Thursday, 14 October 2010

Briefly, before we depart again...

A short post to catch you up on some of our latest activities. Our guests return to Germany this afternoon, and they give excellent reviews of Greenwich and the Tate Modern, both of which they visited yesterday. On Monday they poked around at the Camden Town market, which seems to be off the well beaten tourist path. I might have to succumb to visiting: their description of the canal and horse stables sounds too irresistable to ignore. On Tuesday Erika went with them to visit a neighborhood in the East End that looks as if it may have been directly lifted from New Delhi. Sounds like another temptation.

Yesterday I returned to the British Library for a second visit (the first was to look at the map exhibit several weeks ago) with the intention to see the Lindisfarne Gospels (check out the online viewer). We're leaving for Edinburgh tomorrow morning, and our intention is to visit the Holy Island where the book was copied and illuminated in the early 8th century. The British Library has it. Unfortunately they don't have it out for display, but they do have an interactive screen that may have been better (similar to what's available on the web site). A visitor can examine the tiniest details in the photographs of all the major illuminated pages plus many more pages. The book is simply phenomenal in its artistic quality. I spent about an hour and a half studying this book alone. The detail is extraordinary.

Of course the BL is filled with other treasures that were on display including, less importantly but still interesting, original manuscripts of a few Paul McCartney and John Lennon songs. Much more important and more impressive is one of the original copies of the Magna Carta (again, check out the online viewer), the immensely valuable Codex Sinaiticus (please, do check out the online viewer) containing one of the earliest surviving version of the New Testament and produced in the 4th century, the oldest copy of Beowulf (ditto), Shakespeare Folio, Gutenberg bible, the Sherbourne Missal (oy, oy, oy!), other beautiful and significant bibles and sacred texts from Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Islam, Hinduism and other religions; Da Vinci notebook, a copy of Adubon's book of bird paintings (awesome!), music manuscripts by Handel, Mozart, Elgar, Hayden, and more. Just spend a few hours on the British Library web site exploring if you love books and history. Really. It's worth it.

I spent three hours in the library just examining these treasures, and a few minutes exploring some of the rest of the library. One incredible feature is a tower of books in the center of the library, the library of King George III that his son, George IV, donated to the nation in 1823. Lots of people were in the library working on laptops, taking notes from books, busy doing some kind of research. Almost inspires one to go out and produce some scholarship!

This will be the last post for a few days, which may come as a relief for some considering the amount I've sent out recently. We'll return from Scotland on Monday night with new tales and I hope pictures that will be easier and faster to download than the last few sets have been.

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