In response to falling visitor numbers and increased competition from the Internet, the British Library has taken the unprecedented step of “going Wiki” and allowing everyone to edit the great works of literature to their taste. “It’s part of being more open and responsive to our users’ wishes”, explains librarian Andrea Lynch.
Visitors leaving the premises today seem happy with their new powers. Pub manager David Rye, 47, tells how he ripped 50 pages out of a 15th-century manuscript of The Canterbury Tales and replaced them with a printout of his own version. “I’ve never been happy with that book”, he explains, “ever since I failed O-Level English because of it. I think I tidied up the plot nicely. Instead of going to Canterbury, the pilgrims all head to Ibiza. Mind you, my spelling isn’t too good, but then again neither was Chaucer’s”.
Boris Johnson has given a cautious welcome to this new development. While asking people to “edit responsibly” and leave the classics alone, he says it would “lift the mood of the nation” if the EU were written entirely out of the history books, “especially that bit about the £350 million”.
However, historian Norman Severn of Balliol College is aghast at the move. “This is desecration”, he says. “It pains me to think of some oik sitting there turning Beowulf into Reservoir Dogs“. However, he adds that there is nothing he can do about it now: “Some idiot just deleted half of Magna Carta, and I no longer have the right to be a Professor of History at Oxford. In fact I’m a bonded villain on the estate of a local lord, and he’ll give me another beating if I don’t get back to work immediately”.