Of course it wasn't actually dawn when we went to the british library, but it certainly felt like it in my internal clock...
While at the British Library, one of the equivalents to our own Library of Congress, I was able to see one of the original gutenberg bibles, the Magna Carta, the only extant copy of Beowolf ( take that decaying gilgamesh tablets ). I also learned from the librarian on our tour that the Magna Carta had been in this random guy's personal collection for several years? what? apparently when Henry VIII dissolved several of the catholic churchs across england the monastaries that were the original archives of important documents including the magna carta let their collections go every which way. Where the Magna Carta went between Henry's reign and it finding its way to this guys collection is unknown. It's like having some guy in new jersey keep the Constitution in a file cabinet in his office.
we were showed the backroom where books are processed from the massive underground collection. The British Library collects EVERYTHING published in the United Kingdom every single year, therefore they are slowly running out of space. Interestingly, the northern line tube runs through the underground archives because the library was constructed after the tube was.
In general I bemoan the loss of card catalogs but here's the exception. In the mid nineties when the library was designed and built the section in the middle of the great central hall that was going to be set aside for the card catalog was instead, because of our use of computers for catalogs, used to display the King's Collection of about five stories like a central tower in the middle, while black marble below gives the illusion of an eternity of book stacks (though I thought it looked a bit like shots from the inside of the death star). King George III was not that keen of the contents of books, as he was not that keen of a reader but he enjoyed the ornate decorations of some. He bought books from around the world, sometimes entire collections, and eventually grew tired of them and released them to the British Museum as long as they were displayed to the public and were made available as well. I would be interested to know what the content of these books are, but if I were to judge them on their cover I'd say they're quite grand.