Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I Walked Boston's Boston Athenaeum

An athenaeum, if you are unfamiliar, is an institution for the promotion of learning. The word derives from a reference to the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena.

The Boston Athenaeum began as a reading room in 1807. It began by renting rooms near Kings Chapel Burying Ground and later on Pearl Street downtown before finally moving to Beacon Street location when this building was completed in 1849. It is currently only one of sixteen libraries in the country that require membership for usage of services.

Public access to the library is available for free on first floor. This level contains many historic statues and busts and affords an excellent view of the backside of the Old Granary Burying Ground (the burial site of Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock and Mother Goose).

Boston Athenaeum
Boston Athenaeum
Members receive exclusive privileges to the private libraries of George Washington and The Narrative of the Life of James Allen, The Highway Man. This later was written by a convict who while on his deathbed in prison, requested that the book he wrote containing the confessions and stories of his crimes be bound in his own skin. The skin used to bind his autobiography reportedly came from his back and was treated in a process similar to leather for preservation. The process was supposedly so secretive or nonchalant that the bookbinder was not even aware of the material he was using. Perhaps the sickest part of this tale, however, was that one copy (of which there were reportedly two) was bequeathed to an alleged victim who escaped Mr. Allen and whom he held in such esteem.

  • Website: http://www.bostonathenaeum.org/
  • Address: 10 ½ Beacon Street, Boston, MA
  • Cost: Free.