I HAVE another confession to make. Not only am I a Tube nerd, I am also a complete bookworm. I have adored visiting libraries since I was young, and I still visit my local library regularly — often coming out with my arms full of books I can’t possibly read before the due date.
With this in mind I was pretty excited to check out the British Library, one of the biggest in the world. At least I was until I found out you can’t actually borrow anything.
Well, that’s not technically true. If you are a scholar, or professor, or someone pretty academic, you may be able to get hold of a reading card, which allows you access to those rooms where the books live. Apparently they are so protective of the books you can only take in a pencil and paper in a clear plastic sleeve. Luckily, there is still a lot to see at the Library besides the reading rooms.
The permanent exhibit on the first floor is full of amazingly intricate old books from all over the world. There are prayer books used by royalty in some crazy sort of ye old English, and beautifully bound books in all shapes and sizes. There are gold gilded paged books on display, including some special editions.
However, it’s not all about books. There is also a section on music with original compositions of the Wedding March and original arrangements of songs written by The Beatles. The exhibit also features many paintings, sketches and maps. One of my favourites was the before and after painting of the Great London Fire.
For those interested in politics and history you can also gaze at the Magna Carta or ‘The Great Charter’; a historic document that was the first of its kind to set limits on royal authority. Signed in 1215, there are several clauses in the document still relevant and in use today.
The library often has different exhibitions and currently they have a feature on Mughal India and its art, culture and empire. They also feature an A-Z of Crime Fiction which is a small exhibit featuring tidbits and snippets of information about crime writers, their styles and the genre. I’m not a massive fan of the genre, but I still found it really interesting to wander along and read about the different aspects of crime fiction.
I was surprised to learn AA Milne, author of Winnie The Pooh, also moonlighted as a crime writer under another name. Who would have thought?
Even though it was completely different from what I was expecting, it was still an interesting visit. I however still think books are for snuggling up with a cuppa and reading, not for looking at through glass cases.