Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Lure of the Stacks

Today, after taking a little detour to 221b Baker Street to check out Sherlock Holmes' old stomping ground...

...we made our way to the London Library.

There, we were given a tour and got to look at some of the library's most interesting artifacts. Situated at the corner of St. James' Square, this library certainly has one of the most unique and diverse layout I have seen. What was of most interest to me was that the presentation about the London Library integrated the history of the library and its building with the history of English literature, as many famous writers (as well as other famous figures) have been members over time- Charles Dickens, TS Eliot, Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie, to name a few.

The London Library owns one of the coolest things I have seen thus far: a book written by Henry VIII!

Here are some other tidbits I acquired on this tour:
  • The London Library was founded in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle, who was opposed to the reference setting of the British Museum and wanted people to be able to take books home to use.
  • The library is independent, which means it is funded by subscriptions, and currently boasts subscriptions from 7,000 individuals and 150 corporate and public library authorities. (Membership is open to all).
  • Their 1 million book collection (15 miles of shelving) is organized alphabetically by subject and is mainly arts and humanities, which covers around 50 languages and includes 30,000 rare books.
  • Amazingly, they do not weed their collection because they believe in each book's intrinsic value- they acquire around 8,000 books a year and the oldest books date back to the 16th century!
  • The building in which the books are housed was originally a 17th century townhouse that has been converted and reconstructed to hold all the books multiple times- There is much architectual history to be learned from each addtion to the library over time.
  • The library recently developed a new conservation room, which is currently being put to use repairing 3,211 books that were affected in an in-house flooding incident.
And probably the most important thing I learned all day:
  • The London Library is one of Robert Pattinson's favorite places.

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