Librarians love their books. They like it when you return a book on time (they’re funny that way), enjoy pointing you toward the right shelf to find the book you want and use their handy computers to let you borrow books from other libraries. (Thank you, inter-library loan.)
Some librarians love their books so much, they won’t even let them leave the library! Enter the concept of the chained library. Between the Middle Ages and the 18th century, books were valuable and they didn’t want to risk someone borrowing a book without returning it. So some bright person came up with the idea of attaching a metal chain and ring to the outer cover or corner of the book to prevent the reader from absconding with it. The idea gradually caught on.
I’ve been fascinated with chained libraries since I first read about them in a British magazine and hope to see one someday. I always wonder: Is the chain really long? Is it heavy? Does it ever get kinked up when you’re removing the book from the shelf?
Although chained libraries are rare these days, there are a few remaining examples in England. According to Wikipedia, there is a Francis Trigge Chained Library in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Other chained libraries can be found at the Royal Grammar School in Guildford, Surrey, Chelsea Old Church in London and Hereford Cathedral in Hereford, Herefordshire. (I’m suffering from McVities’ biscuit withdrawal and feel a plane trip coming on! Where’s my passport?)
Or if you want to see a library like this and can’t travel to England right now, check out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and watch carefully. There are chained books in the scene where Harry uses his Invisibility Cloak to visit the restricted section of Hogwarts’ library at night. Have fun!