|The King's Library|
|Model of the British Library|
Much like the Library of Congress, the British Library receives copies of everything published in the UK, which leads them to receive about 400 new items per day, which amounts to 9 miles of material per year. The items in the collection cover every known language on Earth (including Klingon for all the Star Trek fans in the UK). About 40% of their collection is on-site in the basement levels, including high-traffic materials and rare or fragile items. These materials are delivered to the main floor via ABRS (Automatic Book Retrieval System), which consists of 1.2 miles of track throughout the building. A book's journey from basement to the reading room is approximately 70 minutes long. The library uses their own system of shelf marks to delineate an item's category, size, and location. With the vast amount of materials available, having this intuitive system probably helps employees locate items more quickly.
|Entrance to the "Treasures of the British Library" gallery|
All of the experiences in the British Library so far were great, but a visit to the Treasures Gallery proved to be even more exciting. No pictures were allowed in this section of the library because of the value and rarity of the items contained within. The Tudor enthusiast in me was thrilled to see the prayer books of Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey and the handwritten letters of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and Edward VI. There were pages from da Vinci's notebooks, Michelangelo's letters, Jane Austen's writing desk, an early Beowulf manuscript, and so many gorgeously illuminated manuscripts. The music collection was quite extensive and held a copy of the first printed music as well as handwritten scores by Mozart, Beethoven, Handel, Purcell, Bartok, Vaughan Williams... I have studied and adored so many of these composers over the years. This room is quite possibly my version of heaven.
The last little room in the Treasures Gallery is a low-light area holding two copies of the Magna Carta. This is an important document for England, but also significant to me because I am a direct descendant of King John and five of the 25 Magna Carta barons. To be so close to a document that was most likely touched by six of my ancestors was especially moving. For anyone who may be interested in the barons, here is some light Wikipedia reading on my ancestors: