First Day in London
I would like to publish a “day’s end” report each day, but I’m going to have to make it brief – I am exhausted…and am racing to get this sent before my battery dies! First – The Z City Hotel has provided the perfect writing environment – complimentary wine, chocolate and cheese. Bravo!
We landed at 10am London time…back home (with my body clock) it was 300am. Six hours later, I still haven’t been to sleep – and only got a few hours sleep on the plane overnight. I had planned to take a nap, but as they say, “life is what happens while you are making other plans”!
We are staying at the Z City Hotel. At first, it struck me as a bit trendy (OK, “urban hip”), which wasn’t the energy I was looking for. But it had two qualities that trumped considerations of historic ambiance. First, its front door is on Fleet Street in London – the very street where my copy of “Lane’s Reports” was printed in 1657. Second, on Google Earth, it appeared that the hotel backs up to the Temple Church (the church of the Templar Knights). There is no arguing with those kinds of possibilities, so I booked it.
Now, I will grant you that the Travel Gods are fickle, but I must have sacrificed the right vintage of Malbec onto a white carpet at some point, because today has been much more that I could ever have hoped when we arrived!
Not only does the hotel back to the Temple church, but our room has two large windows that look straight onto the North Wall of that church over a small garden patio area – unbelievable. Seeing that, there really wasn’t any question about whether I would skip the nap I’d planned and go look around. I tucked Mom in and was out the door!
A glimpse into Middle Temple
I started walking West down Fleet Street taking pictures and just working my way around the perimeter of the Temple area, which was closed. But, you never know what you will find… And find I did. While taking pictures of a locked gate along a narrow passageway, a gentleman came out, and we talked a bit. I asked what he could tell me about the current status of the Law Inns of Temple. Was it still really active?
Danny is a wonderfully pleasant fellow, who shares my love of this chapter of England’s history. As we discussed my project, and what I was hoping to learn about Middle Temple, he asked if I would like to look around inside for a moment. He was with the staff, and so could escort me… What a wonderful opportunity to gather a bit more information ahead of my planned Tuesday tour! I gratefully accepted.
I learned the Law Inns are still fulfilling the prestigious purpose they have been for centuries – allowing today’s law students a chance to live and study in the heart of London before being “called to the bar” to begin their legal career. Although the residence buildings have all been replaced since the 1600’s, the campus is in its nature much the same as when Richard Lane started his decades here as a young law student.
I wonder if young Richard had any inkling this campus would become his home away from home for much of his life? Was he ambitious enough to think that he might someday teach here, and become a Master of the Bench? Or that he might spend a year of duty as Treasurer – leading the administration of Middle Temple? What we know is that just out of his teens, young Richard- the student – began spending part of his time in the nearby Courts Exchequer of King James I, carefully capturing his notes on the arguments of the great lawyers as they argued the points of law being considered. Surely, he was capturing these notes for use later in his own career. It is very unlikely he could have any notion those same notes would become an important legacy to a time in which we contemplate the exploration of new worlds of our solar system instead of the new world across the Atlantic…
My impromptu tour guide Danny briefly took me around the grounds and into Middle Temple Hall, where he explained that the historic hall was struck many times by bombs during WWII, and was repaired and rebuilt using the exact materials used in its original construction. I will share more about this after the planned tour on my last day in London, Tuesday.
An unexpected discovery
As we walked, I described the book I am researching and what I hoped to learn on my trip. And Danny dropped a suggestion that had never occurred to me – why not check with the Temple Library to see if they might have a copy of it? It turns out they do. And possibly something I had never considered might be here…
At the Temple library, the librarian indicated that there is a book of that title in their rare books collection (only available with appointment with the Archivist). But he also mentioned they had a common copy available the stacks of the library. I assumed he was offering to show me a copy of the “historic reprint” series which features a digitized print of the original held in the collection of the Cambridge Library (which I already have). But, why would I turn down a chance to see the library? Off we went – into an anteroom of the twilight zone for me! I found myself standing in front of a floor to ceiling bookshelf filled with volumes of original hardbound legal “reports” (as they have come to be known in the legal historical world). I know of these books! I scanned the titles, and noted a dizzying number I recognize from my research. These are the books that contain many of the original “root” precedents of English Common Law! These are books about which other books have been written, including a hard edged critical analysis “The Reporters” (which I own) by the 1800s lawyer and legal historian John William Wallace.
At this moment the librarian says, “There it is!” and extracts…not a reprint as I had expected, but an apparent original. And in very good condition.
The librarian reiterated that this was understood to be a copy, but the closer I looked the more sure I became this was a “real” volume like mine. Examining it while my head spun, I noted many subtle cover details I have never seen in person. But how could it be a copy? They didn’t have copy machines back then – they were glad to have first generation printing presses! And this volume had clearly been printed – it was not hand made. I am not an expert on antique books, but I know my book very well. How the pages are aged. How the paper feels. How the words are pressed into the page from the pressure of the press. I’ve studied the artwork, and the construction. It was the same. I am convinced their “copy” is an original (granted, one which has undergone some restoration).
Could there have been a “second run”? This seems unlikely – they would not have kept the panels of metal typeset characters together once they had finished printing the run of each panel of pages. And the book just wouldn’t look quite the same if it had been re-set and printed later, would it? And there is a detail there…I have noted that both the Cambridge and Middle Temple copy have additional pages my book does not, which could suggest that the book may have evolved as the printing progressed. They could have simply added additional pages to later bindings during the same run, inserting content to the set of pages already printed, but not yet bound into the initial books produced.
It should be investigated whether there are any inconsistencies in the typesetting of the shared pages of the 3 original versions I have seen. If there are any differences, then perhaps the book was indeed put through a second printing without marking it as a second edition. If so, then my copy would seem to be an earlier edition than either of the other two originals I can inspect. I will add this to my research “to do” list…
So that still leaves the question – what is in the rare book section here- the edition that is carefully managed? There is a possibility I never would have considered while sitting in Colorado. But like me, you’re going to have to wait and see what comes of it! I will have to see if I can arrange a visit to their rare books collection on Tuesday…
My grateful thanks to all the folks I met today in Middle Temple for their assistance and at least skillfully feigned interest! How wonderful to meet fellows of the historical community here in London, and to enjoy their ad-hoc hospitality and assistance learning a little more…
For now, I have to get some sleep. Its going to be a very busy week!
Your comments and corrections are gladly welcomed. I admire great writing, but have little choice but to approach this task as one of slowly grinding a workable edge onto a very rough blade – with my thanks for your generosity of spirit and firm critique in the meantime! – Greg Sherwood