Shimer College

February 28, 2011

“The Other Place”

Being in Oxford, one learns fairly early on to refer to “the other place” rather than (shh…) Cambridge. Still, you may hear reference to “Oxbridge“ - as the two universities are more like each other than any other place is like either. 

Together Oxford and Cambridge epitomize what Freud (after Ernest Crawley, who I imagine as an Oxford man) called the “narcissism of small differences.” The two places are both versions of the same thing, really, which makes them both rather jealous of the other. There are differences, many, small and large. But I won’t go into that here, as I tread on rather uneven ground as it is. 

Anyway, we (I, Ari, Adrian, Howard and Kieran) went along to the other place this past Saturday and took in some of the sights. (I am scooping Kieran, here, by the way, whom I bribed to blog about this [remember, Kieran?] and who has yet to post, as far as I can see.) But I don’t want to steal all his thunder, so I’ll confine myself to posting a couple of pictures of our jaunt to Magdalen College, where I dragged Kieran and Ari to see one of my favorite places in the other place: the Library of Samuel Pepys (pronounced “peeps”). Pepys was, among other things, a diarist of the era of the Restoration in England, graduating from Magdalen in 1654. His Library (which includes his diaries, in six volumes, all in a shorthand he learned as a student there for note-taking) is a charming littlish room (it’s all about the same size as Shimer’s own collection at 3424 S. State Street). The books themselves are arranged in a spiral around the perimeter according to their size (what say you Colleen1 - think it would simplify things?).

One of the prize volumes is the first half of William Caxton’s translation into English of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (c. 1480). That was interesting to see for Ari, who’s writing a thesis based in part on the Narcissus episode (alas, the volume was open rather to the illustration of Phaeton). Sitting just on the banks of the Cam River that runs through town, Magdalen is a beautiful setting for the Library. And, in fact, the College has another illustrious alumna in our very own Bev Thurber. So, you might say this is a shout out to our home girl Bev from her peeps after their encounter with Pepys.


*1. Colleen McCarroll is Shimer’s Librarian and Bookstore Manager.  She is not known for arranging books by size–at least not yet!

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