Monday, 24 March 2014
She shall bring thee to honour when thou dost embrace her
Mancunians do nothing in half measures. And so, when E Vincent Harris was looking for inspiration for the design of Manchester’s central library in 1934, he reached for the Pantheon in Rome, knowing that only one great civilisation should speak unto another. OK, so as a proud Mancunian, I am prejudiced, but Manchester’s name is derived from a long period of settlement by Romans after all, so the link to Rome is not contrived.
(Sadly, tonight as I posted this item the photo function of blogger wasn't working. So, sorry that this post doesn't project the glory of which I speak.)
Now that the central library has had a £50m makeover the library has not only been returned to its former glory, but the majority of the building, and its long-stored treasures, are open and available to the public.
My particular fondness for the library is that it was here, in the spring of 1989, that I wrote the assignment which accompanied my application to Ruskin College. As computers were not the norm in libraries (or homes, colleges etc.) at this stage I sat in the domed glory of the grade II listed building earnestly and laboriously drawing on several weighty legal text books to answer a question along the lines of, is the British judiciary impartial in its rulings on trade union strike action? Invariably you can guess my answer, and although I would cringe at the juvenile approach to my writing and analysis if I could see that assignment again, it did the trick and forever after I was in debt to this mighty institution.
There has been some great coverage of the restoration work (e.g. http://tinyurl.com/pqm79s7) and having visited recently with my daughter the visionary new building that houses Birmingham’s central library, I am pleased that Manchester stuck with a project to restore our/my library to its neo-classical glory.
Legions of Mancunians, and other welcome visitors, have poured through the doors of this magnificent institution, maintained for decades with a strong, confident pride in the principles of municipal socialism. Manchester looks and feels today quite different from that groggy, disparate place that I left in the late 80s to re-enter education, but it is with great pride that I look upon the remarkable change in the fortunes and landscape of the city now, knowing that legions more will benefit as I did from a source of such inspiration and hope.
By the way, the title of this post is taken from the statement which circles in carved stone across the vast domed interior of the main building. Taken from Proverbs 4: "Wisdom is the principal thing therefore get wisdom: And with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee. She shall bring thee to honour when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she shall deliver to deliver to thee."
Good luck Manchester central library.