Monday, July 4, 2011

St. Paul’s Cathedral Library

Monday was our first class site visit with instruction from a British library professional. On this visit we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral Library. We took a bus to St. Paul’s and had some time before we had to go into the building so we took some pictures and toured around for a few minutes. After we entered the cathedral we were greeted by Joseph Wisdom the librarian at St. Paul’s.

We began our tour by climbing a few stairs to the triforium level. In the corridors of this level are various objects that could not find another home and thus became the stewardship of the archives. A museum is planned for these objects and this area of the triforium level. Next we moved on to the viewing area and were able to see most of the lower level. This view was spectacular and anyone can appreciate the beauty of the building.

The tour continued with Mr. Wisdom leading us to some huge wood doors where he took out some fairly big sized keys and unlocked the doors. Upon entering the room all I could see was the model of St. Paul’s created by Sir Christopher Wren. This model was rejected because it too closely resembled St. Peter’s Basilica. Mr. Wisdom also told us that this chamber was planned to be another wing of the library but this never happened. An idea for this wing was to make it a national library that would be free to the public.

Back tracking in our tour we headed over to the library. Again Mr. Wisdom unlocked the doors and let us through into the room. The wonderful smell of old books overpowers the senses as you walk into the room. The library
collection looks magnificent today, but after the Great Fire of London in 1666 most of the collection was destroyed. Only about ten books and three manuscripts survived the fire. To rebuild the collection of the library, books were either donated or purchased. Henry Compton, the Bishop of London, in 1712 donated about 2,000 books which greatly benefited the library. Towards the end of our tour, Mr. Wisdom gave us some interesting facts about the library and the collections within it. One of the books in the library is a 1526 copy of Tyndale’s New Testament. Since St. Paul’s was targeted during the Nazi Blitz, the library collections were moved to Wales to protect them. Before leaving the library, Mr. Wisdom showed us how to properly take a book off a shelf. When taking the book off of a shelf, a firm grasp on the spine is required and while pulling it off the shelf, the other hand should be supporting the bottom.

To leave the triforium level we were privileged
to take the geometric staircase. This is a spiral, stone staircase which is completely awesome. Some of you might recognize this staircase because it was used in the Harry Potter movies as the staircase to the divination classroom.

This building and tour was amazing. I am really looking forward to going back during my break to go to the Whispering Gallery.

The last two photographs are courtsey of St. Paul's Cathedral Library and St. Paul's Cathedral websites respectively.

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