Philobiblon: Warning to British Library readers

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Warning to British Library readers

From today all British Library reading rooms (not just rare books) are pencil-only. Pens are absolutely verboten. And the pencils in the shop cost 60p! each. (So it is worth remembering to BYO.)

I can see the argument - there was a woman prosecuted for persistently causing lots of damage last year, and no doubt they get the odd absent-minded doodle - but it is a real pain.

Working for a while in rare books - and trying to read my notes later - made me value Mr Bic a whole lot more.


Anonymous dware said...

Yes, pens make more legible notes than pencils, but the payoff for requiring pencil use is more important: less defacing, intentional or otherwise--no persistent Biro smears or Osmiroid blots. Years ago as a grad student I broke myself to the discipline of using pencils and figured out that the combination of a #2 or softer pencil plus bristol-board note cards would priduce usable notes. Once, as an experiment, I tried the preservation technique employed by composer/chemistry prof Alexander Borodine: he wrote his scores in pencil, then dipped the sheets in gelatine as a fixative. Messy, to say the least.

Ironically, in light of my kvetching about having to use pencils I ended up becoming an archivist--now that the shoe's on the other foot I'm polite but firm in enforcing this practice.

1/05/2006 03:35:00 pm  

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