More Things Found in Books

A quick update: yesterday (in The Life of Haydn, in a Series of Letters Written at Vienna, Followed by the Life of Mozart, with Observations on Metastasio, and on the Present State of Music in France and Italy, by Stendhal – it had never occurred to me that Henri Beyle didn’t give his alter ego a first name, and I wonder how we’re going to fit the title on the cover), I found a new (to me) type of library slip.This is a borrowing sheet, clearly from the twentieth century, as the pre-printed numbers for the year date begin ’19’. The slip has a punched hole in the middle (for filing on a spike, presumably), and the would-be borrower is required to fill in the book title and classmark, the date, his (definitely his!) name, degree and college. ‘The title of the book and the full date (day, month, and year), must be in the handwriting of the person who signs the order, or it will be invalid.’ Query: how did they check? Was it someone’s job to compare signatures with an approved list?

There is also a list of the quarter days by which books must be returned. This reminded me of M.R. James‘ mysterious would-be borrower in ‘The Tractate Middoth’, coming up from London, an M.A. who could borrow the book for up to three months – plenty of time for his nefarious purpose, if only he could lay his hands on it…

That gentlemanly behaviour could no longer be taken for granted is evidenced by the exquisitely courteous note: ‘The Syndicate are under the necessity of reminding persons using the Library that they are required to abstain from writing in the Books’ – let alone tearing a page out to destroy evidence of a will; and let alone razoring out the plates of a book on airships, damage which we discovered recently, alas.


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