Day one was mainly spent nerding out. Andy mentioned that the building he works in plays host to the Terry Pratchett archives so I took a trip up in the lift on the off-chance I’d be able to have a gander. However, the archive is stored off-site and requires 24-hour notice for archivists to bring the required items in… and as there are almost 3000 of them you don’t get to delve through the lot! Maybe another time.
Instead, I wandered over to the British Library, somewhere I’ve meant to go in the past but never quite managed it. I am really glad I made the effort. A beautifully modern building – I confess I was expecting something much older – it’s airy, cool and a very pleasant environment. Access to Reading Rooms where many specialist texts are stored requires a pass, but there’s still plenty to look at, including pop-up exhibitions.
One permanent exhibit is the Treasures of the British Library and this was worth the trip to London all by itself. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a book nerd. I’m no expert, I just love books. I can’t even explain why (except possibly, “thanks, Dad”) but I’ve always had a massive appreciation for the written and printed word.
Walking through this collection, I was getting goosebumps and it wasn’t due to the air conditioning. Some of the items they have there are of massive significance. Some due to what they are, some because of their age, some down to how they were printed.
Everything is behind glass, obviously, and carefully controlled in terms of light, moisture and so forth. But you are still mere inches from some utterly enthralling chunks of paper with ink on them. Which, let’s face it, is all they are. Yet because of what is on them, every single item in this collection is an incredible part of history.
There are subsections focusing on religious texts, music, historical documents, science, maps and so forth. I only spotted one spelling mistake on a single placard (I won’t spoil it for you, see if you can find it), because I am that sad individual who reads all the information about the items he’s looking it.
The age of some of the exhibits is staggering, when you think of that they’re made of and how long some may have lain discarded until they were rescued and restored. The oldest item I spotted was from the third century, some scraps of a Bible discovered in Egypt. Right next to it is St Cuthbert’s bible, the oldest known surviving example of European bookbinding. It’s from the eighth century.
Other items that jumped out at me included the first letter detailing the concept of a computer program, from Ada Lovelace to Charles Babbage), and John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics for “A Hard Day’s Night” which he knocked out on the back of a birthday card belonging to his son, Julian. The maps are also stunning, especially some of the older examples from the 15th century. They look like they could have been drawn in biro barely a few weeks ago, they’ve been so well cared for.
You can tell I was enthralled. Yes, it’s nerdy, but it’s a wonderful collection and definitely something you should see if you’re a bibliophile.
The nerdiness continued as Andy took me to Secret Weapon in Stratford, one of a chain of gaming bars. There we imbibed a couple of expensive (for me, I live in Glasgow) beverages while he thrashed me at Injustice 2 and I destroyed him at Rocket League.
Lovely place, very comfy with a decent range of beers and ciders (but no alcohol-free ones, just soft drinks) and plenty of games to play, including the board/tabletop variety.
I am currently in a comfy bed at Katie’s where I will nest until tomorrow morning and panic about getting into Liverpool St on a very busy train…