Recently, I renewed my Reader’s Card at the British Library, currently housed in superb premises on Euston Road, next door to the Victorian Gothic St Pancras railway station. This building was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in about 1998. Prior to this, the library’s Reading Room was a huge circular structure in the heart of the British Museum.
When our daughter was at primary school, she was taught about the Ancient Egyptians including a female Pharaoh called Hatshepsut. One Saturday, I took our daughter to the British Museum in the hope of finding an image of the pharaoh in the Egyptian Galleries. After a desultory search, we gave up and walked acoss the the lovely covered Great Court, created relatively recently. The central circular structure within it contains the unused but well-preserved round Reading Room, which was designed by Sidney Smirke and opened in 1857, the year of the First Indian War of Independence.
We entered the old Reading Room and I asked the attendant sitting there:
“Where exactly did Karl Marx used to sit when he used the library?”
“It’s a myth, sir,” replied the attendant, “He did not have a particular place because it has always been the library’s policy that places can not be reserved from day to day.”
I was a bit disappointed with his reply, but had to accept it.
When we got home, my wife asked our child how we had got on. She replied:
“You know Mummy. Daddy asked about his friend at the big old library?”
My wife asked which friend. Our daughter replied:
“I don’t know, but the man said he was a myth really.”
Picture shows foyer of current British Library in Euston Road