Alice in Wonderland at the British Library

8094521102_c664d3c69d_zTo celebrate 150 years since the first publication of Lewis Carroll’s seminal children’s tale Alice in Wonderland, the British Library are this week launching a special exhibition dedicated to all things Alice.

Although the story has been adapted, appropriated, re-imagined and re-illustrated since its conception, Carroll’s original story continues to inspire new generations of writers, illustrators and film-makers.

On display will be Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript with hand-drawn illustrations, alongside stunning editions by Mervyn Peake, Ralph Steadman, Leonard Weisgard, Arthur Rackham, Salvador Dali and others.

The exhibition runs from Friday 20th November through until Sunday 17th April 2016. Admission is free.

For further information visit the British Library website here.

Alice in Wonderland book jacket courtesy of misopocky, reproduced under CC License from Flickr.

West Africa – Word, Symbol & Song at the British Library

blA major new exhibition, West Africa: Word, Symbol & Song, begins at the British Library from today, celebrating the cultural dynamism of West Africa, from early symbolic scripts and illuminated manuscripts, to the writings of Wole Soyinka and the music of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti.

From the great manuscript libraries of the early Middle Ages, through to colonialism and independence right up to the writers and artists working in the present day, West Africa has a powerful literary, artistic and musical heritage.

The exhibition traces a thousand years of this history, drawing on over 200 stunning manuscripts, books, sound and film recordings as well as artworks, masks and colourful textiles from the British Library’s vast African collections and beyond, offering an insight into the centuries-old written heritage, as well as the ancient oral traditions of West Africa, both of which continue to influence and inspire in the present day.

The exhibition, which runs through until 16th February, will be accompanied by a major series of talks, events and performances. For further details, visit the British Library website here.

Animal Tales at the British Library

blFrom Aesop’s Fables to Ted Hughes’s Crow, the stories we tell about animals are often stories about us. A new exhibition, Animal Tales, begins at the British Library today which goes on the trail of animals on the page, asking why they have come to play such an important role in literature for adults and children alike.

From the earliest marks made by humans in caves to the modern-day internet full of cute cats, animals have been enduring media stars. Symbols of the sacred or the profane, the domesticated or the ferocious, animals have always fed our imagination helping us to make sense of the world and ourselves. Inspiring writers, poets, scientists and artists through the ages, a library can become the largest zoo in the world when you begin to track down the creatures lurking among the pages on the shelves.

Animal Tales explores what wild – and tamed – creatures say about us when they take on literary or artistic form and displays richly illustrated editions of traditional tales, from Anansi to Little Red Riding Hood. And be closer to nature with a soundscape based on the Library’s collection of sound recordings, with illustrations and poems by Mark Doty and Darren Waterston.

The exhibition is free to attend, and runs until 1st November. Further details can be found on the British Library site here.

Magna Carta (An Embroidery) at the British Library

blA unique new work of art by Turner Prize nominated artist Cornelia Parker is unveiled in the British Library today to accompany their Magna Carta: Law, Liberty & Legacy exhibition.

Fabricated by many hands, from prisoners and lawyers to artists and barons, Magna Carta (An Embroidery) replicates in stitch the entire Wikipedia article on the Great Charter as it appeared on the document’s 799th anniversary in 2014. The Wikipedia article regularly attracts more than 150,000 page views each month and is constantly being amended by users of the website as the debate about Magna Carta and its legacy ebbs and flows.

One of Britain’s most celebrated artists, Cornelia Parker works in a variety of media and is well known for her sculpture and installation in which she transforms ordinary objects into compelling works of art. Magna Carta (An Embroidery) has been commissioned by the Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford in partnership with the British Library and in association with the Embroiderers’ Guild, Fine Cell Work, Hand & Lock and the Royal School of Needlework.

The work is displayed in the British Library entrance hall and is free to visit until 24th July. For further details visit the British Library website.

Spare Rib Online at the British Library

front_cover_issue1_0001The British Library have just completed the digitisation of the classic feminist magazine Spare Rib and have just launched a dedicated site hosting 300 specially selected pages alongside articles written by former contributors and leading academics about the history of the magazine.

Spare Rib was an active part of the emerging women’s liberation movement in the late 20th century. Running from 1972 – 93, this now iconic magazine challenged the stereotyping and exploitation of women, while supporting collective, realistic solutions to the hurdles women faced. Spare Rib became the debating chamber of feminism in the UK, and it now provides a valuable insight into the lives of women in this period. Visitors to this site can explore selected highlights from the magazine; and examine how the magazine was run, why it was started and the issues it dealt with.

The full run of Spare Rib magazines can be accessed via Jisc:

Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy at the British Library

British_20Library_20LogoThe largest ever exhibition ever staged about Magna Carta opens today at the British Library.

Since 1215, Magna Carta has evolved from a political peace treaty to an international symbol of individual freedoms. From its genesis through to today’s popular culture, you can uncover the story of how its power has been used – and abused.

Together, for this once-in-a-lifetime moment, are the iconic documents and artefacts that tell the story of Magna Carta: two of the four original 1215 Magna Carta documents, Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and one of the original copies of the US Bill of Rights, both on display in the UK for the first time, together with stunning manuscripts, paintings, statues and royal relics.

Full details of the exhibition and the programme of special events that accompany it can be found on the British Library website here.

EThOS Share My Thesis Competition


The British Library is currently running a Twitter based competition for all PhD authors and current doctoral students, inviting them to say why their doctoral research is/was important, using the hashtag #ShareMyThesis.

The competition aims to raise awareness of the importance of doctoral research and increase visibility of the PhD thesis as a valuable source of research information. It is generously supported by Research Councils UK and Vitae, and there are some great prizes.

The competition closes on 9 February, when eight entries will be shortlisted and invited to expand their tweet into a blog post. Entries are flooding in already, and you can see them all here:

For further details, visit the competition page on the British Library website here:


Follow the Lines in the Ice at the British Library

British_20Library_20LogoA new exhibition with a decidedly wintery theme begins at the British Library this week.

Lines in the Ice examines why Europeans are drawn to explore the Arctic and, in particular, the fabled Northwest Passage. Arctic exploration has influenced our culture, changed the societies of indigenous peoples, and had a powerful effect on the making of the modern world.

The exhibition displays early European maps of the Arctic, Inuit accounts of the coming of the explorers, writings from the search for Franklin, early Arctic photography and much more. It also unearths the history of the North Pole’s most famous resident – Santa!

On display in the British Library entrance hall, the exhibition runs until March 2015 and is free to visit. Further details can be found via the British Library website here.

Terror at the British Library

British_20Library_20LogoHalloween has started early at the British Library this October, as they open their vaults to a spooky new exhibition entitled Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination.

From the literary nightmares of Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker to the screen perils of Stanley Kubrick and Hammer horror films, over 200 rare objects chart 250 years of the Gothic tradition, exploring our enduring fascination with the mysterious, the terrifying and the macabre, detailing how the genre has cast a dark shadow across film, art, music, fashion, architecture and every day life.

Iconic works such as handwritten drafts of the classics Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as well as the more contemporary horrors of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and the Twilight saga, are included in the exhibition, which runs through until 20th January. Full booking details are available via the British Library website here:

When the Lamps Went Out All Over Europe…

archives new zealand

One hundred years ago this evening Britain declared war on Germany following their invasion of Belguim, embroiling the nation in a conflict that would last over four long, bloody years that would result in the loss of 900,000 lives fighting for the British Army.

In a special event in Liege, world leaders will gather this morning to commemorate the beginning of the conflict, and a national service of commemoration will be taking place in Glasgow Cathedral this afternoon. This evening in Westminster Cathedral an hour-long candle-lit vigil will be taking place, and people at home are invited to join in between 10-11pm by turning off all their lights and leaving only a single candle burning.

This event has been inspired by the words of wartime Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, who remarked as war was declared: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”

Last week Cambridge University announced that they had digitised a 4,000 page archive of the work of soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon and made them freely available to the public for the first time. This joins the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War archive and the Europeana 1914-1918 digital archive, a pan-European project involving the British Library. Not forgetting, of course, our own extensive range of material among our history collection, searchable via Library Catalogue Plus.

Image by Archives New Zealand, reproduced under CC License from Flickr.