The Huntington Library ….that is, parts thereof

Recently I went to San Marino with my daughter-in-law, her best friend and their combined kids (three of them, aged 3 to 8 years) to visit the Huntington Library, though as it turned out for me, only a small portion of it. As with the Getty, it’s huge, but in a different sort of way. At the Getty you’ll find multiple large buildings with multiple levels and multiple rooms full of art. You could wander around in them for days. The Huntington, on the other hand, along with the fascinating library and art galleries, has acres and acres (around 120 of them) of glorious gardens, all with different themes.

Actually, the full name is The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Quite a mouthful, but anywhere you traverse you’re likely to see any one of the above and possibly all of them at once.
But enter the library exhibition itself and wow, the collection is impressive.
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
This is what is called the Ellesmere Chaucer (or Ellesmere Manuscript). It is the 15th century illuminated manuscript of the Canterbury Tales. What a thrill it was for me to see this. I’d read the Tales many years ago and loved them. Once, at Westminster Abbey, I located Chaucer’s tomb in the Poet’s Corner and hugged it. Yes, really.
A Gutenberg Bible, printed circa 1455. From the Library’s information notice:
“Gutenberg’s Bible was issued in an edition of approximately 175 copies. Only 48 of them survive today, including 12 on prepared animal skin, known as vellum, such as the one seen here. The book’s large form suggests that it was intended for institutional rather than personal use and that it belonged to a wealthy monastery or church. The bible is flanked by miscellaneous incunabula, books printed in the first fifty years after Gutenberg’s invention. All are in their original bindings.”
“Mr. William Shakespeares (sic) Comedies, Histories and Tragedies (First Folio),” published 1623.
The Huntington is a collections-based and educational research library. From the Library’s website: “For more than 80 years the Huntington has collected rare books, manuscripts, maps, photographs and other textual and graphic materials important for the study of British and American history and literature, the history of science and technology, and the history of the book. The Library provides access to these materials in its reading rooms, where they may be studied by qualified scholars, known as readers.” One must have at least candidacy for a PhD or a doctoral degree plus two letters of recommendation from known scholars to qualify as a reader. Er, I wasn’t permitted entrance…
There are manuscripts and letters from the likes of Mark Twain, Jack London, William Blake, Charles Bukowski…
….Henry David Thoreau, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, the list goes on. They even hold Isaac Newton’s personal copy of his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica with Newton’s annotations written in his own hand.


A first edition of Darwin’s On the Origins of Species.
Try as I might, I couldn’t find an angle to photograph it that didn’t have glare.


Next, “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World.” I loved this following display.

The Huntington’s description: “The Huntington’s collection of historical lamps consists of nearly 400 light bulbs, about half of which are on display here. The light bulbs range from the 1890’s to the 1960’s. They include examples of the variety of bases, filaments and globes in use before the development of current incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs.”
The description for the following photo: “These historic light bulbs – lit at very low wattage – date to the first quarter of the 20th century and use a variety of filament types. To keep the bulbs from burning out, this case is purged of oxygen by a slow, steady flow of nitrogen.”
Fascinating.We’d been there a couple hours already and the kids were anxious to see the Children’s Garden. I wasn’t so interested in that (though I later heard it was pretty great – bad grandma). Not knowing how long the kids would last for the day, I decided to go visit the garden in which I had the most interest – the Desert Garden. Little did I know at that hour, the kids would last a heck of a lot longer than I would.





The very skinny bit of plant you see at the right is the remnant of a flower from a cactus. It must have been 30 feet tall.


These flowers look Dr. Seuss-y to me!





This (below) almost seemed like a forest.

Okay, I got a little carried away photographing these succulents. But I just love them. Such interesting shapes with vibrant and subtle colors.
On to the Chinese Garden.

Very nice, very peaceful.

Around this time I began to realize I’d probably spent too much – way too much – time walking around under the hot sun without a hat or water. Brilliant. I was incredibly (and I think, literally) fried. I needed to take a rest….. and find some water.

Nearby stands the Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science which seemed like a good place to take a rest.


Here I found a number of orchids in bloom.


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As I intimated earlier, the kids were lasting way longer than me. It was approaching late afternoon by then and I can’t tell you how many times I’d got turned around and lost – and my feet were killing me! The kids (and their kids) had been to a number of gardens by then, but still wanted to see more. This worked out just fine for me because there was still one thing I wanted to (had to) see. Having had the chance to catch my breath and remove myself from the sun’s glare for a bit, I finally asked for directions to the museum containing…
Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, oil on canvas, painted 1770.
When I was in junior high school, I had an enormous art history book filled with full color prints. In that book I found this painting and fell in love with it. Or, maybe I should say, I fell in love with this boy. The book described Gainsborough’s talent for bringing the blue fabric to life with his use of varying shades of blue, grey and cream applied in layers of fine strokes. Yeah, yeah, yeah… he’s adorable! Can one have a crush on a painting? I’m here to say yes.
Just look at that face!
Fortunately, nowadays, I really can appreciate Gainsborough’s skill with the brush!

6 thoughts on “The Huntington Library ….that is, parts thereof

  1. Linda and I were lucky enough to go to the Huntington Library multiple times when we were in elementary school in Riverside… I loved both “Blue Boy” and “Pinkie,” which I believe hangs on the opposite wall (?)…

    I also fell in love with Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose poetry I can still recite after memorizing it there as a fourth grader!


  2. Wow, what great pictures!!! I had the good fortune to be able to wonder around some of the gardens when I was a teenager, but never got to go into the building, so it’s great to see some of the stuff on the inside!!! Thanks!!!


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