Monday, October 09, 2006

London Adventure No. 2: A bliss of paper and ink

Saturday was nothing short of amazing. I arrived in central London intending to go to a market for book collectors, but wound up walking through a small but lovely garden instead. I took a few pictures, but soon headed toward my next destination: the British Library. To save a little money, I decided to walk through London instead of taking the tube or bus. (Although to be honest, I probably wouldn't have taken the bus anyway; I still haven't figured out how the bus system works.) I didn't bother trying to take in everything. I just walked, slightly aware of the stores and restaurants and people around me. I did stop once when I saw a store that had something about paper in the name. I've been looking for stationery (which is ridiculously hard to find for some reason), so I decided to go in. It was such a beautiful store. They didn't have stationery, but they did have lots of decorative paper. Gorgeous: handmade papers with fibre and flowers, the famous swirling peacock design, richly colored satin-like sheets filled with silver symbols. It also had materials for bookbinding, as well as guides on how to do it. I've never encountered that before, and I was enchanted. Now I have something else to add to my list of life goals. :) I did leave soon enough, though, because I wanted to have plenty of time to spend in the library.

When I arrived, I was just blown away. The British Library is not at all what I expected. It doesn't really look all that big or beautiful, but it was still impressive. It's a complex that rises into the sky, and you come at it from this flat courtyard that's actually quite pretty in a stark sort of way. But the real delight came when I went inside. Until Sunday, they had an exhibit about British newspapers, which is why I absolutely had to go on Saturday. As a journalism major (albeit not for long), it would be a terrible waste to miss that. The exhibit was wonderful; I sort of stood in awe of this incredible history in front of me. I picked up a free newspaper that contained all the headlines on display, so I have a souvenir to show anyone who cares. I was really disappointed that I wasn't allowed to take pictures. I did, however, have my picture taken for the newspaper page I "designed." I now have a front page with my byline and headshot above a story about the future of the Internet, published by the Independent. (I got to decide which paper I wanted to work for, and I decided on the Independent because they had the most interesting designs in the entire exhibit, in my opinion.) Once I made my way through the newspaper exhibit, I went to the room that houses the "Treasures of the British Library." I was absolutely dumbstruck. The most amazing experience ever. End of story. I just walked around with this incredibly stupid smile on my face as I looked at the books. Jane Austen's journal, and one of her writing desks. Charlotte Bronte's writing. Seamus Heaney. A copy of Beowulf from the 1500s. Bits of sheet music from Mozart and Beethoven and so many more. Handwritten lyrics to Beatles songs written on napkins, torn pieces of paper. Ancient copies of the Bible, on vellum and with ornate calligraphy. Sacred Hindu and Buddhist texts. The Magna Carta. Copies of pages from da Vinci's notebook. A letter written by Newton. A letter written by Darwin. A letter written by Thomas More. Nothing short of amazing. I don't think there's more to say, really. It leaves me speechless.

I followed the trip to the library with a trip to an antique market, which was a disappointment. Lots of pretty things, but nothing I could buy. I did, however, stop at a charity shop later and buy two books, just to fit in with the literary theme of my day. I'd never heard of either: one's about the history of tulips, and one's about the future of technology. I returned to my flat happy, satisfied in knowing that my literary explorations of London/England are just beginning, as I have a trip to Oxford planned for Saturday.


At 10:21 AM, Blogger Cindy said...

Marvelous day! I am gloriously happy, just hearing about it all.

At 10:34 AM, Blogger GrumpyTeacher1 said...

Wow, what a fun day!

At 10:32 PM, Blogger Justin said...

still pretty jealous ;)


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