The Royal Library

They’ve got an amazing library here in Turin. It’s full of really ancient books, belonging to former members of the Royal Savoy family – and a particularly interesting collection of books on alchemy (how to turn iron ore into gold, the quest for the elixir of youth, that kind of thing) that once belonged to Christine Marie of France, the so-called Madama Reale who once ruled the lands around Turin from the city.

The books are all securely locked away behind glass cabinets, but if you smile nicely at one of the shuffling monk-like librarians that work there, you are able to borrow one (providing you don’t take it away with you of course).

They’re the original books, mind, not one of your immitation jobbies. Complete with scribbles and doodles from the pen of one royal family member or another. For some research I’m doing, I wanted to get hold of book by Nostradamus. It was in French and the publication date at the front suggested it was an edition from MDCCXX. That, my friends, is from 1720.

Just about the oldest book I have ever held in my hands.

(There was an interesting scrawl right at the end of the book, by whom I do not know. It simply was: “MMMDDDXXXXXXXXXXXX”. I may be wrong, but to me that seems to imply a certain amount of sceptism about what Nostradamus was predicting – as though they think his prophecies are unlikely to come to pass for a very long time).

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