- Initially part of the headquarters for the Knights Templar
- Founded in 1641
- Majority of the collection was left as a gift by Robert Ashley.
How fitting that the morning we awake to learn that Great Britain will no longer a part of the European Union, we start the day at one of the most prominent law libraries in London–in particular one that specializes in European Union law. The tone of the entire morning was quite somber. In true English fashion, we were hard-pressed to hear anyone discuss the change, but you could feel it in the air.
Renae Satterley, seemingly aware of the general ignorance of law librarianship, did an excellent job of giving a general overview of the field–encouraging us to consider it. She explained to us that, in London, the Inns of Court are responsible for ensuring that prospective lawyers are qualified to take the Bar. There is a library for each Inn, and in addition to EU law, Middle Temple also specializes in British and American law. For this reason, it has a direct relationship with the founding of the American legal system. As seen in the top middle picture, a copy of our Declaration of Independence is on display with red stars denoting signers that were members of Middle Temple.
Our tour took us into the gorgeous reading rooms as well as to the Great Hall (bottom left photo). Here, dear readers, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was performed for the first time in 1602. As I walked through the room I found myself quoting Duke Orsino’s opening lines just to feel them come alive again in the room where they were first given life, “If music be the food of love, play on. Give me excess of it that, surfeiting, the appetite might sicken and so die.”
An additional relationship to Shakespeare comes with the gardens. While no one can say with absolute certainty, both Dr. Welsh and Renae Satterley (as well as a slew of Shakespearian scholars) seem quite convinced that the garden is the one mentioned in Henry VI, Part 1. The roses signifying the houses soon to be at war.
“PLANTAGENET. Since you are tongue-tied and so loath to speak, In dumb significants proclaim your thoughts:
Let him that is a true-born gentleman
And stands upon the honour of his birth,
If he suppose that I have pleaded truth,
From off this brier pluck a white rose with me.
SOMERSET. Let him that is no coward nor no flatterer,
But dare maintain the party of the truth,
Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me.”
(II. iv. 25-33).
For more information on Middle Temple Law Library, please visit their website.