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0 Don't Kill that Kindle

  • Thoughts
  • by Gavin Weightman
  • 03-11-2011
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So that I could get to research the Marconi Archive which is now safely housed and expertly catalogued in the Bodleian Library, Oxford I applied for admission . I had to find a sponsor and was lucky that a neighbour who is a publisher and was an Oxford student long ago was on hand to sign the relevant papers. As I left his house he called after me: " You will not be able to kindle any fires." I smiled back wondering what he meant.

The admission procedure was very jolly. I was ticked off for not completing one of the forms correctly then told by the lady dealing with library tickets that my misdemeanour would, on this occasion, by over looked. I had my passport for identification and my debit card for payment, a very modest sum for six months access. But before I was finally granted permission to enter the library I had to read an oath. It was printed on a laminated card and I was instructed to read it aloud.

"I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library." 

This little episode captures, I think, the wonderful theatricality of Oxford University. When I got to the science library where the Marconi Archive is held there was a chap on the door dressed rather like a posh waiter with a red rose in his button hole. While I was marvelling at the quaintness of this attendant I failed to find the correct way to put my new ticket into the very modern entry gate and had to be shown.

I learned later that the oath I had taken was originally in Latin and the ban on smoking is relatively recent. And I began to wonder if the Bodleian might soon be storing not just books and papers but Kindles. A new oath might ask me to promise not to set fire to any Kindles. Or some such.