Today I visited the medieval library at Merton College, Oxford as a guest of the Fellow Librarian. It is the UK’s oldest library that was designed to be used by scholars, and it has been functioning as such since its construction in the 1370s. You enter the library at the ground level through a massive door. Going up the stairs you reach the upper floor, where the books are stored. It is sensational to walk among the rows of book cases in the half-lit room. Their shelves are filled with hundreds of early-modern books (many still fitted in their original bindings), which are patiently waiting until someone will touch them again. Heavy benches hoovering over wooden floors are a reminder that this room was once filled with scholars leaning over their books, trying to catch the last light of the day. In the middle of the library a heavy 13th-century book chest is found, next to a small collection of shiny 14th-century astrolabes. What a heavenly place.
Pics (my own): library, book cases, consultation bench, book chest (13th century), stained-glass window (medieval), and entrance. More information about the library on Merton College’s website (here) and also here; more on Merton College, which dates from the 13th-century, here.
American soldier reading in a library while taking a course at Oxford University. Oxford, United Kingdom, 1943.
Another photograph from the archives at Cornell University. This one is of the Bodleian Library (Old Schools Quadrangle), although it is mislabelled on Flickr as Brasenose College. I know it’s the Bodleian, because I used to work there! The tower is known as the tower of the five orders, because it showcases different architectural styles.
The photograph is thought to date from between 1865 and 1885.
A photograph of the Bodleian Library which I took from the Fellows’ Garden at Exeter College on Oxford Open Doors day. You can see the south side of the Old Schools Quadrangle.
The University are spending a lot of money redeveloping the Bodleian, improving disabled access to the building, and making more material available on open shelves. It’s very strange for me, having worked there a few years ago, to imagine the changes. It seems like a revolution has taken place. Books from the New Bodleian (renamed the Weston Library) have been moved to a book storage depository in Swindon and the New Bod is being transformed into a modern library suitable for housing the library’s special collections. The book conveyor has been silenced. No more ker-clank ker-clank ker-clank to be heard on the stairwell. These are big changes, but it is good to see the University investing so much in its libraries. It would have been easier to just leave things be.
You can read about the project here.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
I visited Oxford yesterday, to revisit some old haunts from my library trainee year. It was Oxford Open Doors day, so I was able to visit lots of lovely places not normally open to the public, including the Codrington Library at All Souls College.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.