As he discusses cataloguing the estimated 13,000 to 14,000 books which make up the National Trust's largest library, it is clear that some books are very different from others. John has been creating the Blickling library catalogue for five years already. He expects the project to take another 8 to 13 years in total.
Tales of the unexpected
"You just don't know what to expect. A straightforward, complete book in English might only take 30 minutes to catalogue. At the other end of the scale might be a 14th century handwritten manuscript in Latin with no details of the author, title or date. That's not uncommon - people who kept libraries knew what was in them, they wouldn't feel the need to include such information because they already knew it: Something like that could take a couple of days."
Sharing our treasures
Cataloguing is not simply a case of gathering the book's title and who wrote it - there is a wealth of detail required in many cases such as pagination, type of paper, provenance, who has owned it and type and style of binding. That detail will also go as far as considering what is NOT in the book, perhaps a page torn out or an engraving which is missing. Those details end up on a couple of databases which are publicly available. The idea, says John, is to "enable people researching particular subjects to find from afar any books in which they might have an interest".
But does John ever become bored by his seemingly endless job?