(Credit: Dr Welsh)
The very first place my class visited was the library at the beautiful St. Paul's Cathedral.
Sadly, we weren't allowed to take pictures inside - I wish I could have, the library was just as amazing as the cathedral itself! The library is located a level up from the main floor, accessed via an elevator or a spiral staircase. On the way to the room the library are fragments of the five previous cathedrals in that location – I was under the impression that the majority of the previous ones were made of wood, so it was a little surprising to see so much stone and marble.
The library was purpose-built by Wren – and includes a hidden staircase! Hidden staircases are always cool. It’s not the only one we saw during all of our field trips (more on that one later…), so I was pretty psyched to see it. The library holds what is left of the library from the previous St. Paul’s, which was housed off-site and burned, as well as books from many different donors. Something that I found extremely interesting – the majority of paper in England isn’t as acidic as it is here in the States, so while there were books in archival boxes, it was primarily due to them waiting for conservation, and not because of the composition of the paper itself.
The library has very little digitized – it seemed to be, like with the conservation efforts, based on need and rarity. I wish more was digitized and available online, as I think it’d be pretty neat to see the collections without the possibility of damaging the books, but I understand why there’s not more.
Another very interesting fact I discovered: Wren wasn’t an architect originally, nor did he consider himself one. He taught astronomy, and wanted to put a telescope in St. Paul’s! I’m kind of sad that it was too big, it would be interesting to see a telescope in the cathedral! Maybe there is a model of it somewhere?