written by Trisha Daigle
Eclectic. Not the first impression of the Peabody Library, a yawning, almost mystical space capped with skylights that lead the eye toward the sky. Built almost entirely of iron, five floors line the space and the rows and rows of bookshelves give the eyes a linear, clean view.
It’s the architectural details that make this space eclectic and so unique. The ironwork references the Baroque and Rococo periods, while the columns and patterns in the molding reflect the Greco-Roman style, and the pendants on the ceiling were influenced by Gothic architecture. Paul Espinosa, our gracious guide, and curator at the Peabody Library, said that architects don't know what to do with this space, or how to define it. It's fitting though for a library that houses some of the oldest, and most diverse forms of writing in the world from cuneiform, to books paged with animal hides that were pounded so thin they became nearly translucent, to over 400 copies of Don Quixote!
We learned some interesting facts during our tour, too.
Have you ever heard the term mind your P’s and Q’s? That phrase originates from a very specific mistake that was easy to make when using a printing press. The p and q not onlyrest side by side in the letter case, but their similar shape also makes it easy to set a word as qaqer instead of paper. In fact, the Peabody Library has some books with p and q printing mistakes.
Did you Baltimore is referenced in Moby Dick? That’s right. This quiet monument, less well-known than it's Washington, D.C. cousin is noted in Melville’s famous novel, as well as in John Water’s films. How’s that for eclectic!
George Peabody had only a 3rd grade education. He made his fortune from international trade, and eventually became a banker and financier. He funded the Peabody Library to enhance minds in Baltimore. The library became a gathering space for public lectures, a public art gallery, music conservatory and of course, a library.
Like the Peabody, we got the eclectic thing down here at UB. Students from many cultures, countries, and ages make the population at UB interesting and diverse. Our differences come together to create a community of learners, thinkers, and leaders.
Because of this vibrant community at UB, and through Arts 304 class we are learning how arts and ideas, which are often quite broad and span all disciplines, come together and shape culture, technology, and our political reality. Much like the Peabody Library brought books, ideas, and art to the community of Baltimore.