The famous diarist’s dedicated building, left to his Cambridge alma mater, could not be altered. So architect Níall McLaughlin created a magical solution

“My delight is in the neatness of everything,” wrote Samuel Pepys in his diary in 1663, “and so cannot be pleased with anything unless it be very neat, which is a strange folly.”

He was referring in part to the fastidious organisation of his magnificent collection of books. By the time of his death in 1703 he had amassed 3,000 of them, which he left to his alma mater, Magdalene College, Cambridge, to be housed in a dedicated building with his name above the door. He gave strict instructions that his library be kept intact for posterity, without addition or subtraction, its contents arranged “according to heighth” in the bespoke glass-fronted bookcases he had especially commissioned. The responsibility came with an added threat: if one volume goes missing, he instructed, the whole library must be transferred to Trinity.

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