About last week, I’m sorry to have startled you. Library earthquakes used to be a rare occurrence. If they happened at all, it was because a careless dragon took flight in a no-fly zone. However, as Head Librarian, I must inform you that these quakes are increasing in frequency and it isn’t because of carelessness or rule breaking. It’s because of contentions between two growing factions in the dragon world: those who believe in humans, and those that don’t. Most don’t, of course. But it only takes one outspoken dragon who does believe in humans to start a heated argument (and I mean that literally). That’s what caused the shake last week and why you were asked to leave so quickly. No one is safe near two dragons in disagreement. I very much hope the discordance doesn’t escalate, but as things are, well, please just use extra caution when traversing the library.
Now, on to the reason you’re here. It’s our last day together at the Bodleian Library. You’ve been a wonderful group and I’ve enjoyed touring you through this centuries old building. But before we close the book on this library, we must explore one last chapter in its history. It will require some light time traveling. Nothing too jolting. 1749 is our destination year. Please gather in close so we can get started. Closer now, we don’t want to leave anyone behind.
As you can see, we’ve landed in a corner of the Bodleian library’s quadrangle, now fully built. You may remember the last time we were here, this area wasn’t paved.
Go ahead and compare the façade of the library, dating from 1610-12, to the wall of the quadrangle finished in 1619. Though they were built in the same decade, it’s easy to see they were built in different years. The library is decorated with gothic panelling, whereas the quadrangle’s walls are smooth and practical. Bodley died between the refurbishing of the library and the construction of the of the quadrangle, so that’s probably the reason for the difference in architectural style.
Now take a look around the quadrangle. You’ll notice it’s pierced by doorways leading into rooms ‘for the muses’, or for the learning of different subjects. You’ll also notice the three large archways leading out of the quadrangle. In a moment, we’re going to walk through the archway to the left of the library to see a brand new library building, just opened. But before we leave the beloved, original building in front of us, I want to mention a couple of things. First, there won’t be any heating installed in the Bodleian until 1845. So, you know, COLD. We’re in England, don’t forget. To make matters worse, the library won’t have artificial lighting until 1929, which meant that if you want to read in the library (because you can’t check out the books) you’d have to visit when the sun was brightest and try to get a seat near a window. At least by 1749 the books aren’t chained to the shelves anymore. Imagine how frustrating it would’ve been if your book was chained to a shelf in the middle of the library, far from any window. As a librarian, I shudder to think of it. Awful. But let’s move on. Please follow me through the archway on our left. Keep up, we don’t have too much time.
My goodness, the domed building that comes into view as you exit the archway is magnificent, don’t you agree? It’s called the Radcliffe Camera (camera is the Latin word for “room”), built to house a large donation of books on medicine and natural history by Dr. John Radcliffe. The round building actually won’t be used much by readers until 1860 when the Bodleian Library acquires it to house its own overflow of books. And it’s on the subject of an overflow of books that I must end our tour and this series.
In 1610 Bodley entered into an agreement with the Stationer’s Company of London, under which the Bodleian Library was to receive a copy of every book published in England forever.
That means a copy of every book that’s been published in England since 1610 has been placed in the Bodleian Library. That’s a lot of books. Which means, by 2016, there will be a lot of Bodleian sister libraries. The one we’ve been visiting is the oldest, and will always be known as The Bodleian Library. No one building can hold the thoughts, insights and creativity of humans. It’s one of the reasons dragons don’t believe in our existence.
I spoke earlier of closing the book on the Bodleian Library’s story. I must here take back those words, for a library’s story is never over. Not as long as there is…well, us.
With that, the first series in our Great Libraries Folio is complete. Now, do you know what we do when we complete a series? We toast. I’ve brought with me a bottle of Belarian Rhone. It’s a sort of spiced, bubbly drink. I’ll hand out the goblets and pour some for you.
Right. Did I miss anyone? No? Then raise your cup, my fellow time travelers, to the Bodleian Library and all the books it will ever hold!
Mm. How do you like it? Yes, I know it’s a bit of an odd drink, but it’s what we’ve toasted with since…you know, I’ve quite forgotten the date?