Sunday, July 10, 2016

June 21

  1. A book signed by Benjamin Franklin
  2. Common Sense with lines hand written to protect the printer from charges of treason
  3. A singing Mephistopheles
  4. Kit Harington!
All the Details:

Maughan Library and Special Collections, King’s College
Benjamin Franklin's signature in the top right

Our visit to King’s College focused mostly on a few of the special collections books that were brought out for us to view. We were told about ‘chap books’ that were printed on cheap paper and sold by traveling salesmen. These were interesting to see because they would have been extremely important in the education and literacy of the common people of the time. We also looked at a book from the St. Thomas Hospital Collection, which served as a terrifying reminder about what people used to think of a medical information. The books included illustrations of strange mythical beasts and unusual medical advice. The colored text and illustrations make this book particularly interesting because they make it look more like a fairy tale than a medical text. The librarians at King’s College had specifically retrieved some of the American texts from their collection, which meant that we got to see a copy of The Charters of the Province of Pennsylvania and City of Philadelphia bearing the signature of Benjamin Franklin and a copy of Thomas Payne’s Common Sense. In this printing of Common Sense the delicate political passages have been left out and then filled in later by hand in order to remove blame for treason from the printer. It is amazing to think that these materials have been preserved in the UK, even though they relate to the USA. There was also a travel guide of North American with large fold-out maps and a huge Bible from the 1600s that included handwritten current events from the time of use. One of the more recent materials was a collection of poetry about Syrian refugees that was attached to a cloth body bag. This inclusion of recent material shows how important special collections and conservation are even when the materials are not typical books.
Hand written sections in Common Sense

We were also able to see one of the library’s exhibitions. This particular exhibit was created to connect with the many Shakespeare 400 celebrations around the country. Instead of focusing on text by Shakespeare, the library chose to display information about the world that Shakespeare lived and worked in. Each case showed what life in London was like during this time.

After seeing the special collections and exhibition, we took a quick walk through the main library and reading room. The library has been updated to accommodate the needs of current students. There are self-service kiosks, private study spaces, a beautiful and silent reading room, and spaces for group meetings. Like most other academic libraries, King’s College is constantly reassessing student needs and adapting the library appropriately.

Doctor Faustus

Tuesday afternoon I stopped by the TKTS ticket booth to look at discount tickets for London shows. I was able to get a ticket to see Doctor Faustus starring Kit Harington for that night! Having read the Christopher Marlowe play in high school, I had a general idea of the dark plot line. It is definitely not a play for everyone, as it involves many intense and possibly offensive scenes. However, I enjoyed seeing how the cast made every choice purposeful. The play was set in modern times which made Faustus less of a doctor and emphasizes his arrogance. Taking into account that I have not seen another version of this play, I was particularly curious about two of the choices made for the play that I found unusual. First, the stage is very narrow and tall and the set used was fairly short. The rest of the tall black space was left with no screen, set, or color. My personal interpretation was that it made Faustus’ earthly world look small and insignificant in comparison with the spiritual worlds of Heaven and Hell. Mephistopheles, the main demon interacting with Faustus also often comments on how everything outside of Heaven, including Faustus’ world, is Hell. So possibly the darkness surrounding the set was to show that Faustus was already in Hell, even before selling his soul. Another choice that I found interesting was that both acts started without the usual dimming of lights, requests to turn off cell phones, or even ensuring that the entire audience was seated. At the beginning of the play, Faustus was on stage with his servant Wagner for about five minutes before the actual start time. Faustus sat staring mindlessly at a T.V. screen, while Wagner vacuumed. When the play did start there were still audience members finding their seats which made it difficult to focus. At the beginning of Act II, Mephistopheles sang karaoke style for a few minutes as people returned to their seats. This was especially entertaining since the actress, Jenna Russell, along with the other demons wore t-shirts with Kit Harington’s face on them for the beginning of the scene. The show was intense and interesting and the acting was amazing!

After the show I waited patiently for autographs from Kit Harington by the stage door. Unfortunately, Jenna Russell didn’t stop to sign anything, but Kit Harington spent quite a long time taking pictures and signing programs for fans. By the time I got up to the front of the crowd he stopped signing things and taking pictures and told everyone that he had to leave. As he walked away I looked at him and held out my program. I must have looked pretty pitiful, because he walked over, signed my program, and then turned and went inside. I think the fact that I wasn’t taking 100000 pictures probably helped since signing a program is much quicker. I was so excited to have caught his attention and have my program signed!

Program signed by Kit Harington

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