Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Research report: on the quirks of the Biblioteca Nacional

I'm going to give up on the idea of getting to the library before noon; since the library closes at nine, I can put in my hours without having to disturb my nocturnal schedule.

The library, I don't know if I've mentioned, has a smoking area (not an enclosed room, just an area) immediately before the rare books and manuscripts section. In this area, there is a sign that looks just like a "No Smoking" sign, except that the cigarette is not crossed out. In this area, there is a coffee machine, of which I availed myself today. It shoots out a little cup, spoon included, of barely drinkable coffee. There are many options to choose from, though, and the BN isn't exactly in a neighborhood with a lot of dining options, so, really, the coffee machine and the cafeteria are the only games in town.

To get to look at books, you go through the standard-issue metal detector, go to the security desk, show them your researcher card, and have them scan the barcode that they've placed on your computer (it's a little weird but makes me feel alright about leaving the computer unsupervised while I take a break, since you have to have it scanned both going in and leaving, and they seem pretty rigorous about checking that the name on their computer screen matches up with the research i.d. card.) Once you've gotten to the appropriate room (I've been working in the Cervantes room, which is the rare book and manuscript room), you trade your researcher card in for a laminated plastic card with a number on it; the number tells you your assigned seat. To page a book, you fill up a card, fill up a piece of paper, have the librarian who works in the next room over sign the card, hand the card in, and sit and wait. In the General Reading Room, there are lights built into the desks, and the light in your desk flashes when your book is ready; in the Cervantes room, they bring the book out to you. Yesterday, my manuscript request only took a couple of minutes. Today, they took their sweet time in getting the folders (one from the early seventeenth century, one from the late) out.

I decided to take it easy today and not look at any manuscripts; I really should get a paleography guide (apparently, there are many out there) before tacking those wordknots again. I read through a 1614 text on tax easements granted to the nobility of the Kingdom of Valencia who were cash-poor from the lack of moriscos to work their lands, and one from Granada in 1687 about a pretty similar topic. Carlos Rojas (at Emory) as well as James Monroe (at Berkeley) have, in the various classes that I've taken with them, pointed out the land-wealth and cash-poverty problems of the Spanish nobility that precipitated the crises of the seventeenth century.

That's all for now; I imagine that my bicycle'll be ready to go in a couple of days, at the latest.


Anonymous Katy said...

Where is Thursday's entry? What happened Thursday?

9:43 PM  
Blogger AV said...

Thursday was an awful lot like Wednesday, except that Wednesday I stopped at the supermarket on the way home, and went for a run in the evening, whereas Thursday I didn't.

10:48 AM  

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