The British Library is the boss of you

We saw The Producers last night in the West End. I know, I know. I live in New York. I just never get into The City. It’s five hours away. Besides, when The Producers was running with Harvey Fierstein and Matthew Broderick I was rather involved in school and didn’t have time to pop down for a theater weekend. So we saw it here, and it wasn’t bad.

So, there are some peripheral benefits to hanging around a conference that you aren’t attending. Chris is having a great time at the Neilson/Norman group thing, btw. Hi Chris’ family! Besides rubbing elbows with Jakob yesterday, I met a guy in the elevator wearing an eBay shirt who ended up knowing my cool friend Jake (hi Jake) who was just hired there to do UI design. Jake gives me Professional Hope, because he used to do approximately the same thing I’m doing at the lab, but now he’s raking in Bank down in San Jose. Of course since I live in Ithaca, I own a lovely house, and he lives in an apartment with roommates, so there is some justice.

Could one of my delightful British readers explain to me this towel rail business? It seems like such a good idea, a nice warm towel after your bath. But the thing really just warms up a couple stripes on the towel that cool down by the time you’ve gotten it out. We cranked it to 10 and waited 20 minutes or so. Are we doing something wrong? Should we crank it up to 11?

Our hotel is odd – it’s as if someone wanted to pattern it after a US hotel, but they were only allowed to see one for ten minutes and weren’t allowed to write anything down. The room looks fine, but the details are just off. I went to the sink a minute ago and there was No Water. There’s a closet near the door, but it has No Clothes Rod. Put your jacket on the floor! There’s No Fan in the bathroom, so water steams up the room and the windows are covered with mold. The room has a high-tech card lock, but a door next to the bed opens right up into the next room and is only locked with a little closet knob. Strange.

I forgot the camera yesterday. Sorry y’all. That’s ok, though. There was no photography allowed in the British Library exhibit room anyway, and that’s where I spent all day so you aren’t missing much.
Except that you are! Because if you aren’t standing in the British Library RIGHT NOW you are just not as happy as you could be. I was BLOWN AWAY by the fabulousness of the building and the collections. The new building wasn’t complete the last time I was here, so everything was new to me. Let me just say, I’ve been from one side of this galaxy to the other and I’ve seen a lot of strange things, but I’ve never seen anything like this: Shakespeare’s First Folio, the oldest manuscript of Beowulf, Pope’s handwritten transcription of the Iliad complete with his sketch of the shield of Achilles, Jane Austin’s writing desk, the draft of Jane Eyre, the illustrated manuscript of Alice in Wonderland, the Jungle Book, Finnegan’s Wake (Joyce’s handwriting is a mess! No wonder he’s so disjointed), the lyrics to A Hard Day’s Night written on the back of a greeting card, shall I go on? Ok. Admiral Scott’s diary left open to the horrible last page written as he froze to death, Sir Thomas More’s last letter to Henry VIII vowing loyalty, pages from Leonardo’s notebooks, a Gutenberg Bible, one of the first printed Papal Indulgences (hee), a stack of illuminated manuscripts, some hilariously inaccurate old maps with sea monsters hanging around Florida, and well…damn…just, damn.

While eating tuna nicoise with sparkling water next to a four-story stack of leather-bound books, I decided I want to be a geek for the British Library. These people have their ACT TOGETHER. If I have to go back to school and get 12 more degrees to do it, then that’s just what I’ll do. Because wow. Seriously people, wow.

5 Replies to “The British Library is the boss of you”

  1. If you get to Hereford area go and see the large chainned library next the the cathedral. Also the little town of Litchfeld near birmingham has Samuel Johnsons home and Darwin’s grandfathers home as museums. The largest bookstore is in Hay on Wyle near the border to Wales.

  2. Erica, please don’t miss the Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University, (Aldgate East Tube) it’s a treasure trove of suffragette and equality history. And after that you’re in the most perfect place in London for a curry -Brick Lane. There’s a great exhibition on right now called “What Women Want”. Here’s a link for opening times and info
    open late Thursdays
    If you’re a fan of A S Byatt her daughter Antonia is the director of the WL.
    wishing you warm towels and good shopping.

  3. Hello, Erica,

    I’ve been following your blogs (and earlier) for some time – mainly to remain sane.

    I’ve only been employed by the BL since 2001 (I’m an ex-Chemist/Information Scientist), so I’ve not learned all the intricacies yet, but you could have become a Reader (proof of identity/address/signature: see the BL Web-site for full details) ‘while you waited’.

    You’ll be happy to know the BL is only the second largest library on the planet – the largest being… Well, I’ll let you guess.

    Sorry, I can’t tell if you’ve been to the BM yet. If yes, what did you think of the central quadrangle – The Great Court – where the original BL (the Panizzi Reading Room) is? I hope you also went to the Samuel Palmer exhibition.


  4. hi – if you do wander up to oxford and fancy a pint, gives a shout! (okay email me as I probably won’t hear you shouting).

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