Monday 9 June 2008

Special Collections

Thought I'd keep you updated as to my movements around the Bodleian. Those of you who have been following my sporadic library updates will by now have a fairly comprehensive understanding of the various departments - in fact, if you've been attentive, you'll know more than most of the students in Oxford. More than I did, certainly.

Today I moved to Special Collections, which is awfully special - it more or less means manuscripts and rare bo
oks and nice old and exciting things. Back when I started in the Bodleian, I spent a week working underground in the stacks, and could peruse all sorts of interesting and odd things (a letter written by Jane Austen; Hitler's marriage certificate; a copy of Wind in the Willows handwritten by Kenneth Grahame) - now I get to see some more! It went rather from the sublime to the ridiculous today. First I saw a Shakespeare First Folio (with some amusing marginalia from an early owner - 'Beatrice and Benedict have much wit' by the opening of Much Ado About Nothing for instance, and a rather fanciful handwritten list of plays which the owner considered Shakespeare to have penned). After that I spent quite a lot of time with a few hundred copies of Buffalo Bill Novels, from the 1910s onwards. Hilarious stuff, looks like a comic but novel-length prose, more or less. Classic.

My favourite section of the library revealed today, though, was the section hidden away behind a grille. An odd miscellany, which have in common one thing - they simply can't be on the accessible shelves, for a number of reasons. For example: "page 32 of this book contains a serious libel" - ! That seemed to be the theme. These books allege all sorts of things which might still cause a legal kerfuffle. Since the Bodleian can't let things leave the library once stamped, they are kept here. What fun.

All in all, I think my time in Special Collections is going to be good fun. I've certainly been looking forward to it all year - although I shan't spend much time with the readers, I'll be with the most interesting material held in the Bod.

Oh, and "hello!" to anyone from the Bod who was alerted to this post by a Google alert...


  1. What happens to libelous blogs? I wonder if they will ever be put behind bars?

  2. So it's called the Bod, for short, is it? I love that ... .

  3. How cool! To think of all these little treasures just lying about in some hidden basement somewhere!

  4. That archive sounds like a literary candy shop!!! Write more about it please!

  5. And, in that area you can find something from a librarian of our own Univ. of Massachusetts who was friends with a Bodleian staff member - a box of American political memorabilia. I viewed that once. That staff member was making all sorts of things available to me while Bill was there meeting with him. I'd love to visit again - there are other things I'd like to view that I didn't know about then.


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