Day 11: St. Paul’s Cathedral Lib. and National Art Lib.

Monday, July 6, 2015
First up this morning was St. Paul’s Cathedral Library with the wonderfully knowledgeable and witty Mr. Joseph Wisdom. Do you remember this building from a previous post?

St. Paul's Cathedral (via K. Emmons)
St. Paul’s Cathedral (via K. Emmons)

Now, let’s take a look at the inside… a professional picture…

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Now pause for a moment and imagine what the library for this sort of building might look like…

Yeah. Now take a look at this:

18th Century. Breathe it in. (via St Paul's website)
18th Century. Breathe it in. (via St Paul’s website)

It’s even better in real life.

Unfortunately, a researcher was using the library when our tour was supposed to begin which delayed the group from entering. Completely understandable (libraries are designed to be used!), though it did shorten our visit since service began at 12:30. BBC was also setting up cameras to broadcast the Tuesday evening service in remembrance of those killed in the 2005 London bombings.

Our group just got a glimpse of the library, but it was enough for me to fall deeply in love with the room and its contents. Joe Wisdom was also a treasure. He spoke quickly and knowledgeably about any and all subjects. Just to sit and listen to him talk longer would be a dream come true. If he does any talks with library associations I will make it a point to attend – he’s that good, and I only met him for 20 minutes.

He’s the type of librarian that I want to be: quirky and interesting, yet knowledgeable and personable.

Our group then left St Paul’s and dashed over to the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) where the National Art Library is located.

Entrance on the 1st Floor above the ground floor (via K. Emmons)
Entrance on the 1st Floor above the ground floor (via K. Emmons)

The first room entered is the Reading Room which is public and open to all who desire to use it. They get around 30,000 visitors per year which make up a wide demographic: professionals, researchers, art students, curatorial staff, and others. It’s a reference library so nothing can be checked out, but almost anything can be viewed. They have a couple of items, like the Dickens’ manuscripts, that are also in facsimile form for patrons to view instead of the originals. They also have complete runs of fashion magazines including Vogue. Some of the special collection items we got to see are pictured below.

Cipriano Piccolpasso circa 1556 (via K. Emmons)
Cipriano Piccolpasso circa 1556 (via K. Emmons)

The above item is the oldest book on pottery production. Recipes and techniques found in here have been tested and still work!

Juan de Alcega, published 1589 (via K. Emmons)
Juan de Alcega, published 1589 (via K. Emmons)

The above pictured books is the first published tailor’s pattern book. Before this, tailoring was sort of mystical and mysterious. This book revealed some of the secrets of the trade for middle class clothing; the secrets of making upper class clothing remained hidden.

Published 1594-1598 (via K. Emmons)
Published 1594-1598 (via K. Emmons)

Above you see an example of fine binding. The cover is completely embroidered! The contents are on the New Testament.

Fore-edge painting (via K. Emmons)
Fore-edge painting (via K. Emmons)

You’ll also see that the fore edges are painted. Personally, I love this trend. The Lilly Library, where I work, has a nice collection of fore edge painted books.

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, published 1833 (via K. Emmons)
Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, published 1833 (via K. Emmons)

The next is a sketch book by Pugin. He created (from his imagination) a castle and all it’s decorations, reviving the gothic style. He was only 21 at the time of these drawings and went back years later to write in what he thought was wrong with them. I didn’t think he should have been so hard on himself, but I guess that’s how artists progress.

The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones, 1856 (via K. Emmons)
The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones, 1856 (via K. Emmons)

The above is a reference book for artists to use in order to create new styles and decoration. Use the past as inspiration, according to Owen Jones, and “form without color is like a body without a soul.”

Jane and Lucy Fouché, 1892-1898 (via K. Emmons)
Jane and Lucy Fouché, 1892-1898 (via K. Emmons)

The above pages were created by two sisters, the Fouché girls, who wrote about and drew the fashions they wore between 1892 and 1898. As girls are wont to do, they even went back and wrote in the margins if they were horrified to have worn a particular outfit – a “what were we thinking?” moment that we all experience.

E.A. Séguy, 1928 (via K. Emmons)
E.A. Séguy, 1928 (via K. Emmons)

Mr. Séguy took design inspiration from nature; this volume was about insects in particular.

Karl Blossfeldt, 1929 (via K. Emmons)
Karl Blossfeldt, 1929 (via K. Emmons)

Karl Blossfeldt used a homemade camera to take pictures of plant structures – they’re almost architectural, aren’t they?

The book became an object of study in this library. It was an art piece in and of itself. Certainly the works found within the books can be considered art; but book as object was an interesting perspective that I certainly can subscribe to. Just type “books as art” or “book as object” into Google and you’ll find hundreds of hits that describe the movement better than I can, but to me…

…books are beautiful, inside and out.

This is a long post so I’ll make another devoted to the London Eye here!

On to Day 12!

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