The iPad has rendered the Pepys Library obsolete. J. Kary reports how modern technology is replacing the old-fashioned book.
Cambridge University’s Magdalene College has given away the priceless 3,000-volume library of Samuel Pepys, including Pepys’ diary, the most famous diary in the English language.
Pepys bequeathed his library to Magdalene, his alma mater, when he died in 1703. University officials said the books were no longer needed as they have all been transferred to iPads. They said discarding the books in favour of iPads would provide significant savings for the college.
One library staff member commented: “Now we don’t have to worry about being so careful with the books anymore. If we accidentally tore a page or spilled coffee on a book we had to bring in a conservator – and they are very expensive. With the iPad we don’t have to worry anymore. It’s such a relief. I’m glad to be rid of those dusty old things.”
An Apple spokesman said: “Don’t think of this as the destruction of a library but as a liberation from the tyranny of paper. And to mark this great event, we are issuing a Pepys version of the iPad with the 11-volume Latham and Matthews edition of Pepys’ diary installed – free of charge.”
The Latham and Matthews edition is considered the definitive transcription of the diary from the shorthand in which Pepys wrote.
The Pepys Library was welcomed to its new home in the digital world by more than 1,000 people, who queued overnight outside Apple’s UK flagship store in London’s Regent Street for the launch of the Pepys version of the iPad. Several people queuing said they were eager to finally have the complete Pepys diary in a single unit.
Clark Inwell, a graphic designer, said: “With the iPad, Sam is now here and now. That’s important. Sam has been given a make-over to make him more presentable to a younger audience. And even if you don’t read him on your iPad, at least he’s there and that’s what’s important.”
Also in the queue, Krystal Ballis, from South London, said: “I keep a diary myself so I feel that I have a connection with him. You really have to be in touch with your feelings to write a diary so I have a lot of respect for him, especially as he was writing in olden times and they had a lot of issues with expressing their emotions.”
Out with the old …
The Pepys Library contained many rare books and medieval manuscripts, including the famous diary, so staff expected a large turnout for the library giveaway.
Tim Grimsby was first in the queue when staff began giving out the books. He arrived early to grab the best volumes. In the end Grimsby walked away with all 3,000 books as he was the only one who turned up. He made six trips in his car from the library to his house nearby in Cambridge to transport them all.
When asked what he planned to do with the books, Grimsby replied: “Read them.”
The room that housed the library will be turned into a coffee shop called simply, Pepys, and is being sponsored by Apple. The shop will feature wireless internet, iPad docking stations and desktop Macs. The house brew will be called Perky Pepys.
To reduce the impact on the environment, the book cases that Pepys himself designed and had made in London’s naval yards will be broken down and used to make the tables and chairs for the new coffee shop.
Despite the dismantling of the Pepys Library, staff seemed upbeat, expressing particular excitement about the new coffee shop.
Librarian Beth Underwood said: “Now students can use this space to read the books on their new iPads. And the coffee will help keep them awake while reading Pepys’ rather boring diary.”