You Transferred What Across London?

British Library

The British Library that is situated right in London was our next library adventure.  When you come off the tube station, you simply cross the street and walk down an underwhelming passage way, and you step into a courtyard that is filled with people.  There is a sculpture of Isaac Newton that take residence off to the left of courtyard and next to it is a cafe and tables set out for patrons.  We learned that it u

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The King’s Library

s a copyright library, that means that anything that is published in the UK, a copy is sent to the library automatically to put in its collection.  Which means storing all of these materials is an issue, so as a solution they built underground sections to house them all.  As you are walking up to the building, that was deemed ugly by Prince C
harles, you can see you are walking over smoke vents that can be broken open if there is a fire in the lower levels by firemen.

In 1997 there was a mass move of the collection.  The British Library was once a piece of The British Museum, but a new building was designed to house just the libraries collection.  So in 1997 the collection was transferred across London, this collection included a first edition of the Canterbury Tales, and Shakespeare First Folio, along with many other influential and priceless pieces.  Some of this collection is housed in the King’s Library that reaches six stories and takes up a large part of the center of the library and is encased in glass.  These books are not cataloged based on author or content, but by the size of the book.

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Off to the Home of Charles Dodgson and J.R.R. Tolkien

Bodleian Library

Our next stop was the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, that morning we hopped on a train to Oxford and set off to see two wonderful libraries that are in that area.

Many people may recognize one of the rooms in the Bodleian Library as the hospital room in Harry Potter, and that specific room was the starting point of tour.  The first piece of the library that was built
was built in

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Entrance to the Bodleian Library

1320 and was opened for students in 1412.  As looked around the room you started to notice, and the guide was able to point out, the variances of work to the room.  From the moldings going from extravagant
to simple because of money, or the extravagant ceiling that has a multitude of elaborate initials carved into the joints.

This library is where we first learned about chained books and how books used to be placed on shelves with the pages showing instead of with the spines out as we now see them.  This library was so old and so beautiful to be able to see.

Merton College

While I am not a Lord of the Rings fan, seeing where J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the books was still a great experience to have, but actually seeing the library was better!  With it being the oldest library in not just Europe but the world, it has been in use

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Inside look at the Upper Library

since roughly the 1370s and has been through many religious and political reform.  During this tour we learned many interesting things, including that the library catered to the major subjects that were, law, religion, and medicine.  Along with interesting things about the library we also learned that throughout the campus you are able to see the emblem of the warden of the school in the 1500s which is a “dolphin”.  The interesting thing about this is that at that time they have not seen an actual dolphin yet so the emblem is something to behold!

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Example of the Merton “Dolphin” 

 

This tour was very
entertaining, and very informative about
what a library used to hold in their collection, along with some of the history behind the school itself.

 

Surprises and First Folios

The next stop on our first day was the Victoria and Albert Museum.  After walking through part of the museum and having to crane my neck to look at the “Undressed: the History of Underwear” display that was the main exhibition for the time being, we ascended a grand staircase that took us to a modest looking set of doors.  Yet that was the last underwhelming occurrence to happen during this visit.  We were sat inIMG_3645 (1) front of a variety of materials from the collection that they hold, including a Shakespeare first folio and a manuscript of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House with his original revisions!

With all of these priceless manuscripts and materials the Victoria and Albert Museum take preventative measures to preserve them.  As with many libraries and collections, funds are a major issue with preserving and collecting new material, therefore instead of completely redoing an entire collection the conservation team for the V&A chooses specific material, based on specific criteria for each item.

With the Victoria and Albert Museum being based on art, I found the book art books very interesting, just the different ways someone can use books to create something new.  This whole day was very overwhelming but in the best way!

Cathedrals and the Smell of Old Books

 

The first day of my study abroad trip was filled with overwhelming sights and experiences! The very first library that we got to visit was in St. Paul’s Cathedral.  As we enter the gift shop area it intrigues me that their cafe and gift shop is situated in the crypts.  Therefore as you are enjoy a spot of tea or shopping for your loved ones at home, you get too look down and read the tombs that are underfoot.   Which was of great interest me because learning about the people that have used that cathedral is a very different insight into the cathedral itself and not just the library.

While I am neither religious nor intrigued about the practice of it, cathedrals and churches, especially very old cathedrals and churches, are always an intrigue for me.  They always hold such history and just by stepping into one I am overwhelmed by the atmosphere, it is usually a calm and serene atmosphere to me, aIMG_3643nd St. Paul’s was no different.  By the architecture outside you automatically now that inside is going to be beautiful, but it was not just beautiful, it was breathtaking.  The sheer size and loving care tha
t was taken to painstakingly make every aspect of that building makes you take a step back when stepping into it.  As we all filed in we were to meet our guide, Mr. Wisdom, in the center of the cathedral.

He was a lovely man who obviously loves what he does and where he works, he took us to a winding spiral staircase that lead to the second floor of the building.  There we passed a wall full of stone fragments that are from the previous cathedrals that had stood in that location previously, there were four before the current standing one.  We followed him into a relatively dark room that is just filled with books; dark wood fills the room and leather bound books that you only read about in books, ironically.  We were taught how to properly take a book of the shelf, who would have known there is a right and wrong way, but there is!  Go look at your bookshelf, and take a book off, you put your finger on top of the spine and pull down don’t you? Wrong! Push the two books on either side in until you can grasp the middle of the book spine and pull, because if you look at old or very loved and well-read book the top spine is broken and it compromises the books integrity for future readers.  While that was not the most important information that I learned from the fantastic library it is one piece of information I think more people should know about.