The Night Market

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St. John's College. It was lit by a cycling colour wheel. I happened to catch it at it's bloodiest.

Yesterday saw Oxford light up, as their annual Night Light festival ushered in the Christmas season. The town was heaving as the colleges and museums opened their doors to the curious, and markets filled the labyrinthine corridors around Oxford Castle and filled St Giles’ wide boulevard.

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The Market At St. Giles'.

It was great fun to wander about and catch unexpected moments and photo opportunities. Mummers wandered through the throng. A drum troupe set up on the Monument and shook the air. Belly dancers gyrated in the halls of the Ashmolean, the sinuous music a fitting soundtrack to the new Egyptian galleries. TLC and I sat in the great hall at the Bodleian Library, and felt 2 IQ points smarter just by osmosis from all the learning that had soaked into the narrow benches we sat upon.

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The entrance to the quad at the Bodleian Library.

I had been there earlier in the day, looking at an exhibition of some of the Library’s greatest treasures. I stood wonderingly in front of an original page of Mary Shelley’s manuscript for Frankenstein, complete with corrections and additions from Percy Bysshe. An edition of the Koran from the 15th century glowed in gold-leafed perfection, and I could see where Craig Thompson’s obsession with Arabic calligraphy came from. An illuminated Gutenberg Bible, one of less than 20 left in the world, came close to giving me the chills. The fact that these documents still exist is amazing enough. That they are such beautiful artifacts in their own right is nothing short of a miracle.

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The Market At Oxford Castle

At its best, Oxford is a magical place, filled with history and wonder, with new delights down every narrow alleyway. Yesterday it shone, lit up like a beacon of civilisation and knowledge in the darkness.

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Oxford Castle

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The Friday Foto: Rules Of The Library

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“I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.”

All sounds fair enough to me. This is the Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Library. One of the oldest in Europe, the main depository for the University Of Oxford, and one of those buildings that gives Oxford it’s Harry Potter vibe. The quote above is the formal declaration for new readers, which has to be recited out loud in a ceremony at Michelmas before they’ll let you near the books.

And people wonder why I get swoony about libraries. I’d happily swear an oath of fealty to mine!