Thursday, July 8, 2010

The British Library

Today we visited the British Library, which with over 200 million items is one of the largest libraries in the world. While the building itself is massive, additional storage can be found beneath the building (and the building's outside courtyard) that go several stories undergroud. Even with the amoutn of storage available, some material is stored offsite. One of the many impressive features of the British Library is the King's Library, which is a collection of around 65,000 volumes (as well as roughly 19,000 pamphlets) that was the personal collection of King George III. This collection was given to the British Library only on the condition that it is always displayed. To accomplish this, this collection is housed in glass and goes through several stories of the building (as seen below).

While at the British Library, we also had the opportunity to visit the Treasures Room. My mind boggled at the items it contained. Some of the items I saw include: medieval illuminated manuscripts, the notebook of Leonardo da Vinci, the only surviving manuscript of Beowulf, Jane Austen's writing desk, the woodblocks of the Tenniel illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, Beatles lyrics (the original forms, scrawled on the backs of envelopes and such), and most impressively the Magna Carta. It was truly overwhelming to see so many valuable (and in some cases priceless) items in one place.

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