British Library


At the entrance to the British Library ‘Newton’ After William Blake by Eduardo Paolozzi

Although the British Library has over 200 million things to read there, I decided not to bother getting a Reader Pass in favor of checking out their small museum of rare and valuable documents. Unfortunately, everything was under glass but I honestly didn’t expect them to let me handle medieval manuscripts even though I would’ve been careful. Honest!

None the less, their Treasures Gallery kept my attention for hours. I got to see various manuscripts including one of Beethoven’s sketches for the final movement of his Pastoral Symphony, one of Shakespeare’s first folios, a first edition of the King James Bible, one of the four remaining original Magna Cartas and some third century papyrus fragments from the Gospel of John.

But the highlights for me were one of William Blake’s manuscripts for a major work that he never finished which included an illustration, one of Robert Burns’ notebooks where he’s working on his poems in both English and Scots and an early draft that Sylvia Plath sent to her editor with some of her edits. I guess it’s nice to see these poetic giants crossed out lines and inserted words just like me.

My apologies for the lack of pictures from this visit. The library does not permit photography and the ones I took didn’t turn out good anyway.

Finally, on the “Lower Ground” floor there was a fascinating piece of art called Paradoxymoron. It looked like a painting of some library book stacks but as I walked towards it they began moving around in a way that paintings of stacks of books usually don’t. I realized it was playing with my depth perception so I was weaving and bobbing as I approached close enough to see how it was done. The art is very three dimensional with two large trapezoidal protrusions coming out of the wall. The illusion breaks down when you get too close or when viewed from an extreme angle and tt’s also only apparent if you’re in motion so I thought I’d take a video but quickly realized that my camera has only one eye.

About Bartholomew Barker

Bartholomew Barker is one of the organizers of Living Poetry, a collection of poets and poetry lovers in the Triangle region of North Carolina. Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit.
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