At the end of last year, I paid a flying visit to Manchester, to see my dear friend. Sue of 'Mouse Notebook'. Apart from catching up with news, I was also treated to a grand tour of her 'workplace' - the magnificent Chetham's Library.
I admit, that at the top of the stairs, when this Paradise of books opened up before me, I stood still and had a little weep. Only a true bibliophile will understand why.
Visiting is free, but donations are always very welcome (indeed, needed). Visiting times and details can be found here.
And as the lucky guest of a Chetham's librarian, I was treated to a quick tour behind the scenes - what we might call 'the staff room'. I will let the books speak for themselves, they will do it more eloquently than I.
Another insight into the life behind the shelves - inside the inner sanctum of the office, where a colleague was examining a beautiful antique book of real (and very much imaginary) marine life. I think the publication date was the 1500's, I was too lost in the engravings to pay much attention.
My friend's colleague, who had been browsing the book on our arrival, tried to find a particularly spectacular creature he had spotted earlier. Sadly, like so many mythological beasts, it remained elusive, despite much searching.
On the way out, still breathless from the presence of soaring shelves of antique books, I spotted this - as my long time friends and readers will know, anything letter press catches my attention.
Here are small enclosed areas, rather like individual shrines to the blessed book.
There was a distinctly cathedral-like atmosphere throughout - a hushed reverence and the way the fragile winter light filtered through the windows.
Partially drunk on the rapture of books, I emerged into bright winter sunshine and braved the Christmas crowds and the train journey home.