The British Library

Well, I’m sitting in the café of one of my favourite places in the UK (if not the world), and since I am now merely waiting until my train leaves (in four hours), I suppose I shall finally update my blog.

Where am I, that it is so lovely? Three floors of reading rooms tower above me; there are reading rooms on either side of the café, and below me is a shop, exhibition hall, and below that is a cloakroom, another exhibition room, locker room, and I don’t even know what else. From where I sit I can see most of the King’s Library collection on display. Where am I? I am in the café of the British Library.

The British Library is a wonderful place. It is a haven in the heart of London. Outside the world is busy, turbulent, always in a rush. Step but through the gates into the courtyard and at once enter the calm: in the courtyard, academics mill about on the steps or the outdoor café, chatting quietly or eating or drinking in silence, often with a book in hand. Enter the doors and you have entered a sanctuary. Oh, how airy and full of light it is! And quiet, filled only with soft murmurings rather than traffic noise. The British Library is a beautiful place filled with beautiful books and beautiful people. I love it.

Part of my trip down south has been to spend a few days here, in the manuscripts reading room of the British Library. I have been consulting the manuscript of my beloved Melusine, tenderly turning its pages and transcribing its handwritten words. Oh, the wonders of scholarship! I live in two worlds: one that holds a 15th century manuscript in its hands and which types its notes onto a laptop computer, connected to the world via wireless internet. I’m here gathering clues for an article or two, and in the meantime, reviving my love for the text of Melusine. There is nothing like paging through your favourite medieval romance manuscript to get you excited about your thesis and the life of a scholar again.

The lockers are nice to use, too.


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