7. The New York Society Library, Upper East Side

A group of people sit and listen to speakers in a wood paneled room at the New York Society Library
Photo courtesy of The New York Society Library, taken by Beth Perkins and Simen Kot

Many famous writers have spoken at The New York Society Library since it was established in 1754 (141 years before the public library system was created), including Edgar Allan Poe. He actually gave multiple lectures at the library. The first two were in January and April 1845. The topic of his talk was, fittingly, “Poets and Poetry of America.” It would be three years until he returned to the library to speak again.

In 1848, Poe’s lecture topic was very different. On February 3, 1848, on a stormy night, he presented a talk titled “The Cosmogony of the Universe.” “The core of Poe’s lecture was a new creation story, marked with strange and poetic mysteries,” that one person in attendance called a “rhapsody of the most intense brilliancy,” writes John Tresch in his book The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science. The cosmic conclusions Poe discovered and lectured on at the library were put into a long prose poem, “Eureka,” which he published six months later. The strange, non-fiction text touched on many scientific discoveries and theories that would come in the 19th century.