64 Law Libr. J. 5 (1971)
A Sketch of the Inner Temple Library

handle is hein.journals/llj64 and id is 33 raw text is: A Sketch of the Inner Temple Library
By W. W. S. BRaxm*

A modern tourist is said to have remarked
after visiting the Law Courts, that he now un-
derstood why Sidney Carton took to the bottle.
The tourist in question was not strictly fair, for
as everyone knows, the Royal Courts of Justice
were not built until long after the publication
of A Tale of Two Cities. He might equally well
have said the same thing after visiting a law
library, for to most people unconnected with
the legal profession the very idea of such a place
conjures up an immediate picture of everything
that is synonymous with dullness of purpose
and aridity of spirit.
They visualise (if they have the courage) a
decayed, Gothic world of dark rooms, lined with
endless shelves of crumbling calf; ink-stained
tables of hideous design, and chairs built for
the sole purpose of providing maximum discom-
fort to the sitter; while a dingy selection of ill-
placed lights casts merciful shadows over a
frayed and fading carpet. Two ancient barristers
stand by a window, discussing with studied
gloom a case they have unexpectedly won.
They have the air of undertakers who have just
returned from a fashionable entombment. At
the tables sit a handful of prematurely aged
young men. The only sounds are the thin
scratching of a quill pen and the asthmatic
cough of an elderly attendant as he sadly wipes
the dirt off a battered volume, unopened within
living memory, that someone has just been rash
enough to ask for. Over all broods the ghost of
Charles Dickens, smiling benignly as the yellow
fog creeps from the river into the Temple gar-
Such is the popular picture, fixed and unal-
terable in the public mind, as every law li-
brarian knows who has ever discussed his job
with an outsider. That it was ever remotely a
speaking likeness is doubtful. There is certainly
no truth in it today.
The present Inner Temple Library was de-
signed by Mr. T. W. Sutcliffe, A.R.I.B.A. It
occupies two top floors above the benchers'
private rooms and is built in the shape of an
L, thus conforming roughly to the plan of the
prewar library, which it replaces. The main
rooms are in the long arm of the L, looking
0 The Librarian, Inner Temple Library.

south over the garden to the river beyond, while
galleries run round them at intermediate floor
level. There are, in addition, a number of
smaller rooms of different shapes and sizes:
Some have been designed for special purposes,
like the Times Rooms, which contain a run of
the Times newspaper dating back to 1811, a
bindery that is used by the staff for doing minor
repairs to damaged books, and a map room
that holds the library's collection of maps,
prints, and drawings. Built in a style stemming
directly from the traditions of the late 17th-
early 18th century, the library is panelled
throughout; the woodwork of the tables, book-
cases, doors, and balustrades being of natural,
unstained English oak. A contrast in colour.
is provided by the chairs, which are covered in
blue leather. The books are shelved in cases
that run, bay-fashion, around the walls, leaving
the centre of each reading room clear for the
setting of the readers' desks. The bay windows
on the south side contain single desks so that
a reader may sit in solitude or in company, as
the preference takes him. Heating is supplied
by oil-fired boilers throughout a succession of
pipes concealed in the ceilings, while addi-
tional warmth is provided by radiators set in
the recesses beneath the windows, Brass can-
delabra in the main rooms provide a general
light, the bookcase bays have pendant globes
to illuminate the various shelves and, in addi
tion, each reader is provided with his own table
lamp. The lighting in the galleries is by fluo-
rescent tubes set in the balustrades. Other
features are the pull-out flaps on the tables for
the stacking of used books, and the fine crafts-
manship of design of the moulding on the
pedimented doorways leading into the central
room. There is a showcase, in the first room
leading off the entrance, for the exhibition of
rare books. These, together with the various
MSS. collections and the more valuable of the
printed books, are housed in a fireproof strong
room, leading off the librarian's office, which
commands the staircase approach to the library.
There is also a huge stack room in the base-
ment, readily accessible by elevator, and this
houses the lesser needed material, the books
being stacked on mobile steel shelving units
to obtain maximum use of the available space.

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