Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Middle Temple Library

Middle Temple Library is a law library in central London. The architect, Sir Edward Moft, designed the building to be built using reinforced concrete in response to the original library that had been heavily damaged by bombing during WWII. So the current library building was completed in the 1950s. It is one of four Inns’ libraries including the Inner Temple, Gray’s Inn, and Lincoln’s Inn. Every barrister in the United Kingdom is required to join an Inn, and each Inn has its respective library.

The founder of the library was Robert Ashley who donated his personal library as the foundation for the Middle Temple Library. His collection included a large portion of John Donne’s personal library, about eighty books, as well as his collection on alchemy. We saw Ashley’s alchemy collection on display. In addition the library has two globes from the 16th century on display. One of the globes is a celestial globe, whereas the other is a terrestrial globe and both are made of lacquered papier-mache. On the terrestrial globe the northwest section of North America is non-existent reflecting that Drake and Cook hadn’t explored there yet.

The Middle Temple Library has a history with New England, and the United States. Several of the signers of the U.S. Constitution were Middle Temple graduates. So the librarians brought us to see the American Collection. It is the largest collection of U.S. law and materials outside of the U.S., most of which was developed after WWII. The collection users are mostly lawyers doing commercial law or laws directly pertaining to the U.S. Not only do they have access to the materials in the Middle Temple Library, but they have a well- developed online database and services to draw from too.

Some of the honorary members to the library have been Sir Walter Raleigh and Prince Williams. There is even a table made from the hatch of the Golden Hinde, Sir Francis Drake’s ship.

The Middle Temple Inn and its library appear to be a perfect retreat, research center, and meeting place for lawyers away from the maddening crowds on Fleet Street.

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