OK. I think this up’s my nerdom up another level, but after reading a “What to do in Manchester” website and seeing this place, I just had to check it out.
I spent the last 90 minutes in The John Rylands Library on Deansgate, where I was able to look at exhibits, architecture and one of the larger collections of old and antiquated books that I’ve seen.
The Library boasts itself as a “Magnificent neo-Gothic building with a large collection of books and manuscripts.” However, this description didn’t do it justice.
While the building was impressive, what was inside would make a few bibiophiles’ mouths hang open. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take pictures of these things, which would help jog my memory later on when writing, so I am going to tell you about them now while they are fresh in my mind. And of course I pulled out a pen and notebook and took notes. What kind of journalist do you think I am?
In order of which I came across them:
- A 10-foot-long Egyptian scroll that was separated into eight sections that were about 1-foot-wide.
- A letter home from a man in Israel about his intent to marry a woman he met. Dated: 1090 A.D.
- Gart der Gesudhuet, a gorgeous, large book with gold-edged pages, being kept in a glass case at 24 degree celsius.
- A 2nd Ed. The Canterbury Tales.
- A Qur’an, or an “example” of one – not sure what that meant. Dated: 1500.
- The oldest dated New Testament writing to survive. It was found in Egypt at Behnese, and was only 5 by 4 inches wide. It had bits of scripture from John. Dated: 125 A.D.
- Robert Boyle’s The Sceptical Chymist. “The Sceptical Chymist … Touching the spagyrist principles commonly call’d Hypostatical as they are the wont to be Propos’d and Defended by the Generality of ALCHYMIST.” Apparently Boyle wasn’t a fan of conventional theory and challenged many popular theories of the times. Dated: 1661.
- Homer’s The Odyssey on a fragment of papyrus.
- Fragments of Deuteronomy 23-28, a Christian text, on papyrus that were found in Egyptian mummy wrappings. Dated: 2nd century A.D.
10. A copy of Harriet Breacher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
I’m sure you’ve gathered at this point that this library is a home of open-mindedness. And while thought to have never been a writer himself, Ryland and his wife were collectors of great works of the written world.
After the exhibits, I ventured off to find The Historic Reading Room. I thought I was going to find this place a bit dull compared to what I had just seen, but that turned out to be far from what happened.
Remember when the Beast from “The Beauty and the Beast” has Belle close her eyes and he walks her into the library in his castle, and she is shocked and awed by the massive collection he has and how the books went up the walls all around the two of them?
That is how I felt.
Upon walking into The Historic Reading room, I was immediately surrounded by walls of old books and the great literary figures and prophetic thinkers of the past.
Both of the two floors that this room boasted had little segments/rooms that were filled with books. On each side of an entrance sat a statue of a thinker of the past or important figure of the literary world. Shakespeare, Calvin and Homer were only a few of these.
At both ends of the room, there were stained-glass murals that were dedicated to religious men and scientific thinkers.
The Rylands were unconventional Catholics that appreciated the achievements of the theoretical world regardless of the school of thought. Newton was just as important as Moses and St. John was just as important as Hooker.
This appreciation of both science and religion was moving. After I learned about the murals through the audio tour I was on, I immediately pressed repeat and listened again.
I think that many don’t give people of the past as much credit as past-people deserve. I am guilty of this as well, but experiences like these change my views. I wouldn’t thinking a cotton baron would be so well-read, appreciative of these works of art, and as forward-thinking to realize what science and religion both offer humanity.
If you come to Manchester, or I should say, when you come to Manchester, I recommend you check this library out.
It is free to browser through and you can study in the reading rooms. The audio tour is $2.50, and while it doesn’t tell you a whole lot about the exhibits, it’s does tell you about the history of the building and the Rylands.
Next I will be trying to find The Printworks, which is a place The Smiths apparently played at. Tomorrow will be my full day in Manchester, and I will probably go see The Royal Exchange, The Lowry and a few other things.