Magical Books at the Bodleian

The key image for the Bodleian Library's Magical Books exhibition

The key image for the Bodleian Library’s Magical Books exhibition

If you find yourself with an hour to spare in Oxford between now and 27th October 2013 you couldn’t find a better way to spend it than at the free exhibition Magical Books at the Bodleian Library. It’s not a very big room, but the exhibits are wonderful. Highlights for me were:

  • Some of 15th century alchemist George Ripley‘s huge illustrated scrolls
  • Physical manifestations of literary devices, commissioned by their creators – Philip Pullman‘s Alethiometer (I wonder if it works!) and Susan Cooper‘s six elemental talismans (talismen?)
  • Alan Garner‘s beautiful calligraphic handwriting on the original manuscript for The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
  • Original JRR Tolkien sketches and finished works, including the handwritten Elvish inscription on the One Ring, the painted Hobbit cover of Smaug curled around his hoard and the pen and ink of the secret design on the hidden door to Moria
  • A 13th century bestiary with colours so bright it could have been painted yesterday, and gold leaf so reflective you could almost see your face in it
  • A gorgeous original Kelmscott Press illustrated spread by William Morris, a printed work very different from, but every bit as beautiful as the medieval illuminations in adjoining cases
  • Pauline Baynes‘ intricately detailed illustrated map of Middle Earth
  • An example of the plates at the heart of Garner’s The Owl Service

These are just a taster of the treasures on display, and I’d highly recommend a visit. As I say, it’s free and on until 27th October. There’s also a book available to accompany the exhibition.

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