St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of my three favorite buildings in London. After attending mass there on the first Sunday of the trip getting the chance to see the library upstairs in the attic of the cathedral was an incredible experience, because it is not normally open to the public. The librarian there, Mr. Wisdom, was fantastic. I do not think that I could pick out what was my favorite thing about this excursion or what stood out the most the entire thing was awesome.
To get to the library you have to climb about one hundred and thirty steps that are a circular staircase. At the top you do not just enter the library, there are several different areas that we got the opportunity to see, the gallery, the library, and a scale model of the cathedral in a room that mirrors the library. The library is on the east end of the cathedral and the room with the scale model is on the west, the gallery runs between them. The gallery contains many different artifacts from throughout the life and history of the cathedral. There are stones from when it has been restored, a cross that was damaged in World War II, several different pulpits that are no longer in use, and various books and other unique artifacts.
Mr. Wisdom took us into the library and showed us the gallery up top that runs around and the engraving that are carved in stone down the walls above the gallery, the engravings contain books. The room was always meant to be a library. And even today it is still a working library, however, they prefer to have notice of when a visitor is coming and what they are looking for to make sure they can prepare for the visitor appropriately.
I lied I think the thing that stood out the most, other than actually getting to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral was Mr. Wisdom teaching us all the proper way to take a book off a shelf and quoting Herodotus, “A big book is a big evil”. The proper way to take a book off a shelf is to always pull it out by its spine using thumb on one side and fingers on the other, never by the top. Those top head blocks are to help protect the book not to use to pull it off the shelf. When the books are too tight on a shelf and you cannot get your fingers between two books, push the books on either side back to get access to the book you want and pull it out according to the proper procedure. Always be sure to support the book in case it is heavier than you expect.