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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Royal Astronomical Society library [20080822|13:53]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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During the Saturn After Cassini symposium that I attended a few weeks ago, we were allowed a visit to the Royal Astronomical Society's library, with a 2.5 hour (!) guided tour. This kind, if garrulous and tipsy, gentleman also permitted us to peruse and handle the pieces of the collection that he'd laid out in our honour. I was the first one to be permitted to hold a book. It turned out to be a £750,000+ copy of the Principia Mathematica. It made me, shall we say, a little flushed. We slowly became accustomed to the liberty, although we continued to be wowed by the collection itself.

I didn't bring a camera because I didn't think we were going to be allowed to take photos, let alone handle the books. But one chap in our group, a very nice German postdoc named Daniel Heisselmann, brought his Nikon dSLR and kindly sent me the pick of his shots when I requested them.

Early 1600s illustrations of Saturn (with ears!)


First floor of the library

Not pictured: spiral staircase in the opposite corner for accessing the balcony running round the upper shelves. ♥ ♥ ♥


First floor of the library 2

The gentleman to my write was our esteemed guide, the head librarian.


Oh, this old thing?

It's only a first edition of the Principia Mathematica.


And this is just a very old optics text

He told us he didn't believe in using white gloves to handle the books because they make a person more clumsy and prone to tearing the pages.


Painstakingly elaborate astronomical chart

All I could think was, "This is worth at least a quarter of a million pounds. Mustn't. Drop."


First illustration of the surface of the Sun

Powered by millions of coal plants!


A chunk of Sir Isaac Newton's famed apple tree
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To wind down the tour, he took us to the top floor of the library, gave us wine and showed us early photographic plates of the surface of the moon and solar eclipses. I don't think it really made us any less giddy, although after two solid hours of non-stop historical tuition, I think we were all quite tired. But it was certainly fantastic and a tremendous honour. I won't forget it.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: ursarctous
2008-08-22 12:57 (UTC)
i don't really know what to say to this apart from WOW and also EEE!
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[User Picture]From: inahandbasket
2008-08-22 13:04 (UTC)
totally seconded.
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[User Picture]From: lesyeuxouverts
2008-08-22 13:51 (UTC)
Thirded.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-08-22 15:02 (UTC)
Indeed. I was lost for words for most of the visit. Fortunately Mr. Librarian Man was fully willing to take up the burden of conversation.
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[User Picture]From: kreie
2008-08-22 13:28 (UTC)
I am simply glowing with jealousy. Good for you!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-08-22 14:59 (UTC)
I very nearly didn't go because I was tired after four straight days of lectures. I'm very glad I did. Also, we were lucky because there were only 8-9 of us, whereas the two previous days had seen the maximum 25 go through at once. I thought we got a much more intimate experience because of the smaller size of our group.
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[User Picture]From: cataragon
2008-08-22 14:13 (UTC)
Gibber.

That is all.

C.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-08-22 14:58 (UTC)
Yes, there was a lot of (controlled) flailing while I was in there. And taking pictures with my dinky camera phone and MMSing everyone with them.
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[User Picture]From: chickenfeet2003
2008-08-22 14:54 (UTC)
Squee
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-08-22 15:00 (UTC)
I admit, I mostly posted this for you!
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[User Picture]From: chickenfeet2003
2008-08-22 15:02 (UTC)
You are sweet
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[User Picture]From: nationofsheep
2008-08-22 16:21 (UTC)
Holy crap. Principia Mathematica!!! wtf
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-08-23 09:11 (UTC)
I know. My mind boggled.
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[User Picture]From: bowmaniac
2008-08-22 16:48 (UTC)
Oh man, what an incredible experience. Mega amounts of jealousy. Thanks for sharing the pictures!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-08-23 09:23 (UTC)
I believe it's technically repeatable as well. The librarian said we were welcome to schedule a return visit with him when we liked. Must take the bloke.
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[User Picture]From: victorine
2008-08-22 17:05 (UTC)
It is cute that you all have your hands in positions of "I'm not touching anything!" Like kids on a field trip in a museum. I'm extremely envious of your library time. I bet it smelled wonderful in there.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-08-23 09:13 (UTC)
Yes, it did! I forgot to mention that. One day there will be Smell-o-vision internets and then I can share.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-08-23 09:15 (UTC)
Galileo and Huygens were talented draftsmen, no?
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[User Picture]From: taische
2008-08-22 20:10 (UTC)
I got goosebumps just going through the pics.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-08-23 09:17 (UTC)
The whole time I was in there, I felt like my nerves were on fire. Pinging off of everything!
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From: tdj
2008-08-22 21:04 (UTC)
Those are gorgeous.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-08-23 09:21 (UTC)
It was fantastic. I'm so glad Daniel had his camera with him.
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[User Picture]From: seismic
2008-08-23 00:38 (UTC)
UHN.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2008-08-23 09:12 (UTC)
Two and a half hours of bookgasm. Yup.
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