Thursday, March 04, 2010

Ye olde English

This came to me indirectly from a peer who works in the Vatican library in Rome, of all places.

"So far as your Authority will permit of it, exercise great Discrimination as to which Persons shall be admitted to the use of the Library. For the Treasure House of Literature is no more to be thrown open to the ravages of the unreasoning Mob, than is a fair Garden to be laid unprotected at the Mercy of a Swarm of Beasts.

"Question each Applicant closely. See that he be a Person of good Reputation, scholarly Habits, sober and courteous Demeanour. Any mere Trifler, a Person that would Dally with Books, or seek in them shallow Amusement, may be Dismiss'd without delay...

"There will then remain the necessity of recording [a book's] Acquisition in your Ledgers of Record. As for the Entry of its Style and Title in the Catalogue, many counsel that this is not needful, since you may be expected to remember that the Book has been Purchas'd for the Library. It may, however, occupy your leisure moments. Some would advise that if it be a Volume of Sermons it be placed on the Shelves with others of its like; or if it be a work of Natural Philosophy it stand near the Volumes of that class. This is a waste of time.

"Assign it a Number which shall correspond to its Position on the Shelf, and shall be the next in Sequence from the latest Book which you have added, and so let them stand in the Order in which thay are Receiv'd. For, surely, if you desire to find a number of volumes of Sermons, it will be an easy matter for you, recalling when they were Purchas'd, to pluck them from their several resting-places.

"Keep your books behind stout Gratings, and in no wise let any Persons come at them to take them from the Shelf except yourself.

"Have in Mind the Counsel of Master Enoch Sneed (that most Worthy Librarian) who says: It were better that no Person enter the Library (save the Librarian Himself) and that the Books be kept in Safety, than that one book be lost, or others Misplac'd. Guard well your Books, -- this is always your foremost Duty."

Obviously the last things we librarians want are unworthy peasants touching our precious books. Its wording reminds me of the Bodleian Library oath, dating from medieval times. Because it appealed to my sense of humour, I used to have a copy of it stuck to my office window. Located at Oxford University, the Bodleian is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. Patrons were required to take this oath to gain admission.

"I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library."

When some of my patrons asked me about it, I explained that it didn't apply to them.


Nerida said...

Haha, I love it! Hope you don't mind if I share it with my colleagues.

The system for assigning shelf positions would sure make it difficult for the librarian's successor to find anything!

I love the idea of questioning applicants closely or making them take an oath, hehe! Might have to set up such a procedure for anyone wanting to enter my study to read Dr Seuss...

tinkbell13 said...

Part of me really likes it, part of me hopes that is sarcastic, and the other part of me is ashamed of the snobbery that it suggests. Not sure how I feel about it, very conflicted.

Ross said...

Thanks for your comments. There's another library oath floating around that requires patrons to remove their sword before entering the premises.