Highlights of the British Library
It’s been a dream of mine to head to the motherland since I was a little girl. This year, I got to realise that dream by travelling to London, Scotland (and Paris) and I am SO happy I waited until I was in my mid-twenties to go. Why? Maturity. A finer sense of sacrifice and, thus, a higher appreciation for what I was experiencing. I was in London from 5-9 May.
I am a massive bookworm, so I was very keen to head to the British Library. Oh. My. Goodness. Books! Books everywhere! Old artefacts! Such excite!
The British Library has exhibitions that the public can access – some are free, but there are some that require paid entry. The Sir John Ritblat Gallery houses the Treasures of the British Library and, let me tell you, if you are interested in history and/or literature: you have to go to this exhibition. Some highlights:
- ‘A baroque vision of the heavens’ – a celestial globe created by Vincenzo Coronelli and based on the work of A V Newton; 1.1m wide detailed globe with paintings and tiny descriptions.
- Letters, novels, manuscripts and poems by:
- Marie Antoinette
- Oscar Wilde
- Sigmund Freud
- The Beatles
- Ian Fleming
- Jane Austen
- Sir Thomas Wyatt
- Shakespeare (include first editions!)
- Albrecht Dürer
- Michelangelo (Michel-frickin’-angelo!)
- Leonardo da Vinci (!!!)
- Margaret Haig Thomas (a prominent feminist in the 1920s)
- Elizabeth I (a speech she made in 1567)
- Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (letters between them)
- Alexander Fleming (his notebook – he discovered penicillin)
- There are also such wonders as:
- The draft of Britain’s first ultimatum to Germany (1939)
- Sacred texts, including an 8th century Qur’an from Arabia
- The Magna Carta
- Illustrated books including Homer’s Iliad (from 1466)
- Beowulf (year 1000)
Needless to say, I was having a grand old time. If postage stamps are your thing, there’s also an entire collection of stamps from different locations around the world and different time periods.
There’s not a lot you can actually do outside of the exhibitions without being a member or having a reading room pass (which need to be paid for). But the exhibitions are great, the shop is huge, and the atmosphere is vibrant, if a little noisy for a library. You can also book a guided tour.
King’s Library Tower is the closest thing to seeing amazing bookshelves that you’ll get without making it into a reading room or going on a tour. A six-storey glass tower stands in the centre of the library, lined with books. It’s a collection of over 85,000 books and pamphlets formed by King George III, who was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1760 to 1820.
The Library is easy to get to – catch the tube to King’s Cross Station and it’s an easy walk less than 5 minutes.