It shouldn’t come as a surprise that those of us in the Public Texts program are huge book nerds. I hope the same holds true for anyone reading this post, at least to some degree. As we head into the second half of the Public Texts I course we have finished with our field trips. The final trip was to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library – as the title of this post implies – where we had the opportunity to (literally) get our hands on old books, some of which were up to 500 years old!
The Fisher has a few rules though: your bags are locked away, you’re allowed to bring in paper and pencils ONLY (I did not know this and had brought only pens myself), and you cannot browse the shelves yourself. But don’t worry, the librarians there know a thing or two about where to find any text you can locate through their website’s catalog. Unlike some rare book libraries, the Fisher keeps the books they’ve acquired organized not by author or date of publication but by how they were originally received. Meaning, everything is organized by collection and if you don’t work there the odds of you finding anything specific is incredibly unlikely. This has two benefits: One, a small part of history is preserved since the ways in which these collections were formed in important in understanding what people were reading and collecting. Two, some of these books are worth millions of dollars and a would-be thief would have a hard time being efficient here.
Now, despite all of this security, you don’t have to wear gloves when you handle the texts here. Respecting these old books is something you almost do on instinct when faced with the second edition of the first ever publication of Shakespeare’s collected plays. But you’re allowed to do so without layers of glass, tools for turning pages, or gloves. But enough about the Fisher, you came here for the pictures. See below a gallery of photos taken of some of the texts we were shown by our wonderful guide.