Recently a letter was dropped on my doormat, addressed to CabbieBlog Imprint. The missive informed me that Everyone Is Entitled To My Opinion has been accepted by the British Library.
The most remarkable thing about it, and speaking as someone brought up on the British public library system, is that I can’t just go and pick my own volume off a bookshelf. There are no bookshelves – at least, none accessible by the great unwashed. A reader must order it online, and hopefully, within 48 hours, it’ll be available.
There are only a mere 35 million books in the basement (now hopefully 35 million and one) at the St Pancras building. The vast majority of the collection is up north in Boston Spa, Wetherby, and has to come down in a van if requested.
Should you wish, for some reason that escapes me, to read an antiquarian tome that belonged to King George III, because he gave his entire collection to the nation on the condition it remains visible to the public. And sure enough there it is, behind glass, in the centre of the main atrium. Needless to say, the public can’t just go in and pick one of the Monarch’s books off a shelf, outrageous idea. You have to order it like any other book – it’s just that it doesn’t have to travel by van to get to you.
And all that stuff you learned about the Dewey-Decimal system for categorising books? Forget it. Britain’s national library categorises them by size. Another illusion shattered.
This means that if a folio of Shakespeare’s sonnets is 8″ x 5″ we could be bedfellows.