A visit to the British Library

Hope you have all been enjoying a wonderful Easter!

I’m planning to continue here now and write another post about my trip to England. About a nice place I went to in London.

St Albans, as you might know, is very close to London. Indeed, here in Sweden most people would probably say it is London (that is, if they would ever say anything about it at all). I am guilty of having done so myself before I was better aquainted with the area. If you take the train from St Albans station it will in 20 minutes take you to the very center of London. So yes, it is close.

I had decided that I wanted to go in to London on one of the days I was over there. I didn’t really have any plans for what I would do there, or know why I should go. I just decided that I wanted to. As good enough a reason as any I dare say. So in I went. With no very fixed plans.

I arrived at St Pancras station (which btw it is a very impressive-looking station!) and decided to go to the big building right next to it; The British Library. It is a big and nice library, of course, but that is not what makes it a very special place… No, for what is special about it is the part that they call “the British Library Treasury“.

It is called the Treasury, and I for one cannot think of a better word for it! ‘Cause is is a treasury! I had been here once before, but thought it well worth another visit.

You come into this big, dimly lit room and on display behind glass there are things like books, manuscripts, letters, notes etc from great and famous people through history.

Now I won’t even try to mention all the things that they have in this amazing place, but I will mention a few of them.

First of course I have to mention the fact that they had some things of Jane Austen’s there! They had a notebook that was hers, dating from 1792 and which apparently is one of only three surviving notebooks. It contained copies of stories and short pieces, in her own hand of course. Of course I have seen writing of hers before, but I was really struck this time by how very pretty her hand-writing was! So elegant and pretty! And such even lines! I wish I could write like that! (oh dear, I sound like Caroline Bingley now… ๐Ÿ˜› Remember how she in P&P tries to get Darcy’s attention by “the perpetual commendations either on his handwriting, the evenness of his lines, or on the lenght of his letter…”)ย  Of course, to write like Jane Austen, now that really would be something…..! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Another thing they had was a writing desk that belonged to Jane Austen. This desk was given to her by her father in 1794. A beautiful, beautiful desk!

They also have manuscripts of Jane Eyre, in Charlotte Brontรซ’s own hand of course. Early editions of Shakespeare’s works, poems by Oscar Wilde, letters by Darwin and lots of other people (this is where my notes and my memory both fail me…) etc, etc.

They have a big section with different musical “treasures”. Such as manuscripts of pieces by Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Mendelsson and Purcell. They also had Mozart’s marriage contract and Beethoven’s tuning fork. And some things a little bit more modern; lyrics (written out on random paper pieces) of Beatles songs like Yesterday, Help and A Hard Day’s Night.

In the science section they have notes from Leonardo da Vinci. Notes and detailed scetches. And what I thought was really cool, you could clearly see his famous “mirror writing” in them! How he has written left-handed and from right to left! Really cool!

The first printed book in England is another thing which you can find here (at least so they claim it is). Printed by Johan Gutenberg himself in 1454-1455 sometime.

I could go on and on writing down the things they have here, ancient varsions of various sacred texts, maps (for example a “world” map from 1350, I can tell you it didn’t look quite like world maps today do!) and on and on! There is a lot to see!

Oh yes, then you also have the Magna Carta! A whole seperate little room dedicated to the Magna Carta. Apparently there are 4 copies surviving, and 2 of them are here. 2 large papers with tiny, tiny writing on them. And the great seal that was attached to the documents.

I spent a long time in this treasury, looking and marvelling. I quickly realized when I got there that there was no way I was going to be able to remember names and dates and details of all that they had unless I wrote it down, so I set about rummaging in my hand bag to see what writing equipment I had and discovered to my relief that I did have a pen, but paper it was worse with…. Thankfully I had a couple of napkins from Grand Hotel in Stockholm (as of course you always do… ๐Ÿ˜› ), and they are good strong napkins, worked very well for writing on! I did however get a few odd looks as I was standing there scribbling things down on my napkin….

Notes on napkin

My notes on my Grand Hotel napkin. As you can see, no very even lines here!

So conclusion, if you ever are in London and you are interested in history, classical literature and music etc and you haven’t already been to this place, you really should go! It’s a cool place, and well worth a visit! And also… it’s FREE! It would be worth paying to get in if you had to, but the fact that it is completely free is a nice extra bonus! ๐Ÿ˜€

After leaving this place (and waiting for a bus for what felt like an eternity, and then running around trying to find a Starbucks in Knightsbridge with no success… I can’t believe there is no Starbucks in Knightsbridge!) I went to the Victoria & Albert museum, to once again pay a visit to the lovely fashion department that they have there! I’ve been there twice before, but it’s such a nice place that I wanted to go again! But I discovered to my dismay that the fashion department was closed, until 2012! ๐Ÿ™ Sad, sad… A visit to Whole Foods did wonders to cheer me up again however!

And so yes, that was my day in London.

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4 Responses to A visit to the British Library

  1. Isabel says:

    Its so depressing that the fashion gallery at the V&A is closed. Part of my uni course this year was meant to be based on the dress collections, but they had to change the course at the last minute. It should be amazing when it opens though! ๐Ÿ™‚

    The Treasury at the British Library sounds amazing! I have been to the Library to study before but I had no idea that the Treasury existed!! You can go through life missing amazing things that are right underneath your nose!!! I am definitely going there when term ends. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Oh how interesting. We will diffinately concider a trip to the library treasury when we get to London in the end of May. Thank you so much for telling about it.

  3. Malene says:

    Oh, I should like to go there next time!
    I find original manuscripts quite interesting. Looking at someone’s handwriting kind of gives you a glimpse of their personality in some way. It is fascinating ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Aurora says:

    Isabel – oh wow, that sounds like an interesting course if part of it was meant to be based on the dress collection there! I was quite disappointed that it was closed, but as you say, it will hopefully be even more amazing when it opens again! ๐Ÿ™‚
    So you didn’t know about it? Then you should definitely go when you get the time!

    Dorte – my pleasure. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you get the chance to go!

    I couldn’t agree more Malene, when you see someones handwriting, their REAL handwriting you really do feel like you get a glimpse of their personalities. I found it very interesting to see with the different composers as well, the music that they had written. For example Mozart’s handwriting was very thin and delicate, not what I would have expected.

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