National Geographic : 1951 Sep
419 The Library Guards Its Priceless Rare Volumes Like Gold-in Special Bank Vaults Four thermatically controlled chambers hold the Folger's most precious items. To preserve books and manuscripts, temperature is maintained at a constant 70°, with relative humidity between 45 and 50 percent. Each vault has a time clock set so that the two-ton, eight-inch-thick doors can be opened only between 9 a.m . and 5 p.m. Here Dorothy Wollon, assistant reference librarian, selects a volume. In fact, local fire ordinances prohibit its use as a theater because there are no regulation out side fire escapes; such additions would have ruined the beauty of the exterior lines. Exceptions are made occasionally. In March and April, 1949, the Amherst College Mas quers produced Julius Caesar in the true Eliza bethan, not the generally followed Roman, style. The play was presented seven times, with great success, and telecast throughout the East and Midwest. Emerson Lines Carved over Fireplace The giant, two-story reading room resembles a typical great hall of a Tudor or Stuart manor house. Despite its massive size (131 feet long), it retains the character of a private library (page 415). It was over the fireplace in this room that Mr. Folger wanted carved the lines from the Emerson speech he had read at Amherst. At first the two leaded-glass doors between the exhibition hall and reading room were left open. Readers complained they were dis turbed by visitors peering in and making audible comment. So the doors were closed. But readers still grumbled: sight-seers rat tled the doors and peeked in as if readers were part of a zoo. One scholar put up a sign, "Please do not feed the readers." That did it. The doors are now heavily curtained. The first impression one gains upon seeing the vast amount of material in the Folger Li brary is of its wide variety. Here are books, pamphlets, documents, manuscripts, relics, curios, oil paintings, drawings, water colors, prints, statues, busts, medals, coins, objets d'art, furniture, tapestries, diaries, memoirs, journals, playbills, theater posters, prompt books, stage properties, and actors' costumes to illustrate Shakespeare and his time. Of the First Folio (first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, 1623), the library has 79 of the some 240 copies now known to exist. Its nearest competitor, the British Museum, owns five copies.