The Times (London) reported yesterday on an extremely unfortunate and disconcerting accident at the British Library: an eighteenth-century diary on deposit with the BL was severely damaged when someone (somehow) spilled oil on it and cut off the front cover. The diary's owner, Peter J. Tyldesley, told the paper that he "wanted to weep" when he saw the manuscript's condition. "There are sections which are completely destroyed, sections where the entire text block has disappeared into a smeary mess," he told the Times. "In some ways, it’s so bad it’s difficult to imagine it was ever a diary. It’s been a truly shocking experience."
Tyldesely's ancestor Thomas Tyldesley (1657-1715) was the diary-keeper; the book details preparations for the Jacobite Rising in 1715.
The library's reaction to the damage is really mind-boggling: collections manager Helen Shenton told the paper that Tyldesley's diary "suffered accidental damage," and called it an "isolated incident." "The book had been kept in safe storage in a protective box and it was not until the book was opened that the stains were discovered. We apologise for any distress caused to Peter Tyldesley."
Something's fishy about this. If the book was in the box, how'd the oil get in there? And who cut the cover off?
Bizarre, any way you slice it.