Just after Christmas, I was lucky enough to secure a 2 week work placement at Senate House Library of the University of London. Senate House Library has a wonderful history and and many, many rare and special books in its collection.
The building itself is very distinctive and extremely impressive. It has 19 floors (although most of this is closed stacks), and there is an urban myth that the Nazis were planning to use it as their HQ once they conquered England in WW2. But of course, I was more interested in the library and their special collections than the building itself!
I saw many wonderful books during my time there, including first editions of Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf, signed works of Oscar Wilde and Karl Marx and some of the earliest (and most beautifully illuminated) printed books in the entire world from the 15th century among many, many others. However, the highlight of my stay was viewing the Terry Pratchett collection, and it was this that inspired the name of my blog, the ‘Unseen University Librarian’.
Colin Smythe, who was Terry Pratchett’s agent, has very generously donated first editions of most (if not all) of the Discworld novels, and not only in the English language, but in every language they were ever published in! Even more exciting is that Colin Smythe also donated all kinds of weird and wonderful Discworld memorabilia, including computer games, cartoons on VHS, mugs, keyrings, candles, board games, figurines , ornaments and even bottles of ‘Ridcully’s Revenge’ beer!
Of course, this is in many ways a nightmare for a librarian – how do you go about cataloguing a keyring, or a boardgame? Even more importantly, how do you ensure that youpreserve correctly such a wide variety of unusual materials, such as wax, resin and beer? Discworld is one of the most popular modern classics, with a huge fan base all over the world, and Pratchett’s legacy must be preserved for future generations to enjoy. Therefore, Senate House Library is the best place for this wonderful collection to be housed, treasured and displayed. And with this in mind, what better librarian to name my blog after than Pratchett’s wonderful creation of the ape Librarian, of Discworld’s magical Unseen University