TANGIBLE ARTIFACTS

Christopher de Hamel

Abstract

Some libraries call them ‘Special Collections’. Others describe the same remote rooms as ‘Rare Book Collections’. They are usually upstairs somewhere, along the end of untrodden corridors lined with posters of obsolete exhibitions. There is generally a minuscule reading-room with no windows and long tables, often with an even more minuscule librarian trying to appear inconspicuous and busy simultaneously behind boxes of uncataloged archives. With any luck, they will admit you into the book stacks themselves. The first thing you notice as the door is unlocked is the most wonderful smell—that intoxicating, exhilarating, overwhelming and irresistibly exciting smell of old . . .

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