Thursday, 10 December 2020

The Library re-opens on Wednesday the 3rd of February 2021

 The Carmelite Library closes

 on Friday the 11th of December.

 

The Library

re-opens on Wednesday the

3rd of February 2021 at nine in the morning.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Visiting Procedures in November and December

 The Carmelite Library

Visiting Procedures

 

In November and December, the Library is open each week on Wednesday and Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. The Library closes for the summer break on Friday the 11th of December at 5 pm.

 

Circulation

 

There are two forms of circulation:

1.    Browse and Borrow circulation. Visit and loan out items following the procedures below.

2.    Request and Collect circulation. Email your requests to librarian@carmelitelibrary.org and collect the items at the side door during opening hours.

 

Entry to the Library

 

In keeping with practice across Melbourne, the Library limits the number of visitors at any one time. 10 is the maximum capacity at all times; this total includes staff and visitors. Entrance is via the side door of the Library, not the main entrance. For now, this is the only entrance point to the Library.

By entering you agree to:

  • Treat staff and other visitors with respect at all times.
  • Limit your visit to 30 minutes.
  • Sanitise your hands.
  • Write your name and phone number or other contact. details before entry, for the purpose of possible contact tracing.
  • Wear a well-fitted face mask, ensuring both your nose and mouth are fully covered.
  • Keep a distance of 1.5m from other patrons whenever possible.
  • Receive service at the counter only.

You will not be permitted to enter if:

  • You are experiencing any flu-like symptoms, i.e. sore throat, runny nose, persistent cough, shortness of breath, fever.
  • You have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • You are awaiting the results of a test for COVID-19.
  • The library has reached the maximum capacity number of 10. We ask that you please wait patiently until you are allowed to enter.
  • You are not wearing a mask (unless you have a lawful excuse to not wear one).

Book Returns

Books are returned in the Returns Box in the foyer of the side entrance, or on the designated table in the Library itself. Returned books are quarantined for three days. There is no urgency to return existing loans, though it is asked that they be returned before Christmas.

 

Use of the Library Space

 

The Library is not currently available for study. Visitors are asked to limit visits to 20 minutes for browsing, borrowing and enquiries only. No booking is required to visit the Library.

Please be patient as we welcome people back into the Carmelite Library space. You may experience wait times as the staff manage the new ways in which we must operate.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

The Carmelite Library re-opens on Wednesday the 18th of November

 The Carmelite Library re-opens on Wednesday the 18th of November. The new hours are Wednesday 9 am-5 pm and Friday 9 am-5 pm.


Sunday, 25 October 2020

St John Henry Newman: Life, Thought, Spirituality BRIAN HAROLD

 On Tuesday the 20th of October, Brian Harold conducted a Spiritual Reading Group via zoom on the life and spirituality of St John Henry Newman. Here is Brian’s paper, interspersed with selected quotes.


Part 1 The biography of St John Henry Newman.

John Henry Newman was born in London in 1801 to a prosperous family and was the eldest of six children. His religious upbringing was as a conventional Bible-based evangelical member of the Church of England.

A brilliant student at school, Newman at 15 experienced what he was to describe as a profound religious conversion.

He said, of the experience, ‘I came to rest in the thought of two and two only absolute and luminously self-evident beings, myself and my Creator.ʼ In other words, were he to doubt everything else, he was convinced of his own existence and of the existence of God. In his long life he was never to deviate from that belief.

So intellectually advanced was he, John Henry was accepted for a place with a scholarship at Trinity College, Oxford, when only 16. Influenced by his lecturers and fellow students, his religious views began to develop away from his early evangelicalism. His close friend and contemporary Hurrell Froude, who could be described as Anglo-Catholic, urged him to read the Early Fathers of the Church - Saints Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and the early Church Councils. This study had a profound effect on Newman’s spiritual progress.

John Keble, a revered figure at Oxford, was concerned to lead the Anglican Church away from what he saw as ‘its evangelical complacency to a greater emphasis on the spirituality, theology, and sacramental life of the early Christian Churchʼ.

In 1822, Newman was made a Fellow of Oriel College, a much-prized appointment.

In 1825, he was ordained priest of the Church of England.

In 1828, he became Vicar of St. Maryʼs Church in Oxford.

His preaching there became legendary. The colleges would empty on Sunday afternoons to crowd into the church to hear sermons which could last up to more than half an hour.

Many years later Matthew Arnold wrote of his memory of those sermons: “The charm of that spiritual apparition, gliding in the dim afternoon light through the aisles of St Maryʼs, rising in the pulpit, and then in the most entrancing of voices, breaking the silence with words and thoughts which were a religious music. The sweetness of the voice, low and soft, but also ‘piercingʼ and ‘thrillingʼ.”

In 1832, Newman joined Hurrell Froude and Froudeʼs father an Anglican Archdeacon, on a Mediterranean tour. They visited Malta, Sicily, Naples, and finally Rome. It was his first experience of seeing the Roman Catholic Church in operation, as it were. He wrote home to his mother that this first-hand taste of the ‘Popish Church of the Antichrist’ distressed and puzzled him. He said his imagination and his heart had been touched by what he had seen but his reason had not been affected at all. The Roman Church still upheld a “polytheistic, degrading, idolatrous religion.”

Newman decided to return from Rome to Sicily rather than return to England with the Froudes. While there he came down with a severe dose of typhoid fever. Although not superstitious, he did see it as retribution for what he said was his wilfulness and ingratitude to his friends.

On recovery he felt newly energised. He declared that ‘I have work to do in England. God has a special place for meʼ.

On the voyage home he wrote the poem The Pillar of the Cloud later to became a popular hymn.

“Lead Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on, the night is dark and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on,
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene, - one step enough for me.” (and so on)

Later in the 1860s, he was to write the epic poem The Dream of Gerontius - ‘Firmly I believe and truly, God is three and God is oneʼ - set to music as an oratorio by Edward Elgar in 1900.

Shortly after Newmanʼs return to Oxford, John Keble preached a sermon which criticised the prevailing secularism and the growing indifference to religious faith. It proved to be the springboard for the so-called ‘Oxford Movementʼ, which was in essence a religious revival with holiness of life as paramount.

Two months later Newman published the first three of the Tracts for the Time,s as they came to be known. Over the next eight years the Tractarians, spearheaded by Newman, were to publish 90 of them. In two of them, published in 1838, Newman argued for what he called the Via Media, a proposition whereby the Anglican Church was situated between a truly historical Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformers.

The Via Media was free of Roman excesses such as the centralised, overweening authority of the Pope, overdone devotion, even adoration of the Virgin Mary, the cult of the Saints, Transubstantiation, Purgatory, etc. The centuries-old standard objections.

Yet, within only two years, he came to see that this Via Media had never existed in the historical Church. He called it a ‘paper theoryʼ only. By his continued reading of the Early Fathers and St Augustine he was able to say that ‘the theory of the Via Media was absolutely pulverisedʼ.

Newman was becoming increasingly convinced that Rome possessed the fullness of truth, yet was unable to bring his loyalties and emotions into accord with his intellect. In the final Tract 90, he argued that subscription to the 39 Articles of the Church of England was compatible with holding Roman Catholic doctrines like the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, or prayer for the dead.

This met with hostile rejection not only from clergy but many in the general population as well. Newman gave up active ministry and retreated to Littlemore, a village near Oxford, part of St Maryʼs parish, where he had restored the church and built a lovely chapel. There, he and a small band of followers, lived a quasi-monastic life of prayer, fasting and reflection.

In October 1845, Newman finally recognised where his logic had long since led him and he was received into the Roman Catholic Church.

The next year, 1847, Newman accompanied by his fellow Anglican convert Ambrose St John went to Rome to be trained for the Catholic priesthood. After only eight months he was ordained. Much of the time he and Ambrose skipped lectures, preferring to take in the sights and churches of Rome. After all, there wasnʼt much to teach him that he didnʼt know already.

He decided to join the Oratorians, a society of diocesan priests founded in the 16th century in Rome by St Philip Neri. They live in common, follow a Rule, but do not take vows and are allowed their own money and possessions.

He was asked by the Pope to set up Oratories in London and Birmingham with him as Superior and Rector of both. He chose to live in Birmingham, preferring the quieter city to London where he imagined too many public demands would be made of him.

In 1851, he was invited by the Archbishop of Dublin to found a Catholic university in that city. He was to spend seven years going backwards and forwards between Dublin and Birmingham. It proved a fruitless task, as Newmanʼs ideas of what higher education should aspire to did not match the narrower vision of the Irish bishops. They wanted a kind of Catholic college with no mixing with Protestants.

Back in Birmingham, Newman, encouraged by his bishop, Bernard Ullathorne, bought land in Oxford for a church and a house, there hoping to set up an Oratorian mission. However, this came to nothing also. The English bishops and the Vatican opposed his plans fearing that the environment of Oxford was not suitable for young Catholic men. They might be corrupted.

In 1856, the London Oratory successfully appealed to Rome to have Newman removed as Rector. His theology was not Roman centred enough for them.

In 1859, Newman published an article titled ‘On Consulting the Laity in Matters of Doctrineʼ. It caused an uproar in church circles in England and Rome. In it he argued that apostolic tradition expresses itself in various times through different means - sometimes through the hierarchy, sometimes by theologians, sometimes through the people, sometimes through the liturgy or through customs or movements thrown up by particular historical moments. Consequently, he wrote, the body of the faithful is one of the witnesses to the tradition of revealed doctrine, and their consensus throughout Christian history is the voice of the infallible church.

Newman wrote: “I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it”. 

His writings were anathema in the Church of Pope Pius the 9th, Pio Nono. Even his own Bishop, Bernard Ullathorne, asked him ‘Who is the Laity?ʼ Newman replied that ‘the Church would look funny without themʼ.

Henry Manning, soon to be the next Archbishop of Westminster, in denying Newmanʼs hopes for an Oxford foundation, declared that it was inadvisable for the laity to be better educated than their priests. Later, Manning forbade Catholics to attend Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Newman continued to be unappreciated and even vilified in Catholic circles. He had lost the friendship of so many of his old Oxford friends and was estranged from his own family. One of his dear sisters never spoke to him again after his conversion. His other sister did not communicate again for nearly 20 years.

He remarked to a friend in 1863: ‘As a Protestant, I felt my religion dreary, not my life - but as a Catholic, my life dreary, not my religion. ʼ

This was a low time for him. His writings were being seriously misunderstood. He was under great suspicion at the Vatican and was not supported by many of the English hierarchy.

However, Newmanʼs fortunes were to change for the better. He was accused in a newspaper article by the author and clergyman Charles Kingsley of being indifferent to the truth. He wrote ‘Truth, for its own sake, had never been a virtue with the Roman clergyʼ.

Newman replied with an account of his entire spiritual journey to Catholicism. Published with the Latin title ‘Apologia Pro Vita Suaʼ, it proved an instant success.

Eamon Duffy has written: ‘It proved to be a triumph of self-vindication, one of the most persuasive portrayals of mind and heart in movement in English or in any other languageʼ.

Catholics hailed him as a brilliant apologist who presented their unpopular religion in a new and sympathetic light. And Anglicans remembered that he had transformed the Established Church for the better. Old and dear friends from the Oxford days sought him out again. It was hailed in the secular press as a classic.

In 1868, Newman gave permission for thousands of his Anglican sermons to be gathered together and published. He was happy to write a Preface for the edition. Only slight amendments were made with some deletion of terms as ‘Poperyʼ and ‘Papistryʼ. The sales of these sermons and the earlier Apologia were phenomenal and gave Newman financial security for the rest of his life.

In 1873, his various writings on higher education were gathered into one book and published as ‘The Idea of a Universityʼ which became almost at once a classic and has remained the most widely read of all his works, endlessly reprinted and cited in every discussion of the nature and purpose of higher education.

In 1875, his dear friend Fr Ambrose St John died. His regular companion on visits to Rome and on occasional holiday trips. Ambrose, unlike Newman, was a good linguist and was indispensable when they were away from England. Another Oratorian priest William Neville became his guide and companion for the last 15 years of his life.

In 1877, Newman was delighted to be elected as the First Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. His old undergraduate college. He enjoyed renewing old acquaintances there and also visited Littlemore where he was enthusiastically greeted by many of the older parishioners.

In 1879, the new Pope Leo the 13th removed all doubt that might exist about Newmanʼs orthodoxy by creating him Cardinal. Newman asked not to have to attend Rome for the ceremony, pleading frailty. Henry Manning, made Cardinal in 1875 and Archbishop of Westminster, somehow misinterpreted Newmanʼs request as a refusal, which he passed on to the Vatican. However, Newmanʼs supporting Bishop, Bernard Ullathorne, sorted out the problem and Newman received his red hat to wide acclaim throughout England.

He did visit Rome at a later date and was made most welcome by the Pope. His last decade was passed in relative serenity free of the controversies and restrictions which has marked his earlier life. He died in 1890. Crowds lined the Birmingham streets in homage as the cortège passed. Victorian England had got used to Roman Catholics living in their midst and Newman had played no small part in that acceptance.

Part 2

In this presentation I have chosen a few crucial quotes that I believe capture some of Newmanʼs seminal ideas. Itʼs just a selection and by no means comprehensive of his writings.

A strong theme that emerges in his extensive body of work is that Newman was an ardent believer in dogma, Christian revealed truth’ he was equally ardently opposed to dogmatism. Dogmatic declarations give rise to the “mischievous fanaticism of those who imagine that they can explain the sublime doctrines and exuberant promises of the Gospel, before they have yet to know themselves and to discern the holiness of God”.

Another theme central to Newmanʼs ideas was the notion of the heart as a way of understanding beliefs. For example, he believed that “the heart is commonly reached, not through the reason, but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description. Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us.”

He wrote: “With our Saviour’s pattern before me, the best preparation for loving the world at large, and loving it duly and wisely, is to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us”.

When Newman, was made a Cardinal he choose as his motto “ Cor ad cor Loquitor”: Heart speaks to heart.

Newman was much concerned with bringing people to a real assent, where the heart of a human being was open to the mysterious activity of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, Newman was a passionate believer in the objectivity of Christian truths and the obligation of the Catholic Church to declare and interpret it.

Newman once observed that there were “Saints who are only made more eloquent, more poetical, more profound, more intellectual, by reason of their being more holy.”

It was one of Newmanʼs deepest held convictions that to cling to the literal letter of the past was to lose its essential spirit, and therefore to betray it.

Other key lines of thought are found in these concluding quotes from Newman’s works:


“In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often”.


“Man is not a reasoning animal; he is a seeing, feeling, contemplating, acting animal. Conscience, as the voice of God, is key; and yet religion without dogma slides inexorably into mere sentiment”.


“It is not good for a Pope to live 20 years.  It is an anomaly and bears no good fruit; he becomes a God, and has no one to contradict him, does not know facts, and does cruel things without meaning it.  Will not the next century demand Popes who are not Italians?”

“I have no tendency to be a saint.  Saints are not literary men, they do not love the classics, they do not write tales.  We read, we are affected, softened, or roused, and that is all”.

 

Sources

 

‘John Henry Newman - A Biography’ by Ian Ker
‘Newman and his age’ by Sheridan Gilley
‘John Henry Newman - A Mind Alive’ by Roderick Strange
‘John Henry Newman - of Developing Spirituality’ by Austin Cooper
‘John Henry Newman - A very brief history’ by Eamon Duffy


Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Rare books 32: Spain goes into France


The first edition translation into French of Francisco de Santa Maria’s (1569-1649) history of the Discalced Carmelites, both déchaussé and déchausée, published only 93 years after the order’s formation (Paris, 1655). Notes: The Teresian Reform was an internal revolution in the Roman Church, similar to that of the Society of Jesus. Migration of the movement into France required tact, especially in the aftermath of that nation’s religious wars. While amenable to many of its tenets, French sensibilities were not always easy with some of the stricter Spanish practices, an issue that has never gone away in the order’s long history. To admire Saint Teresa doesn’t mean not having an argument with her. This volume tells the story-so-far to those with a personal investment. It is superbly laid out with clear print, deep margins, paragraph pointers and decorations. A second volume of this monumental testament, height 36 cm., was published in Paris in 1666; I am rather hoping a copy of the companion volume resides in one of the yet unopened boxes of this year’s extraordinary donation from the nuns north of the Murray River.



Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Rare books 31: Nazarene Bible

 

Noah takes some measurements

240 wood engravings copied from the work of the German painter Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872). (Paris & Leipzig, 1860) Notes: Schnorr was a member of the Nazarene School, a Romantic reaction to neo-classicism, its aim to revive the spiritual in pictorial art. ‘Nazarene’ was a term of derision used by the school’s critics who scorned the Bible picture clichés of flowing hair and flowing robes. They were Pre-Raphaelites before the Pre-Raphaelites, having an important influence on that English school of art. The Nazarenes had dispersed by the time Rossetti & Co. got to work, and one cannot help feeling that Schorr had subsequently gone over to the neo-classical dark side by the time some of these works were made. Others discern a post-Raphaelite floridity, typical of the late Renaissance. A scanty record for this bulk load is available at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Notice No.  FRBNF40360702, scanty especially in regard to the team of artists who made the woodcuts from the Schnorr originals. Cataloguers steady themselves at this point to ask the main question: who are the people primarily responsible for this big time picture book, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, or his copyists? Names do not leap instantly from the page, only obscure initials in corners against the placename Dresden.  


Deliverance


Jael kills Sisera


David kills Goliath


Life as it never is. The prosperity of Job.


The Magi, in fact the whole entourage


Not passing by on the other side

Monday, 21 September 2020

Rare books 30: The French discover Desert Spirituality


19th century six volume revised edition of the 18th century lives, sayings and practice of the Egyptian Desert Fathers, and Mothers, by Michel-Ange Marin (1697-1767) (Paris, 1863-64) Notes: This set has sent me scurrying to find out about the reception history of early monasticism, i.e. who knew what when in the modern era about 4th and 5th century asceticism in Egypt and Syria. Today the literature in English on desert spirituality is thorough and popular. The scholarly work has helped revolutionise our knowledge and informed our manner of living in chosen self-isolation. This was not the case, at all, when Marin produced his magnum opus. The French were well in advance, leaving one to wonder about the extent of Marin’s sources, both primary and secondary. The set has also confounded my preconceptions about the reading habits of Carmelite nuns in the Victorian age. These books are falling apart from overuse, catastrophically so with Volume IV, which includes accounts of John Cassian’s establishment of a monastery outside Marseilles in 415. We recall that Rome fell in 410. The French sisters obviously showed great interest in what had happened in their part of the world, even from the distance of New South Wales. They made efforts to protect the books by covering them in brown paper; the pages are in good condition. The set is not listed on Trove, but will be when our holdings are added.       

Thursday, 17 September 2020

The Bus Trip 12: Rampur Raza Library, India


And so, colleagues, here we are on the final day of our bibliographical multi-omnibus circumnavigation of the world. Time is eternal, especially in India, so it’s okay if we are a few minutes late today. 

The Ministry of Culture of the Indian Government maintains the National Mission for Manuscripts, an autonomous organisation established to survey, locate and conserve Indian manuscripts. The Mission runs 32 conservation units across India, one of them being the razzle-dazzle Raza Library in the city of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. Hence the Library’s amazing website, which you could spend a lot of time browsing: http://razalibrary.gov.in/ 

Time is of the essence. This is why in 1975 this grand library, which had fallen into some disrepair, was taken over by the government. Quote: “It contains very rare and valuable collections of manuscripts, historical documents, specimens of Islamic calligraphy, miniature paintings, astronomical instruments and rare illustrated works in Arabic and Persian languages besides 60,000 printed books. 

It has been difficult finding a guide who speaks English. Sometimes a picture paints a thousand words. If we split up into two groups, half of you can go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQZnwjfHsFs 

Rampur Raza has been, ever since its foundation in 1774, a treasure house of Indo-Islamic culture, its patrons the successive Nawabs of Rampur.  Since 1957 the collection has been housed within Hamid Manzil, a fort designed by W.C. Wright during the Raj. Wright’s architecture synthesizes elements from Islamic, Hindu and Victorian Gothic in a style known as ‘Indo-Saracenic’. You can’t miss it. 

Sometimes music speaks louder than words. The other half can go here and we’ll see each other anon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8FANf5beoM 

Awesome! But time now to go out for Indian. It would be great to sit down with everyone, crack a poppadom or two together, share reflections on round-the-world-in-twelve-days. As it is, I cannot even go to our favourite Café Saffron in Upper Heidelberg Road because it’s outside the five-kilometre radius for Melburnians in Stage Four Lockdown. It may be time instead just to prepare an old favourite at home from Madhur Jaffrey. 

Whatever, until such time as we meet again over dinner, or zoom even, I hope you enjoyed the tour. Stay safe, stay at home, enjoy a steaming cup of milky chai, and talk to anyone who needs your words.    

Philip Harvey

Tour Guide


Wednesday, 16 September 2020

The Bus Trip 11: Tianyi Ge, Ningbo, China

 

 


Today we visit Ningbo, one of China’s oldest cities (circa 4800 BC), home to China’s oldest library (founded in 1561). The One Sky Pavilion, or Tianyi Ge Library, was constructed according to Taoist principles based on the Book of Changes, which is why in Chinese the name is also sometimes translated as The Universal Union Pavilion.

 

The Great Libraries of China - Part 1| LiYuan Library: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3falf8TJMFI

 

When we read the English Sinologist Arthur Waley, his account of ancient dynastic and province wars is that one of the first things they did was burn down the library of their enemy. This is why they are hard to find on Google. Tianyi Ge’s wiki, well worth reading, includes the following ‘fun fact’, “The walls were specially constructed to prevent fire.”

The Great Libraries of China - Part 2 | Mulan Weichang Library: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXFN10_tK68 

China is complex, with a book culture from very early. The Chinese invented paper. Dynastic, bureaucratic, scholarly, and private libraries are recorded throughout its history and literature. 

The Great Libraries of China - Part 3 | Seashore Library: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqzgoOng9xA 

Tianyi Ge held 70,000 books at its height. It was established by the Emperor. The collection became depleted over the centuries due to theft and neglect. The British helped themselves to many of the manuscripts. Restoration really coincided with the opening up of China in the nineties and the government’s policies of celebrating the country’s ancient heritage. 

The Great Libraries of China - Part 4 | Zhongshuge Bookshop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XY47Yjj4qU 

Throughout our visit to the oldest library in China, we have been visiting beautiful libraries of modern China. Each film is about five quality minutes long. It’s time to thank Leslie Montgomery who pieced together this wonderful alternative tour online. 

The Great Libraries of China - Part 5 | Tianjin Binhai Library: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EI_rN2HTyRE    

Philip Harvey

Tour Guide

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

The Bus Trip 10: Nakajima Library


Good morning and for those who are still with us post-conference, we are in Japan. Here we are at the only library in Japan that is open 24/7 all year round. Actually, how many of those there are anywhere is a question. The Nakajima Library of Akita International University mainly serves students and staff of the university, but also welcomes us, the general public. It has a collection of more than 80,000 books and multimedia resources. It is also great architecture and worth checking on Google Image. Or here: https://web.aiu.ac.jp/en/news/10727/ 

We visit a contemporary 24/7 Japanese library to ponder a world without libraries, which was more or less the case in Japan before its fabled insularity ended after 1853.  It is a fact worthy of reflection that the country’s oldest library is the Imperial Library, opened in 1872. In other words, technically speaking this means there are no ancient libraries in Japan. Libraries, in Japanese ‘toshokan’, are a product of Westernisation. Your guide’s own reading of this is that before the mid-19th century ‘toshokan’ were largely private collections of scrolls and other written materials, literally in-house repositories, a view borne out by reading classical Japanese literature. Doubtless, households and individuals would have had their own collections, storerooms for reading, but the concept of organising and saving works for general use does not appear to have had any kind of widespread cultural hold. Perhaps those with a better knowledge of this aspect of Japanese history could enlighten us further. The best picture of where we are today can be seen here: https://www.jla.or.jp/portals/0/html/libraries-e.html 

Your guide is also fascinated by the recent discovery that Zen monasteries don't have libraries. They have repositories for sutras, i.e. liturgical rites as we would say, but if you want to read a book you have to go outside the monastery. Is a repository a library? Or is that why we have different words? I recently wrote a reflection on this discovery, after reading an interview with the American poet Gary Snyder: http://thecarmelitelibrary.blogspot.com/search/label/Gary%20Snyder 

Also, this thorough summary of life in a Japanese monastery is significant, again, for what it doesn’t talk about, i.e. any presence of a ‘toshokan’:

https://brewminate.com/life-in-a-japanese-buddhist-monastery/ 

Visitors who would rather see a library on a library tour, than no libraries, are welcome to go here (you have 22 minutes, starting Now!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNo7xnI-bwY 

 

Philip Harvey

Tour Guide

Monday, 14 September 2020

The Bus Trip 9: The Beinecke Library

Day Nine of the Bus Trip, taking in the Beinecke Library and the Benedictine Library of Mount Angel in Oregon 

The Beinecke Library is one of the wonders of library design, an architectural and conceptual masterpiece: https://beinecke.library.yale.edu/about/history-and-architecture

 Just to read the description on Wikipedia is an experience in itself: “A six-story above-ground glass-enclosed tower of book stacks is encased by a windowless façade, supported by four monolithic piers at the corners of the building. The exterior shell is structurally supported by a steel frame with pylons embedded 50 feet to bedrock at each corner pier. The façade is constructed of translucent veined marble and granite. The marble is milled to a thickness of 1.25 inches and was quarried from Danby, Vermont. On a sunny day the marble transmits filtered daylight to the interior in a subtle golden amber glow, a product of its thin profile. These panels are framed by a hexagonal grid of Vermont Woodbury granite veneer, fastened to a structural steel frame. The outside dimensions have “Platonic” mathematical proportions of 1:2:3 (height: width: length). The building has been called a "jewel box", and also a "laboratory for the humanities". There are so many quality videos on the Beinecke’s own website, so the tour is going to let you explore for a while.

 

This is one of them. Just as pages of the Book of Kells are turned regularly in Dublin, so in New Haven, Connecticut the pages of a relatively modern version of Scripture, the Gutenberg Bible circa 1455 are turned to keep the book in good condition and to keep readers aware: https://beinecke.library.yale.edu/turning-new-page-gutenberg-bible-beinecke-library

 

We are now going to get back on the magic bus to visit another wonder of sixties library design, this time on the West Coast. In true sixties style you won't notice how the time goes, even quicker than an evaporating journal. And hmmmmmmm here we are, tripping through the Benedictine Library at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon, designed by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto: https://www.mountangelabbey.org/library/the-aalto-architecture/

 

The old library burned down in 1926. Forty years later the abbot approached Aalto and here is a film that says it better than me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6nyRF1B9AI

You will be relieved to learn that Mount Angel this week has been downgraded to Level 1 (‘Get Ready’) during the current Oregon wildfires. Mount Angel is in Marion County, which has seen some serious action in recent days.

 

Philip Harvey

Tour Guide