St John’s College Library

I joined a group to tour the library of St John’s College. Stuart Tiley (photo 5) is the Librarian and captain of this ship-like building, constructed in 1596-1598 and now called the Old Library. He showed us just a few of the College’s 400 precious manuscripts and 20,000 early printed books, including some letters of Jane Austen. Tiley told us that the ceiling was originally covered with an ornate plaster design, but the plaster fell down sometime in the 19th century. Now that the beams are exposed, you can really see how they put these old buildings together (photo 3). This one looks a little wonky and it is not entirely stable (hence the thin iron supports that run across its width). Also pictured in this post is the Laudian Library (photo 7) built in 1631-1635 but pretty much gutted by the Victorians, who make me wince sometimes even though they wrote some great stuff. A more modern part of the library serves the everyday needs of students and fellows, of course, but it’s not very interesting looking compared to the other two.


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