Well, I completely and utterly failed at blogging every day in October didn’t I? I must admit, once I’d missed a couple of days I did think about just slinking away until it was November and then reappearing as if I hadn’t been away. But that’s not my style, and I have read some great books so have a couple of great Recent Reads posts to write.
The one thing I have been completely remiss in is not blogging about my visit to the Magical Books exhibition at the Bodleian Library, so that’s what I shall do now. Sadly it’s finished now so I can’t encourage everyone to go, but I can instead recommend everyone keeps their eye on what’s coming up exhibition wise, I’m sure they’ll all be equally worth the visit.
I first heard about the Magical Books exhibition on a email discussion group and thought it sounded brilliant. This was the description:
The Bodleian’s exhibition takes as its theme the work of some of the foremost modern exponents of children’s fantasy literature, members of the group of writers informally known as the ‘Oxford School’: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner and Philip Pullman. From its unique holdings of these authors’ papers, the Library will display a selection of Tolkien’s original artwork for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; C.S. Lewis’s ‘Lefay notebook’ and his map of Narnia, and manuscripts of novels and poems by Alan Garner, Philip Pullman and Susan Cooper. Also featured in the exhibition will be some of the books and manuscripts that contain the myths, legends, and magical practices on which these Oxford-educated authors freely drew for inspiration. This historic material is housed in the Bodleian where the Library scenes in the Harry Potter films were shot.
I visited last Sunday along with lovely friends Emma, Liz and Mark. After a wonderful lunch at Bill’s (their gluten free menu offering probably justifies a blog post of it’s own) we found the Bodleian and went in.
Being perfectly honest when we first walked into the exhibition my heart sank. The room it was in was far smaller than I’d imagined, we’d all travelled a long way for it – were we going to be leaving disappointed? After a quick glance around the room I spotted the display cases were numbered, I located number 1 and walked over.
Display case number 1 absolutely, completely made the journey worth it. Amongst the various documents it contained there were two pages Tolkien had created for The Book of Mazarbul – written, coloured and then burnt with his own pipe. Standing there looking at this piece of creative process, thinking of the man who had committed so entirely to his works, I couldn’t have felt more inspired. A couple of cases later came the maps, hand drawn maps of Middle Earth, Narnia and Lyra’s Oxford. I’ve always had a thing for maps in books, I think it was probably this map
found in the front of the Milly-Molly-Mandy books I adored as a young child that established this love affair.
The rest of the exhibition was equally wonderful, we learnt that Alan Garner has the most beautiful handwriting, that without Beatrix Potter we may not have had C.S. Lewis, and got to look at all manner of beautiful illustrations that ranged from the since to the comparably recent.
Since visiting the exhibition I’ve found my thoughts returning to it frequently. They have produced a lovely looking book which I shall definitely be adding to my bookshelves at some point in the future, I will only be able to look at photos of the wonderful pieces we saw but that will be enough to remind me of the inspiration the visit gave me.