The British Library is an amazing place. It holds a copy of pretty much every text ever written in the English language, plus many, many more that weren’t. Over a million texts in one place. And they have a wonderful exhibition room that displays some of their treasures. The exhibits in these rooms, with the exception of a few standards like the Magna Carta, Handel’s Messiah, and a Gutenberg Bible, rotate. You never really know what you might see when you visit.
When I went in 2001, Lewis Carol’s original manuscript of Alice in Wonderland, with illustrations filling the margins of the notebook, Shakespeare’s First Folio, and a special exhibit of illuminated Bibles and prayer books were on display.
This time? The third volume of Jane Austen’s Juvenilia and her last completed novel Persuasion, displayed on her very own writing desk! And right beside these treasures was Bronte’s Jane Eyre, opened, of course, to the “Reader, I married him” passage. There was a poem by Wordsworth, one of Samuel Johnson’s travel diaries, and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles..
Am I lucky, or what?