Thursday, May 21, 2009

Oxford Day 5

Today was a field trip, we took the bus from Oxford to London at 7 am this morning to tour the British Library. The BL is one of the top libraries in the world (along with the Library of Congress and the Library in Moscow)and is a legal deposit library for the UK. A legal deposit library must collect every item printed in that country and the British Library's collection is the 2nd largest in the world (only behind the Library of Congress). The new library was opened about 11 years ago and moved from the previous location at the British Museum, the new library is absolutely HUGE. There is a model of the library in the lobby which shows the design as well as the 3 story basement that houses a major portion of the collection (the library has more than 200 million items within multiple sites). Pictures on Facebook.

After a tour of the lobby area, a book processing room, the reader registration area and a glimpse into a reading room we met with the Curator of the Modern Britain collection of the library. The librarian (who arrived at BL from New Orleans and Chicago) has one of the largest collections at the BL because everything that is published or self published comes to him, items such as every newspaper (every day), magazines, blogs, zines, pamphlets etc. He was fascinating and has one of the coolest library jobs I have ever seen.

After the tours we had the remainder of the day free and before we left the library we visited the Special Collections room which was unbelievable. The room was heavily guarded and dark to protect the books on display, here are a few of the books I saw (only separated by glass!):

The written lyrics to the Beatles Yesterday and Help (on scrap paper!)
Jane Austen's writing desk, glasses and her handwritten manuscript for Persuasion(1815), I swear I almost cried when I saw this
An 11th century copy of The Laws of King Edgar
Illuminated manuscripts, including The Sherborne Missal from 1400
A 1304 copy of the Qur'an
1 of only 4 copies of the 1215 Magna Carta
The Balliol Roll, a 1340 roll of the arms of Scotland, the oldest surviving
The illustrated La Divina Commedia by Dante from 1444
The handwritten copy of Jane Eyre open to the conclusion page from 1847, "Reader-I married him"
The ORIGINAL Alice in Wonderland with Dodgson's illustrations from 1864, probably the most valuable children's book ever

After the British Library we went to Knightsbridge for lunch and then to Kensington Palace for a tour of the state apartments and exhibits of Princess Diana's dresses and an exhibit on the last season of debutantes in London, 1958.
We also hit Harrods, I will have to blog about that tomorrow, I am exhausted and going to bed.

No comments: