Friday, August 7, 2009

Whatever Moments (7)

Revisiting England means brushing up against history at every turn. One particular moment of gratitude broke in on me when we visited Wimborne Minster in Dorset. Founded in 709 A.D. the current building contains glorious architecture from the Norman building onwards. But what struck me was its Chained Library dating from 1865. It contains over 350 volumes, chained on the shelves, so that readers could take them of the shelf (for one hour at a time) and read them on an inclined desk below.

As the second most important chained library in the UK, it is therefore one of the first public libraries, (though not so many people could read), and boasts some remarkable books. One of the earliest is handwritten on vellum by four scribes - it would have taken around one year to write. No wonder that a single book was worth a small farm! And no wonder they chained these books up!

The glory of books has always been high up on my wonder list. But spending time in this old library, with an enthusiastic volunteer who told me some of its history and opened up special volumes, opened my eyes afresh. I know the digital revolution is supposedly undermining the reading of old-fashioned books. But how marvelous to hold books, unchained and so freely available. Of course, Scripture remains number one for me, but I looked at all books differently as I came away from this brush with history.

1 comment:

dss said...

Bill read me your blog as we drove to the U.P. and we were amazed as we had never heard of the chained libraries. How interesting! You should talk with our Elizabeth about your travels this summer since she intents to study history in college, at this point at least.

Have a good end to your cool and rainy visit; we hope you and Carol have some sunny weather before you return home to Warrenville.