I’m a little bit frightened of museums which you can visit by appointment only. Or shops for that matter. I’m worried that you might be followed around, have to make conversation.
But this is a pity, because one of Cambridge’s most interesting, and smallest, museums requires an appointment. It is the museum of the Cambridge University Press.
Some of our students might recognise the Press as the originator of their course books or dictionaries. But the Press does a bit more than that. It was founded by charter of Henry VIII in 1534, and by the end of the century had built a reputation as one of the most reliable printers in Europe. It has continued to operate uninterrupted since its inception, making it the oldest extant publishing house in the world (and the second largest, after Oxford).
The Press is a department of the University of Cambridge, governed by the ‘Syndics’ (a board of 18 senior academics of the university) and as such it is a charitable institution, which funnels some of its profits back into the mother institution. Over the years it has published the works of such luminaries as John Milton, Issac Newton, Willam Harvey, Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.
It has a dedicated bookshop at No. 1 Trinity Street, opposite Great St. Mary’s (and the lawn of the Senate House, on which location its first printer’s shop stood) – No. 1 Trinity Street has a been a bookshop of some description continuously since at least 1581, and perhaps as early as 1505.
So I don’t know if I will be going along to the museum any time soon. But it is comforting to know that it is there, and probably always will be.