Sunday, 29 June 2008

I'm the Firestarter

Flange Member VP asks:

What's the strangest thing you've been asked to do in the pursuit of further book perusal or purchasing?

In order to gain access to the hallowed portal of the Bodleian Library in Oxford (not as a student I hasten to add but in my then career of mad scientist grant provider), I had to sign a declaration I wouldn't set fire to any of the books. I think this was in response to a real incident that happened centuries ago; I'm sure there's a proper Oxford grad out there who can enlighten me further or even furnish a copy of the declaration. It was in ancient English too, so you weren't quite sure exactly what you were signing up to at the time either.


Alex said...

Yep, I remember doing this too. You swear 'not to kindle flame' (as well as not nick any of the books). And it seems to work. I never saw anybody kindling flame in the three years I was there.

R. Pete Free said...

Wasn't spitting in there too somewhere?

Great linrary - sometimes you don't even have to read books, just to be surrounded by the smell of them.

VP said...

Thanks Alex - you've bought it all back to me now.

Looks like I'm going to have to sign the declaration all over again (as my membership's lapsed) as I've just found out today that there's some letters in there from 1 of hubby's now deceased relatives as part of the Lawrence of Arabia archive.

It's not dhaft as your word verification seems to be telling me at all!

Alex said...

At the risk of turning this into an Oxford bore conversation, I liked getting books at the Codrington Library at All Souls. You had to get your tutor to formally recommend you as a suitable person to use the library to start with, when you got in you had to read at huge lecterns standing up, and all the books were behind glass cases - you had to find the book you wanted, then find a librarian, point to the book, and voila. What could be simpler? It's probably all changed now and you can do it all by wi-fi or something.

emmat said...

yeah at Cambridge we didn't have to swear that, because the entire university is just loads too sensible.

Muppet said...

There's a copy of the oath on Wikipedia (, but it looks as though it was not in response to an incident - just dates back to a time before electric light when there was a serious risk of fire if someone lit a candle.