Episode 45: Bookcases

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

‘A bookshelf is as particular to its owner as are his or her clothes; a personality is stamped on a library just as a shoe is shaped by the foot.’ (Alan Bennett)

Welcome to Histories of the Unexpected where you will discover the history of things that you did not know had a history; like the history of chickens, or the history of the fart.

For this episode let us join the crustacean of chronology, Professor James Daybell, and the head honcho of heritage, Dr Sam Willis, as they read into the unexpected history of the bookcase.

So, dust off those books and throw out your kindle as James and Sam take you on a journey of bookcases through history. From Charles I and his travel library to the use of bookshelves as secret doors, from the emergence of chained libraries to stop book thieves to John Milton’s family bible and how its annotations give us a deeper understanding of his upbringing.

Our two noble librarians reach the top shelf as they reveal that this unexpected history is all about: cataloging and class, boxes and book binding, identity and death, families and symbolism, memories and uniformity, education and availability.

Listen out as Sam and James compare their personal libraries and discuss the difference between display and practical bookshelves.

‘So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, A lovely bookshelf on the wall.’ (Roald Dahl)

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