Last night (Thursday 20th November) we were lucky enough to be able to celebrate our Tenth Anniversary with a lecture from James Campbell, author of the wonderful tome of ‘library porn’ known as The Library : a World History (Thames & Hudson, should you feel tempted…and frankly you should!) Campbell’s talk was both illuminating and entertaining – his assertion that Roman Librarians were basically ‘highly educated slaves’ had most of the Librarians in fits of giggles (of self recognition?).
We also learned that- contrary to the image we have thanks to books like The Name of The Rose,western monastic collections only contained a couple of hundred volumes owing to the fact that each page of parchment was basically a whole sheep and therefore your average bible contained 100 sheep (he never mentioned goats funnily enough)As an Architect himself, he pointed out the design failings of Michelangelo’s library in Florence, citing it as a ‘triumph of aesthetics over practicality’. He noted that the original Wren design for Trinity College was a round building featuring a ‘throne for the Librarian’ and added that actually, round libraries are ‘useless for putting books in’.
In addition to this we learned that Bats were used in Rome to keep insects off books. This pleased the public as they never saw them – their activities being at night – but not, presumably the staff of the libraries who had to clear the bat dung every morning!
Oh and in case you wondered why your photos don’t look as good as those in the book: each shot is an amalgamation of around 100 images taken at different exposures and overlaid so that every area of the photo is equally well exposed.
All in all, it was a great evening (and I know what I want for Christmas).