More from the Sensational Books Exhibition at the Bodleian

Earlier this week, I was privileged to be invited to a press event for the much-delayed-by-Covid new exhibition at the Bodleian Library. ‘Sensational Books’ is all about the sensory experience that books give us and how to engage all the sense while reading. I reviewed the exhibition yesterday at Shiny New Books – so do pop over to see my post there, but there was so much in the exhibition that was photo-worthy I’m sharing some more here below.

We also got taken behind the scenes, visiting the Conservation Workshops where Head of Conservation, Nicole talked to us about their different types of work and the isolation that new additions to the collections go through to ensure that mould and bugs are removed so other works can’t be infected. Then she handed over to conservators Andy and Kirsty who showed us some current projects. The Bodleian Library is interested in the mechanics of writing and printing as well as the book end products, and Andy showed us a (Victorian? – sorry I didn’t write down the date) writing grid set – a sort of precursor to carbon paper, enabling the user to write in the dark if they so wanted. Kirsty showed us the huge sample stacks from Dean’s Rag Books and some pages from these delightful baby books from the early 1900s onwards – being fabric with pinked unfrayable edges, they were durable and washable – leading to the company’s strapline ‘Quite Indestructible’.

It was a super day, and I got to chat at lunch to one of the curators, Professor Emma Smith a Shakespeare Scholar (who has just written a new book about the history of reading called Portable Magic – which is already on my read-soon pile!). A guided tour around the old Bodleian rooms and a peak into Duke Humphrey’s Library (location of the ‘restricted section’ in HP) finished the day. My huge thanks to the Bodleian PR team, Lanisha and Rachel for inviting me.

Meanwhile here are some more of the exhibits you can see at Sensational Books if you’re passing through Oxford – it’s on until early December.

Top and bottom left: A book owned by Tolkien and it’s tobacco-laden old book smell. Top Middle – a set of mini Shakespeares made into a ruff by bookbinder Jenni Gray (2012). Top Right: Ben Denzer’s artwork ’20 slices’ – a book made of processed American cheese slices! Bottom middle and right; Pop-up books – the ground-breaking Haunted House from 1979 by the late Jan Pieńkowski and an 1863 pop-up Little Red Riding Hood – probably the first of its kind.
Bottom left – The Antibook by Francisca Prieto (2002) – which only makes sense when folded into an icosohedron. Right – The Great Gathering – an ammonite formed from pages torn from Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Chris Ruston (2016)

14 thoughts on “More from the Sensational Books Exhibition at the Bodleian

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    Thank you for the suggestion – I may very well stop by, as I’ll be in Oxford the for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize events next Saturday.

  2. A Life in Books says:

    This sounds such a treat. I might have to pop over from Bath to see the exhibition. Not usually keen on the idea of tearing pages out of books but happy to make an exception for the ammonite!

    • Annabel (AnnaBookBel) says:

      It was a varied selection of peeps, I was the only blogger. There was a nice Danish journalist, a chap from a London photo agency, two interns from a London publicity agency and two ladies from Bologna agency. It was arranged a little last minute so a small group – so wonderful to talk at length to the curators. 😁

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