A New Chapter

An anonymous gift will boost the Athenaeum’s collection


We’ll never know who donated so generously to the Athenaeum, but $100,000 will go a long way. This gift, announced in March, will help expand the library’s special collections. The Athenaeum has boasted valuable archives since Edgar Allan Poe had a library card there, and the institution’s three private libraries contain more than 3,000 rare volumes. But the donation will make sure these special collections are all the more... well, special.

“We are very grateful to be part of this extraordinary Athenaeum community and its history,” wrote the anonymous donors in a statement. “We’re very glad to give back what we can.”

Hot on the list of acquisitions: three original illustrations from the Description de l’Égypte, a Napoleonic study of northeast Africa and a classic of early anthropology. The Athenaeum already owns an original printing of the 25-volume set, but 14 of the pages were snipped out and pilfered about a century ago. The color plates depicted birds of Egypt, and they have proven difficult and expensive to replace.

If you’re curious to see what these illustrations look like, visit the Athenaeum’s exhibit, “Observing Nature: Edna Lawrence & Cabinets of Curiosities,” continuing through June 17. Benefit Street