JUNE 2012
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The Library of Innerpeffray
'A large African artiodactyl ungulate of aquatic habits, with very thick skin, short legs, and a large head and muzzle.'
This definition of a hippopotamus comes from my copy of The Chambers Dictionary. It is a tad easier just to refer to it as a hippo.
Here in The Good Soup Guide, Scotland's online tourist guide, in addition to touristy stuff we have a surreal mixture of soup and hippos. Nowhere else on the planet will one find a place where hippos and soup go hand in hand. Or so we thought. For there is another place, a place where that artiodactyl ungulate and soup exist in harmony, and here at The Good Soup Guide we just wanna cry... WAAAAAAAGGGHHHHHH!!
The Library of Innerpeffray sits around 4 miles south-east of Crieff, between the B8062 road and the River Earn. If you don't have a car, then it's either a taxi or a walk. Although the B8062 is reasonably quiet, there is no pavement so you should be very careful and wary of moving vehicles. The library is open March to October, Wednesday to Sunday (various hours). Admittance charge in 2012 was £5 (kids free).
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Page 328 of The Historie of Foure-footed Beasts - The Sea-Horse, or Hippopotamus - found at The Library of Innerpeffray
The Library of Innerpeffray was originally housed in the adjacent church. Today you can enter that old church, climb a narrow spiral stair, and stand for a moment in the very room, the very dusty little room, where the books were once kept. When the current building was constructed in 1762 all the books were moved, where they remain to this day, a fascinating insight into our past.
When you visit today you may see first hand the old, almost Harry Potteresque tomes that were once eagerly read and absorbed by farmers and their children. There are books on witchcraft (for when the library was founded we still burnt witches at the stake!), and even the original registers of library users. Then there's the recipe books that include soups, like 'Cookery And Pastry, As Taught And Practised By Mrs MacIver, Teacher Of Those Arts In Edinburgh, A New Edition, With Additions, To Which Are Added Figures Of Dinner And Supper Courses, From Five To Fifteen Dishes, Also, A Correct List Of Everything In Season For Every Month In The Year.' Now that's a title!
The Library of Innerpeffray sits just outside Crieff. It is a public library - 'the oldest free public lending library in Scotland, representing the very origins of the Scottish Enlightenment.'
It was founded in 1680, and inside there are some very old books, like Topsell's 'Historie of Foure-footed Beasts', dating to 1607.
The Library of Innerpeffray
The strange illustration shown above is from that book. Clearly, whoever drew it had never actually seen a hippo first hand. It was probably a word-of-mouth thing along the lines of, 'It's on the water, looks like a big pig with a long snout, and eats alligators.'
Today, the Library of Innerpeffray is open to the public, not as a public lending library, but as a visitor attraction, and an utterly fascinating one at that. Your first thought on approaching it might well be, 'Why on earth did they build a public library way out here in the middle of nowhere?' It's by a river - the River Earn - in an area of countryside surrounded by nothing but farms.
A school was originally founded at the same time as the library. It was not unusual way back then for farming families to have upwards of ten children, so a mere ten farms within a few miles radius would provide more than a hundred eager kids, all willing to learn. And learning was the thing, the key to bettering yourself, and to perhaps make a real difference in the world instead of just shovelling hay.
Page from an old old book in The Library of Innerpeffray
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