Shrewsbury School

A glimpse at timeless treasures; Classics pupils visit the Taylor Ancient Library

Friday 1 July 2022

Pupils currently studying Classical Civilisation or Latin in the Lower Sixth, plus an avid Fifth former,  were given a literally – or should that be literary? - rare treat this week.

Deep within the inner recesses of the Moser Library lies the (high-security!) Taylor Library. The library was founded in 1606 and contains some of the rarest books in the UK – or indeed in the world.

The School Archivist, Robin Brooke-Smith, and Rare Book Librarian Naomi Nicholas showed pupils, and Classics Faculty teachers Mrs Latcham, Mr Percival and Mr Fitzgerald, a range of ancient volumes and tomes. With no sign of a screen or smart phone in sight (no, really!) these 21st century students were taken back in time, impressed by the intricately minute delicacy of the calligraphy of these ancient works; in many ways, they are works of art, as well as academic books.

Highlights included an edition of the Medulla Grammatica, the first Latin – English dictionary composed during the late 14th century, and acquired in 1606; a 12th century edition of Juvenal’s Satires, an edition of Virgil’s works (current A level and GCSE Latinists are studying sections of his great patriotic epic The Aeneid), and an ancient geographical atlas produced in Augsburg, Germany in 1521.

Shrewsbury School has a long and proud history of classical education; a former headmaster, Benjamin Hall Kennedy, wrote the Latin Primer, used by hundreds of thousands of Latin pupils in the past three centuries.

The visit this week was an apt way to end the academic year, and reminded these Shrewsbury pupils of both how they are academic travellers on an ancient path, and how fortunate the school is to be the custodian of such august texts. Many thanks to Mr Percival for organising, and to Mr Brooke-Smith and Mrs Nicholas for sharing their knowledge and inspiring us all.

Paul Fitzgerald

Head of Classics

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