Monday, July 12, 2010

The Caird Library

Today we visited the National Maritime Museum's Caird Library. The Caird library is open to the public and is one of the largest maritime libraries in the world. In addition to maritime-related materials, the library's collection also focuses on emigration, navigation, piracy, astronomy, exploration and naval architecture. As part of a national museum, the library receives public funding. The librarian leading the tour explained that while the library is currently somewhat hidden, they will soon be moving to a new building where they hope to increase visibility and the number of users.

Of the many interesting items they pulled from their archives to show us, the two I found most interesting were a naval atlas from 1686 and a book of signal codes from 1800. Part of my interest is due to the fact that both were plundered from other ships. The naval atlas was copied by Basil Ringrose from one that was pirated from the Spanish. The book of signal codes came from the USS Chesapeake and was obtained when the British attacked the ship. What was particularly unusual about the the signal code book was that the spine was fitted with several lead weights; the information in the book was so important that in the event of an attack the owner should have thrown it overboard. The lead weights were to help it sink. Unfortunately, whoever was in charge of the book didn't do this and code book now belongs to the Caird library. I love that in both of these situations, information was one of the most valuable things obtained.

After the tour, I checked out the museum's toy boat exhibit, and then hiked up the hill to see the Prime Meridian and the Royal Observatory. The view was fantastic. I spent most of the rest of the day running errands, but later in the evening went to see Predators, which I absolutely loved. Highly recommended for fans of the original!

Image courtesy of the National Maritime Museum website.

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