As a child, I dreamt of being an Oxford scholar without factoring into the equation good grades, discipline, sacrifice, degrees, family status and a career in professional sports. Growing up, I had a hard time reading what others thought I should read and when. This led to me reading everything except what was required by one of the many academic institutions I attended between the ages 3 and 35 (more than 11).
This past weekend (October 13-15, 2017) I decided to spend a weekend playing Oxford scholar with two goals in mind. The first was to find a collectors edition hardbound copy of the dialogues of Plato and the second was to visit the Bodleian Library.
The quest for this classic text started at Blackwells Bookshop where I was approached by a kind gentleman who worked there named Alfred. I recognized Alfreds American accent and asked where in the states he was from, to which he replied, “Doylestown, PA”. “Ha! Small world! I was raised in Yardley Morrisville, Pa about 30 minutes from Doylestown”, I shouted gleefully. Safe to say I have a friend for life in Oxford as our connection on LinkedIn can attest too. He referred me to a paperback Penguin Classic edition to “Socrates’ Defense (Apology)” to which I scoffed at with disdain. “I want a classic hardbound,” said yours truly. “I get it” he replied genuinely. “There’s a rare book section at the back of our bookstore and you’ll find the woman working there most interesting, “. She sat surrounded by shelves of classic and rare books from the past couple centuries and not only was I convinced that she had the greatest job on earth, but, she knew exactly what I was looking for and understood the importance of my little quest. After my request, she replied, “We don’t have any works of Plato here but you may want to try the St Philip’s Books store across from Christ Church.” I was off and running.
St. Philip’s Books was, of course, a tiny many-roomed bookstore with wall to wall books. I needed only mention what I was looking for and the gentleman scurried off for a few minutes while I patiently sat on a wooden stool. He returned with a “The Collected Dialogues of Plato: Including Letters” (which I could have just bought on Amazon but why?) and goal number 1 was accomplished. Now I just have to read it.
The Bodleian Library was somewhere between magical and enchanting. The history, brainpower, and effort of past students, professors, authors, lecturers, and scientist have left, in its walls, an inspiring sense of achievement. The entire library system is a testament to the contribution the University of Oxford has had on Western Civilization.
It’s safe to say I highly recommend a weekend at Oxford and I will certainly be visiting again.