takes off for the moon and waits there until it's safe to come down.

Maybe you should ask your tour guide about that one. *smirk*

Phone: (203) 432-2972


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  • Updated Feb 18, 2008
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Legends of Yale's libraries

Yale has some interesting libraries, architecturally. And because they all seem to have urban legends, the truth value of which I cannot vouch for.

There's the Social Science Library, the towering one, with the "stacks" where students are said to get nekkid and make out late at night (never happened to me, sorry).

There's the underground Cross Campus Library which is said to be sinking by an inch every year because the architect did not account for the weight of books. I have a feeling every underground structure comes complete with this legend.

(Continued in the next part due to length.)


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  • Written Aug 21, 2003
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