The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings….Also through here passes a spiral stairway, which sinks abysmally and soars upwards to remote distances.
– from ‘The Library of Babel‘ by Jorge Luis Borges.
Here at Aberystwyth University there have always been librarians, assisting students and staff to find what they’re looking for and ensuring that all the resources needed for teaching, learning and research are available. The latest rare book display at the Thomas Parry Library includes a number of volumes and papers owned by the University that are associated with famous historical librarians.
Plot’s Natural History of Oxfordshire (1677) with notes by Henry Ellis
Henry Ellis became Principal Librarian of the British Museum in 1805, and remained in that position until 1856 – he was an accomplished antiquarian and scholar. His assistant, and direct successor in the post at the British Museum was Anthony Panizzi, who doubled the number of books (making the collection the largest library in the world) and push through many reforms.
Ellis had previously argued against some of these reforms in a parliamentary committee – he stated that if the museum were not closed for three weeks in the autumn, the place would positively become unwholesome, and that to open on Saturdays would be a mistake as that was when the most mischievous part of the population was abroad (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). This copy of Plot’s Natural History of Oxfordshire was owned by Ellis during his time as a student at St John’s College, Oxford in the 1790’s.