Sunday, July 31, 2011

I think this is an appropriate venue for my bragging.

During our stay in England, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to (prepare yourself) go on a private tour into the depths of the Cambridge library. Yes, I know. Let's pause to let the magnitude of this momentous event sink in.

Are you okay? Okay, great. In this private tour, we walked through all these dusty, cold rooms filled to the ceiling with old vellum and manuscripts and scrolls and shoe boxes stuffed to the brim with scraps of paper. There were entire shelves dedicated to old medical records from the 1940s. There were mysterious bins labelled "Do Not Open Until 2025" and "Sealed." The best part of this tour was the Special Collections room. We saw and, more incredibly, TOUCHED the following items in this Super-Secret Private Tour:

1. Darwin's personal notes and diagrams. That's Charles Darwin. Yes, I touched the same paper that Darwin touched. I hope that somehow I absorbed some of his brilliance through my fingers and that, one day, I can be as clever as he was.
2. Rudyard Kipling's personal notes, including a rough draft of "If,"one of my favorite poems.
3. Beautiful illuminated manuscripts dating back to the 13th century A.D.
4. 3rd century A.D. papyrus scraps of Romans chapter 8 (my favorite chapter). Obviously, we didn't touch these because we wanted to avoid disintegrating some of the oldest remaining excerpts of the Bible if we could help it.
5. The Book of Deer, which is the oldest Scottish book from around the 8th century A.D. It's written in Gaelic and we're lucky they even let us take it out. Apparently, with all the Scottish unrest (they're pretty keen to break off from England at the moment, but what's new about that?) there have been people demanding that Cambridge return that book to its rightful owners. So naturally, they keep it under lock and key most of the time.

6. Newton's diagram and calculations for a telescope he was building. Yes, that's right. Isaac Newton. Sir. Isaac. Newton.

My hands still feel all tingly and warm. I've never loved evolution or physics or Latin more than on that epic, unforgettable day in Cambridge, and I probably never will.

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