18th March 2023
Somehow this looks like we had a quick trip to Moscow, but those who travel will recognise St Pancras Station peeping over the top of The British Library. We were on our way to Amsterdam but had an hour free and Mike, of course, said, ‘Have you ever been to the British Library? It’s not far.’ It wasn’t.
There was a large dimly lit room of original manuscripts, books, notes, letters etc. It was quite busy, and people tended to speak in whispers. I was prepared to be a little bored, you’ve seen one old book, you’ve seen them all! An hour later I had to sit down, partly because my back was aching from standing up so long and partly because I was a little overwhelmed at the wonder of what I was seeing.
New Testaments from the 6th century, with illuminated pages that were so intricate and bright, they looked as if the artist had literally just put their brush down. One owned by Tyndale himself. I couldn’t get my head around that. Most of these books were hundreds of years old. I wish I’d made a note of some of the dates. And some of the letters, covered momentous moments in history. Now a couple of the smaller books, I can just about imagine being left on a shelf, stored in the bottom of a trunk somewhere but some of the larger books, even some of the scraps of letters and manuscripts, how did they make it through the centuries? How did they not get damp, eaten, burned, discarded or even wilfully destroyed? So precious but they’re only paper.
There were also a Vaughan Williams, The Lark Ascending musical score, Emily Bronte’s notebooks, a letter by Ghandi and so much more. The exhibits are changed all the time, so if I lived close by I would go monthly, possibly even weekly if the coffee was good.
Books do furnish a room, educate, entertain. Words once committed to the page become a legacy, in some cases beautiful beyond measure.
I came away feeling a little overwhelmed, definitely humbled, and without doubt, blessed.