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Magical Books: From the Middle Ages to Middle-Earth

decoration23 May 2013|27 Oct. 2013

The Bodleian’s summer exhibition features the work of five celebrated authors of children’s fantasy literature: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner and Philip Pullman. On show are treasures from Bodleian’s unique holdings: Tolkien’s original artwork for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; C.S. Lewis’s ‘Lefay notebook’ and his map of Narnia, manuscripts of novels and poems by Alan Garner, Philip Pullman and Susan Cooper. One of the highlights is the manuscript of ‘The Fall of Arthur’, a previously unknown work by Tolkien which is presented here to the public for the very first time. The poem was one of several projects left uncompleted at the time of Tolkien’s death.

The exhibition also celebrates the authors’ links with Oxford and with the Bodleian Library. All five authors were Oxford-educated and are considered members of the group of writers known as the ‘Oxford School’. The Library’s collections include some of the books and manuscripts that contain the myths, legends and magical practices on which Tolkien, Lewis, Garner, Pullman and Cooper freely drew inspiration. And the Bodleian itself can be re-imagined as an enchanted location. The medieval Duke Humfrey’s Library is the reading room in which both Lewis and Tolkien as Oxford dons researched manuscripts and rare books, and where Alan Garner consulted the demonic spellbooks in the Ashmole and Rawlinson collections. More recently, the Harry Potter movies  were shot in the Bodleian’s Divinity School and Duke Humfrey’s Library.

Witches are represented in the exhibition by the First Folio Macbeth, alchemists by the extraordinary ‘Ripley Rolls’ which illustrate the quest for the life-prolonging philosophers’ stone. Also on display are richly illuminated mediaeval bestiaries along with a variety of magical objects.


Magical Tales: Myth, Legend and Enchantment in Children's Books. By Carolyne Larrington, Diane Purkiss (Bodleian Library Publishing). 200 pages, 70 colour illustrations. Paperback.


23 May 2013|27 Oct. 2013
Broad Street
Magical Books: From the Middle Ages to Middle-Earth
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