Thursday, 25 July 2013


Something pretty exciting happened the other week. I finally got to see some really old, scrappy bits of animal skin with some barely decipherable words on it in a totally useless language!

Photo from the British Library

By which I mean the Beowulf manuscript, of course. (It does contain other things beside Beowulf, but that's what it's most famous for.) I'm just trying to downplay how stupidly excited I was. Beowulf is one of my favourite things in the world, and seeing it finally was really awesome. For those who don't know, it's an Old English poem I studied a lot for my undergrad, and I wrote my dissertation on it. It's not doing so bad in the popular culture stakes thank to Seamus Heaney and a dreadful CGI film, but it's still not something you'd generally come across. (You could do worse than reading the Heaney translation, if you're at all interested!)

For a scruffy little manuscript, it's kind of a big deal. It is quite scruffy, but's that understandable. It's old as balls and escaped a pretty nasty fire. It was so old and fragile and beautiful! I've been trying to see it for so long, but it's been being restored the last two times I was down in London, so I was half convinced I wouldn't get to see it this time. I ran right past it first, wailing that it wasn't there, and Gav had to drag me back and point it out. Then, I did a pretty ridiculous impression of an excited child at Disneyland, glued my face to the glass and inconvenienced all the other visitors. Whoops.

You're not allowed to take photos inside the Library, and while I can see on Flickr that other people have not been so obedient (!) I didn't take a photo. Maybe I'm just institutionalised, but it's a lovely place and while it's my instinct to take a photo as a souvenir, I feel like it would be rude to ignore their rules. So, I bought a little book from the gift shop which has some cool photos of some of the pages.

In other medieval manuscript news, the Lindsifarne Gospels are currently back oop north in Durham! This makes me very happy, because London steals all our things. Whilst I totally understand why, I think it's really ace that they're getting a tour back up Northumberland way. I'm a romantic like that, I love historic artefacts being in geographically appropriate places.

Thank you for reading about my old stuff, I hope this hasn't been too tedious 

alice xox

1 comment:

  1. I am jealous... so so jealous. XD I love seeing things like this that have survived. When you think about how used they were, and how much turmoil was boiling around them... it's amazing documents like this are still around.

    I'd really, really love to see some old illuminated texts too. I have a feeling I could stand staring at them for hours upon hours upon hours.