Monday, September 12, 2011

London sept 2: British Library and Museum

We went to the "new" British Library -- there was no budget for it so it seemed to take forever. (The reading room and collection used to be inside the British Museum.) Construction workers were reported to say they were working on the Library and thus were employed for life.

I saw a few pages from an early printing of the King James Bible of the 17th century, which I could actually read; I can't say the same of either the 16th century Gutenberg Bible (it's in Latin and the font is sufficiently strange to me) or the 5th (not a typo) century Codex Sinaiticus. The latter was opened to Psalms 9-13 but the lighting was quite low and the ink rather light (faded, or just written that way). I don't know Greek either. (The sign nearby said that psalms 9-10 were written as a single psalm in the Codex, a single acrostic poem. I suspect this was the way the LXX has it too.) Anyway I thought I recognized a word, but turns out I was wrong. At least I think I was.

But it was pretty darned exciting to see these old documents. Codex Sinaiticus especially.

At the British Museum we saw the Rosetta Stone! I mean the real one! Its story is the stuff of adventure film -- rediscovered by French soldiers, but then being given to the English as spoils of war; Thomas Young's attempts at deciphering it; then Jean-Fran├žois Champollion's discovery of several keys, which enabled him to see ancient monuments and, for the first time in maybe 2000 years, being able to say what it meant.

Champollion was apparently given to fainting; he'd translate a monument, faint, and translate another. Can't say I blame him, though; if I were the first person in 1500-2000 years to be able to read a monument I'd be pretty excited, too.

Lunch was at "Tas" Restaurant, 22 Bloomsbury St.; their domain registration seems to have expired, but here's a cached copy.

We took the £9.15 per person lunch menu -- 2 persons minimum. Lots of good stuff, no meat. What I can remember it had: eggplant, something like ratatouille; hummus; bread of course; tabbouli; cracked? bulghur with walnuts, spinach/yogurt, fresh hot falafel, freshly baked(?) thing that reminded me of spanakopita but was probably pronounced something like "boo-regh".

was at the Ebury Wine Bar at Ebury and Elizabeth Streets, right next to the hotel.

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