Home Customized Faculty-Led Literature in London: Exploring the British Library

Literature in London: Exploring the British Library

The British Library, London

Literature fanatics are spoiled for choice with everything London has to offer. This Fall, Mariko Cilley, Student Ambassador and Student Blogger, is studying abroad with the Southern California Foothills Consortium in London. Mariko is working on a Study Abroad Literature project and will be documenting her experiences over her semester. Read on to hear what she got up to in her first week visiting the British Library.

Walking to the British Library I wasn’t sure what to expect. I only knew that it was a mix between a library and museum.

Almost any book you could imagine was there and there were displays of some of the most iconic pieces of literature in history.

First impressions

Security checked my bag and I entered the library taking in to the large aesthetic space. It radiated that calm and peaceful feeling only places like these can offer. On the right, next to a white rounding staircase, there was a beautiful piece of artwork that featured an array of colors. I walked across the grid patterned floor and up the cream staircase.

There was a seating area the same as any other library. People studied, worked, or read. Oh, and there was a cafe too! On this level I could also see part of a huge glass case which held, what I assumed was “any book you could imagine.” It was incredible and almost intimidating to imagine the vast knowledge and history that was held within.

Finding Treasure

After taking pictures and admiring the glass enclosed library I made my way to the Treasures gallery. This gallery held exhibits for public viewing.  Following busts of famous historical figures, I finally found myself about to enter the Treasures where, sadly, no pictures were allowed. Inside this dimly lit room, was held incredible history and original works— I was ready to be amazed. The first glass case I found held Elton John’s handwritten lyrics of “Candle in the Wind” and my first reaction was: alright, cool, next. It wasn’t until the next glass case that I started to realize how awesome this all really was.

Handwriting from the greats

Soon my unamused self found the display of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook and this is where everything started— the point of no return. My reaction was: OH MY GOD. THIS IS REAL. THIS PAPER WAS TOUCHED…BY DA VINCI. THIS IS SO COOOOOL. My eyes were glued to each case after that. I was reading each plaque, studying Jane Austen’s handwriting, Mozart’s scores, John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics, etc. And by doing this an awareness of history, time, and humanity suddenly came over me. It allowed me to come to the realization that these people were more than just iconic figures; they were real and feeling the same emotions we feel in greatly different time periods, but there was still that shared artistic value and search of self and society, that struggle of finding who we are and what it means to be human.

A-list of historical documents

Weaving through quiet groups and lone observers I finally made my way to the Magna Carta exhibit and I was in awe. It was incredible. I stared at the beautiful Latin on the centuries old pages— it was amazing how well preserved the piece was. With my eyes wide and mouth slightly agape I was overcome by this star struck feeling. It honestly felt like I was meeting a celebrity; my breath caught in my throat, my eyes sparkled with admiration— it was so cool! I learnt about the Magna Carta during my World History class. I remember learning about the documents importance and why it was made. Catching one more look at da Vinci’s notebook I left the room, again following the busts, but this time it was to the gift shop, where I allowed myself a small shopping spree…

Mandatory gift shop visit

I, of course, had to buy the 20th anniversary edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone because who doesn’t need a new and cool U.K. version of a book you already have at home? I also picked up a collection of short stories from one of my favorite authors and a book of poetry. Writing this now, I don’t know why I bought that last book. I blame it on the fact that I was overcome by the euphoria of being in the British library. I was surrounded by books I could buy, and the 2 for 1 sale.

Leaving the library I felt like I had just walked out of a meet and greet with popular celebrities, but instead of celebrities they were historical and rare texts, documents, music, etc. Being able to see important and iconic items was an electrifying experience— it struck a chord inside me, creating a unique memory that will be with me forever.

Mariko Ciley is a Student Ambassador and Student Blogger who is studying abroad this Fall on an AIFS Customized Faculty-Led program in London, England through the Southern California Foothills Consortium. Follow her study abroad experience on her Instagram.

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