Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Removal of the Thomason Tracts from the open shelves of the BL's Rare Books and Music Reading Room

I am old enough to remember when it was possible to order and to read the original copies of the Thomason Tracts in the North Library of the British Museum. It was a privilege and a pleasure to be able to handle the copies that Thomason himself had preserved. I did understand why the British Library decided that, in the interests of the future survival of this material, photocopies should be made and be placed on the shelves of the Rare Books and Music Reading Room. Now, however, these photocopies have been removed on the grounds that that room lacked the clear sight lines necessary for security purposes: the BL has declined to restore the Thomason Tract photocopies on the grounds that there is not enough space (which had previously existed), that they do not fit the standard shelving and would require other reference works to be entirely removed to the detriment of readers. As a number of historians have found, the availability of the Tracts and the ordering procedures are barely known. I am afraid that I do not find the defence of this change by the BL's administrators convincing. Do contact Blair Worden (blair.worden@history.ox.ac.uk)to find out what can still be done to reverse this misguided decision.

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