British Library Visit

English & Media

In April Itchen A-level English  students  visited the British Library in London. The British Library receives a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland.  It houses over 150 million items in a myriad of different languages – almost every language on the planet!

It contains manuscripts, maps, newspapers, magazines, prints and drawings, music scores, and patents as well as a comprehensive Sound Archive which keeps sound recordings from 19th-century cylinders to CD, DVD and MD recordings.

Our students  went to a specially organised workshop that enabled them to view the impressive 'King's Library' housing books collected by King George III and considered one of the most significant collections of the Enlightenment.  It contains 65,000 volumes of printed books, with 19,000 pamphlets.  It was collated by Frederick Augusta Barnard (1742-1830) who was the Royal Librarian with help from notable literary figures of the time including Dr. Samuel Johnson.

The workshop included an opportunity to explore how language has changed over time and is still changing.  Students were given various 'slang' phrases and asked if they felt that they were offensive.  This provoked some interesting debate about the ideas of political correctness and whether some words should remain unsaid or whether this prevents freedom of speech.   This was an excellent opportunity for students to extend their understanding of a key topic in their studies of English Language.

Finally, the group were allowed to enter the Treasures Gallery  - no photography allowed!  It contains some ancient and important manuscripts as well as some more recent artefacts.

The collection includes a beautiful illustrated manuscript 'The Lindisfarne Gospels', one of Britain's greatest art treasures.  The book was probably made on Holy Island in Northumbria (North-East England), in the late seventh or early eighth century. The artist-illuminator was called Eadfrith. Although written in Latin, the manuscript contains the oldest surviving translation of the Gospels into English, added between the lines around 970.  The craftsmanship of the book is breath-taking.

Another highlight was the original Beatles' manuscripts complete with additions and alterations.

An educational and fascinating visit!