Day 16: Fun With Jane Austen

Goodbye, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Hello, Bath. After a late night of watching the amazing and creative interpretation of Roaring Girl at the Swan Theater, we are all a bit tired, but we put on a brave ace and had a delightful day.

Today, we rode the train to Bath, leaving Stratford-Upon-Avon behind us. Immediately after arriving we went to the Roman Baths and the Bath Assembly Room. Zach will be blogging tonight about the Roman Baths, so I will be skipping over it.

The Bath Assembly Room would have been the central point of socialization during Jane Austen’s time. She would have spent many occassions there. It even plays a role in Persuasion. I can understand why after visiting Bath’s Assembly Room.

The Bath Assembly Room was very ornate. The Assembly Room consisted of four rooms: the tearoom, the assembly room, the great octagon, and the ballroom. Today, Jesse gave an informative presentation about assembly rooms and Jane Austen’s Persuasion in the Great Octagon, which like its name states is an octagon.

The Great Octagon was a pale yellow color with one chandelier in the center of its ceiling. It had two layers of white, engraved boarding. Fireplaces lined the walls that were not doors to the other rooms. The ballroom was teal with five chandeliers hanging along the length. It too had detailed engraved decorations. The tearoom was unavailable because it was being prepared for a private event.

It was a beautiful day. I cannot wait to see what Bath has in store.
See You Later,
Jessica Donahue

Day Nine: Book-aholic

Hey all, Jessica Donahue here. It’s our second day in Oxford and I have to say it’s been a blast. We were able to sleep in today, which everyone appreciated.

This morning we walked through Oxford to the international headquarters of Oxford University Press, or the OUP. Since its beginning in the 15th Century, the OUP is the oldest print company in the world. With offices across the world, it publishes 6,000 titles a year including children’s literature, academic journals, and novels. We were able to tour the OUP Museum, which walked us through its history including its beginning in a basement, the first printing of the Oxford English Dictionary, to the launch of the online Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It was astonishing to see old printing presses and early editions of books, like Canterbury Tales and pocket-sized Bibles.

After exploring the Museum, we were able to browse Oxford University Press’s library. They displayed a good portion of their publications. Many were children’s books, but they also had academic texts, journals, and classic literature. Oxford University Press does have a copy of every work they have put through publication. Only a small chunk was displayed. No matter the size, it was still a wonder to have the privilege to browse their shelves.

After a leisurely lunch, we walked to the Story Museum. Embedded in a small storefront, the Story Museum appeared to be small and it was at the time, but it won’t be for much longer. The Story Museum was under construction and plans to officially open up later this spring. We were still able to relax in the gift shop and the courtyard. The gift shop held souvenirs like any other gift shop, but it also had many children’s books and other books written by children’s authors. It was fun to look around and flip through British children’s books and classics that we share with them, like Alice in Wonderland. In the courtyard, the Museum displayed a comic strip, which John, Courtney, and Andrea read aloud dramatically.

This afternoon we experienced a Printing Press Workshop. Paul, the instructor, gave us a history of the printing press. He allowed us to handle Chinese print block from the 13th Century, tools used for printing, and letter blocks. He demonstrated how a large printing press worked. These presses would have been what first printed Shakespeare, and the Romantic poets. 

We were then able to spell our names in letter block. It sounds easy, I know, but in fact it was quite challenging. We had to fit our name in the center of a line, which was orchestrated by a metal device, and it had to be perfect. Our name inside the designated line length had to fit loose enough to be pushed up, but tight enough to not fall down. It took problem solving and patience but we finally got it. Paul took our lines and placed them onto a page layout, where we each made a copy of the page for ourselves. Rolling on the black ink, securing the paper, putting pressure on the paper and ink, and finally releasing the paper, we each came away with a small page with all of our names and nicknames on them.

  It’s been a wonderful day. I can’t believe we have been in England for more than a week. The time is flying by and soon enough we will be back in the States seeing you all again. I’m off to enjoy Eurovision! Enjoy your day, Jessica Donahue