Friday, July 8, 2016

Europe Adventure: Day Nine, Part One- Oxford, Queen's College Library

When I was planning our trip I was making a list of things I really wanted to see in each city we would visit. I knew that when we visited Oxford I just had to see the Queen's College Library. 
But I couldn't find anything about visiting it online. 
I emailed the library and asked about visiting and touring the library. 
I received an email back from a woman at the library saying that they didn't usually offer tours of the library but that if I could be there at a certain time she would have someone there that could let us in. 
I was so excited. 

So, on Wednesday, April 13th we woke up pretty early, had some provided cereal at our cottage for breakfast (I forgot to mention there was a basket with some bread, milk, eggs, and cereal waiting for us in the cottage upon arrival!) and got ready. 
We drove to a park and ride just outside of the main part of Oxford and got right onto a bus into the city center. 
This time we did not make the mistake of not knowing where to get the bus at the end of our day. 
We asked the bus driver where we should get the bus going back and I took a picture of it!

Once we got off of the bus we walked to Queen's College. It wasn't too long of a walk, less than five minutes I think. 
The college is beautiful and we were so excited we could hardly contain ourselves. 
We checked in with security and they radioed to the library to let them know we were there. They had our names at the security booth so they knew we were legit. 
Then he told us how to get to the library.
Once there the woman gave us some instructions on walking through the working part of the library quietly because students were studying there (it is beneath the one we were going to tour) and then she let us in. 
We walked through the newer library and then went up a spiral staircase to get to the old library.

I had to take a picture of the staircase when we got to the top. 

I cannot fully describe the feeling of reaching the top of those stairs and seeing this: 

It was even more beautiful than I imagined. 
It was completely quiet. We were the ONLY ones there. 

They had a few of Shakespeare's plays under glass right when we walked in. 

The copy of Shakespeare First Folio, the Catholicon, is the only book in any Oxford College from Gutenberg's workshop. 

They were right under a small wooden statuette of Queen Phillipa
This statue dates probably from the 16th century as there are accounts of it being repaired in the early 17th century. It was modeled after the Queen's effigy in Westminster Abbey which was modeled from life. The statue went missing in the 19th century and was later recovered by members of the College from a garden in Godstow.
The College was founded in Phillipa's name by her Chaplain Robert Eglesfield in 1341.

I think we stood at the end of the library for a good while just staring.
Warning: There will be picture overload. I just can't decide which pictures to post!

There has been a library at Queen's since the College's foundation in 1340-1 by Robert Eglesfield. 

Then we walked along the library stopping to look at the reading desks and the books. 
These are rare survivors of this type of chair, one dating from the 18th century.

The Arts and Sciences are represented by two female figures over this doorway. 
The woman on the right represents Science.  The woman on the left represents the Arts. 
They are each surrounded by artifacts that also represent these. 
The cherubs in the cartouche hold the College coat of arms of three red eagles. 

Then we spent a while looking the other direction!

The Lectern desks

In the 18th century, globes were very fashionable. They were kept along with other instruments of science for both educational and aesthetic reasons. 
The Queen's has one celestial globe and one terrestrial globe, both made in the 18th century by John Senex, the most famous globe maker of his day. He was also an astronomer, engraver, surveyor, and geographer.
The miniature globe in the orrery is also from his workshop.  

 The Orrery is hand driven and reproduces the diurnal and annual movements of Earth, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars. 
The Queen's Orrery is unlike most others as it is turned by hand with a crank handle. College tradition says that there are only two people who can do it. One is the Patron of the College, a position most recently held by the Queen Mother, and the other is the Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy, a Fellow of Queen's.
It is made of brass, steel, and wood. 

The Mitres and coats of arms in the book cases are thought to represent episcopal and archiepiscopal benefactors. 

 The Queen's Library has one of the largest rare book collections of any Oxford College. 
The books were chained to the book cases until the 1780's. Many of the still have the chain marks on their covers. 

These doors date from the late 1690's and are the most ornate and detailed of the wooden carvings found in the library. Hidden in the carvings are four faces. 

The portraits in the stained glass depict Henry the 4th, Charles the 2nd, and his Queen Catherine of Braganza. The glass was taken from the College's original medieval chapel. 
The frieze above the windows consists of emblems of learning and religious symbols: musical and scientific instruments, globes, and books intertwined with flowers and other symbols of Christ.

The central ceiling panels were originally intended to contain paintings but they were finally finished with rococo plasterwork by Thomas Roberts after half a century of deliberation. 
The amount of time it took to make the decision makes this ceiling a unique occurrence of Baroque and Rococo styles side by side. 

This was such an amazing experience. They might have had to drag us out if we didn't have a tour appointment at another college to get to. 
I will never forget what it felt like to stand in this library.

Next up: more Oxford!


Seth and Julie said...

You did such a good job tracking down opportunities that were not publicly available. How cool to have a private visit! I adore all libraries, but especially old college libraries. Whenever I see movies set in college libraries like this with the little private study pods flanked in ornate bookcases, I want to go back to college and stay there for the rest of my life. I am totally not kidding. I could sit there and study forever. Beautiful!!!

cheryl said...

Me too. Libraries, especially these old ones, are amazing.
I am so with you. I could have sat in there looking at those old books forever.

The Kings said...

As amazing as everything we saw at Oxford was Queen's College was probably my favorite! Thanks for all you did to make this special visit on the second floor possible!!! The books, the ceilings, the globes...everything was magnificent!!!!

cheryl said...

Me too. It was definitely my favorite spot in Oxford. That and lunch probably.