We all know that Karl Marx wrote his revolutionary works sitting in the Reading Room of the British Library. But did you know that the man who ran the British Library, and who came up with the original design for the reading room, was also a revolutionary, who helped to shape the 19th century, just as Marx helped to shape the 20th.
The British Library has moved now. It occupies a modern building on Euston Rd, which is comfortable and efficient for staff and scholars alike. It has free wifi, hundreds of lockers, and food outlets with decent coffee, and the computerized ordering system works fine.
But it will never give me the same buzz to enter the new building that I used to get when I walked into the central reading room of the old library, with its high domed ceiling, rows of desks radiating out from the centre, and leather upholstered chairs. It was full of the ghosts of readers past. Continue reading