Exploring the British Library

Recently I had a great day out in London – not at the Olympics, but my first ever visit as a researcher to the British Library. I remember when I first arrived at university we were told that the Bodleian Library was like a venerable musical instrument which needed some practice to get the best out of it. The British Library is not dissimilar, but when I’d mastered the intricacies of the online catalogue it all went fairly smoothly.

British Library reading room

I finally got hold of the Colonial Office reports on Cyprus from the 1920s, which shed some light on the background to the Wembley Exhibition, from which some of the Leeds Museums Cypriot collection came. I’ve also made a little progress on the subject of amphora handle stamps. The Leeds Museums and Galleries collection includes an amphora handle with a stamp which is described in all the accompanying documentation as reading ‘ΦΙΛΑΙΝΟΥ’. The problem is, it doesn’t:

Amphora handle
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

So I’m trying to track down what this means and how it can help us date the amphora fragment. I also read up on the Amathus style – which confirmed that none of the Leeds University collection is decorated in this style – but that’s helpful in a negative kind of way, and there was some useful bibliography.

I enjoyed looking through Mr James Boyd Glenhead’s self-bound annotated volume of sale catalogues from the late 19th century. Unfortunately it didn’t help much with tracking down the origin of the two vases in the Leeds Museums collection which are said to have come from the Lawrence-Cesnola collection (more on this another time). However, I remain hopeful that the missing piece of the jigsaw is out there somewhere.

So a mixed day in terms of progress, but at least I was able to see everything I’d planned, and to enjoy a cup of tea in the cafe, surrounded by books, which is a very pleasant experience. Can’t wait to go back again.

View from British Library cafe