Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Brill Library

If you haven't yet made a trip to the Abraham A. Brill Library at the New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute, you should. It is open to the public.

I wandered in one evening while attending a literary event at the institute (a rare occasion among their many lectures on psychology), and was delighted and surprised to find a real card catalog.

You know, the kind made from a wooden (or metal) cabinet filled with drawers. You slip your finger into the brass latch and pull them out. You flip through cards made of paper, each one typed (typed!) with information about a book or article -- in this case, articles like "Psychological Rationale of Puppetry" by one Adolf G. Woltmann.

Just glancing at each drawer's subjects can lead to pure poetry -- a poetry of the absurd. In a quick jaunt, you can go from FATHERS TO FEVER,



Inside each drawer, you'll find a Pandora's Box of phobias, anxieties, and complexes.

There are plenty of books here, too, of course. It's a library. The whole place is an artifact from the days when the Upper East Side was filled with Viennese accents asking about your mother. But it's those card catalogs that really do it for me.


marjorie said...

"Vacation to Vulvectomy" sounds like a horrible pulp sci-fi novel. (I think Vulvectomy is a planet in Solar System Misogyny.)

Jeremiah Moss said...

Good catch! It really does sound like that.

Mitch said...

I remember going to the main branch of the NYPL after school when I was in high school in the mid 1970s. For some reason I wanted to teach myself Old English - you know, to read Beowulf. The books often dated from the early 1800s and the cards in the card catalog were probably nearly as old. It was one of my favorite parts of going.

Lisa MB said...

I wish I had known of this place when I still lived in NYC! If you are ever down in Philly, you should check out the Rosenbach Museum. I think you would enjoy it.

Punto said...

When I was in school getting my Master's in Library Science about 20 years ago, I found out incidentally, while taking a course in indexing, that there was a term for this sort of accidental phrase that commonly occurs on sets of encyclopedia volumes, as well as on file drawers. Unfortunately, after a couple of decades, I no longer remember the word, but I do recall that the second volume of the Grove Dictionary of Music said "Back to Bolivia" on its spine in its last print edition. Now that it only exists as an online resource, we are denied such romantic pleasures as this found title.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Punto, please remember that word!