British Museum
British MuseumSo begins the journey. After arriving in the UK with a severe cold I spent the first few days on light duty, able to take in the British Museum and little else. Returning to the British Museum is like attending a family reunion. Seeing the same old familiar relatives, new births, old deaths, the extended family but one that is different, rearranged. The Mummy Room, the Rosetta Stone, Elgin Marbles and one of the gates of Babylon or at least pieces of it that had had me much impressed, that is until I visited the Pergamon Museum and saw the Ishtar Gate. But that is all that I could manage for my body was out of joint.

The Museum which celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2003 has its origins in the collection of physician, naturalist and collector, Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) who not wishing to see his collection of some 71,000 objects, a library and herbarium, dispersed on his death bequeathed it to King George II for the nation in return for the payment of 20,000 to his heirs. The King had little interest but Parliament, led by the Speaker, Arthur Onslow, was persuaded to accept the gift and an Act of Parliament establishing the British Museum received the royal assent on 7 June 1753. Added to Sloane's collection was the Cotton collection of manuscripts, given to the nation in 1700 and the Harleian collection of manuscripts. The Museum was first housed in a 17th-century mansion, Montagu House, in Bloomsbury on the site of today's building. On 15 January 1759 the British Museum opened to the public. With the exception of two World Wars, when parts of the collection were evacuated, it has remained open ever since, gradually increasing its opening hours and moving from an attendance of perhaps 5,000 a year to today's 5 million.

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Bodleian Library
Bodleian LibraryI did score a personal coupe by acquiring a copy of the Wimille biography that I have long been seeking. Now it's off to Oxford and the Bodleian Library, said to be the oldest library in Europe still in use. I am hoping to see an example of the old chain library system. It might be difficult for some to understand why a person would visit a library on their vacation and nigh near impossible to explain visiting two! Bibliomania has no explanation for those not inflicted by this malady.

I've also just noticed that there is WiFi available on the Great Western train that I am now traveling on. Check that it's only there because the individual had a broadband card. One of the interesting aspects of rail travel, at least in the west is that you find yourself traveling throughout the backyards of the nation you find yourself in. There is a slightly perverse pleasure in being able "peek over the fence". While in America the use of wood and plaster is prevalent, in the UK you see little else but brick and mortar being used. The houses are very small here and it almost seems that the gardens are as big as the living quarters. How people can stand working in their gardens during typical British weather is beyond me but then again I have never been accused of having a green thumb.

Bodleian LibraryOxford is a University town with colleges spread all over the city. The Bodleian Library lived up to expectations but unfortunately I was not able to photographs upstairs where the actual books are kept, something having to do with copyright which is another way of saying that they wish to reserve the right to charge you for what should by all rights be free. Taken to the extreme all landmarks in Britain will soon be reserved by copyright requiring you to pay compensation for photographing Big Ben.

The Bodleian is a library of the University of Oxford and one of the oldest and most important libraries in Britain. The original library was begun around 1320 but was replaced by a new library through a gift by Duke Humfrey in 1488. Disaster struck at the hands of Richard Cox, working at the direction of King Edward VI who sought to purge the English church of all traces of Roman Catholicism including superstitious books and images. What was not destroyed was sold off, the room taken over by the school of medicine. It was not until decades later that the library was resurrected through the efforts of Sir Thomas Bodley, who gave it valuable collections of books and manuscripts and in his will left a fund for its maintenance. The library has one of the great collections of English books, including a major Shakespearean section; its extensive manuscript collection is especially rich in biblical and Arabic material. A new building for the library was opened in 1946.Under provisions established in 1610 and 1662, it is a legal deposit library entitled to free copies of all books printed in Britain.

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It's Thursday and I'm scheduled to stop by Sheffield where I will meet an acquaintance but our signals got crossed and we missed each other by 15 minutes. Rails of Sheffield, a hobby shop of some repute in Model Rail Forum was to be our meeting place but I needed to store my luggage first and catch a bus. The shop itself was a disappointment and it was obvious that their main focus was in mail order and internet sales as their store was not suited to casual browsing which is what I had expected to do. Not wanting to leave empty handed I purchased a British Pullman wood sided passenger car that I intend to put on static display. The passenger car while simple is quite stunning and comes complete with lighting via table lamps and curtains. A word about the curtains, their appearance from a normal viewing distance is very convincing.