The Huntington closes at 4:30 p.m., so usually you leave during daylight. But when John and I took the curator tour of the new exhibit, Beautiful Science, at the Dibner Hall of the History of Science at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (mouthful! breathe!) we got to stay late. The Huntington is magical anytime, but especially after dark.
Collis P. Huntington was tireless at making things and money. He's also said to have been a jerk. When Collis died he left his railroad fortune to his nephew. Henry soon began amassing a collection of irreplaceable books and art. Then he married Arabella Huntington, his uncle's widow, who was quite the collector herself.
Arabella had a son and she left him well off. But the Huntingtons left the bulk of their fortune to the rest of us. We inherited four art galleries, fourteen gardens, a place of world-reknowned scholarly study and - well, this part is mine - a collection of early Shakespeare editions including one of the few extant First Folios. The first time I saw it I cried.
When I studied one summer at the British/American Drama Academy at Oxford, some of my teachers were members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Our teachers asked the Bodleian Library to show us their First Folio and the library officials refused. Not even a peek. Snobs.
The Folio at the Huntington is under special glass so even though it's mine I can't touch it. But I can see it. So can you.
This is what Henry and Arabella did for us. It's what the current caretakers of the Huntington do for us every day. And the legacy grows.