Bodleian Treasures: 24 pairs

About the exhibition

An exhibition displaying a selection of the Bodleian Libraries' most magnificent items. It features rare and renowned items including Tolkien's illustrations from The Hobbit, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the Bay Psalm Book, the 'most expensive' printed book in the world and the venerated Shikshapatri.

The exhibition presents some of the best of the 12 million items in the Bodleian's collections and uniquely displays these treasures in 24 pairs. Familiar icons of the Libraries' extraordinary holdings are shown alongside the less familiar, opening new avenues into the wealth of the Bodleian's famous collections. Rare books are joined together with manuscripts while modern ephemera sit alongside 400-year-old rolls, drawing out themes and unique stories that bring the pairs together.

Highlights of the exhibition:

  • The Bay Psalm Book, modest in appearance, but now 'the most expensive printed book ever sold at auction' thanks to its sought-after status as the first book printed in North America. This will sit beside a lavish 9th-century book of psalms written in gold ink on purple vellum, inviting visitors to reflect on the appearances of “treasures”.
  • Souvenirs from the women's suffrage movement will accompany a 1217 engrossment of Magna Carta, telling the story of a quest for justice and human rights that has spanned 800 years.
  • The iconic 14th-century Gough Map, believed to be the earliest surviving road map of Great Britain, will be paired with the first public issue of the Ordnance Survey map of Kent, showing the River Thames from London Bridge to the coast.
  • A draft of Wilfred Owen's war poem Dulce et decorum est, written and corrected in his own hand, will be presented with stunning poppy illustrations published by 18th-century botanist William Curtis.
  • The monumental Gutenberg Bible, the first major book printed using movable type, will sit beside an ephemeral souvenir that celebrates Gutenberg's invention, printed at a frost fair on the frozen Thames nearly 300 years later.
  • A superbly illuminated compendium of beasts , dating from the 13th-century, will be coupled with a Victorian advert for a performance by Toby the sapient pig, who took London by storm in the early 1800s with his ability to play cards and read minds.

 The curator

Dr Francesca Galligan

We've paired some of the Bodleian's greatest treasures, allowing visitors to see the familiar and less familiar in a new light, and to explore connections between objects across time, place, language, and discipline.

- Dr Francesca Galligan, curator of Bodleian Treasures: 24 pairs -

Gifts & books

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Bodleian Library Treasures (Hardback)


Bodleian Library Treasures (Paperback)


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