Rare medieval bible returned to shelf at Canterbury Cathedral

Small illuminated volume lost to monastic library in 16th century bought for £100,000

A 13th century bible, one of a handful of books which survived intact when the library of Canterbury Cathedral was broken up at the time of the Reformation, is back in the building after almost 500 years.

The Lyghfield bible – named for a monk at the cathedral who once owned it – is the only complete bible and the finest illuminated book known to have survived from the medieval collection. The cathedral won a grant of almost £96,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and raised £4,000 more to buy it at a recent rare books sale in London.

Continue reading...

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s remains rediscovered in wine cellar

Exact location of the poet’s coffin had been forgotten until recent excavation uncovered the vault

It probably wouldn’t have surprised his long-suffering friends, but the remains of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge have been rediscovered in a wine cellar.

Literary pilgrims have long paid their respects at the memorial plaques to Coleridge in the church above, unaware his lead coffin was lying behind a brick wall closing one end of the 17th-century cellar. The space was incorporated into the crypt of St Michael’s when the church was built in 1831 near the top of Highgate Hill in north London.

Continue reading...

Collection of Sylvia Plath’s possessions to be sold at auction

Proof of The Bell Jar among items shedding light on poet’s life and marriage to Ted Hughes

The story of the last months of the life of Sylvia Plath is tracked on the flyleaves of the proof and author’s copies of her only novel, The Bell Jar. The books are inscribed in her firm, clear handwriting with addresses showing that, around the time of publication, her marriage to the poet Ted Hughes had finally collapsed and she moved with her two small children to the flat in north London where she would die in February 1963.

The books are part of a collection of Plath’s possessions, including clothes, jewellery, furniture, books with loving inscriptions from Hughes, her heavily annotated cookery book, and the Hermes typewriter on which she wrote The Bell Jar, now being sold by her only surviving child, Frieda Hughes.

Continue reading...

Buried treasures: grave goods to inspire Michael Rosen elegies

Poet to write works inspired by mysterious objects – both grand and modest – found in ancient graves

Almost 2,000 years after a precious bronze mirror was buried at the hip of a woman in Dorset, the poet Michael Rosen stretched out his hand, protectively sheathed in a lurid purple plastic glove, to trace the delicate curves and swirls incised on its back.

“It’s quite hypnotic,” he said in wonder. “You feel that it has meaning, that it has stories, that it is not just a static object. What was it to her, and what did she see in it?”

Continue reading...

From the north pole to Middle-earth: Tolkien’s Christmas letters to his children

Bodleian library to exhibit illustrated letters from Hobbit author, masquerading as Father Christmas

In December 1920 Father Christmas wrote a letter to a modest house in the Oxford suburbs, enclosing a watercolour sketch of his own rather more exotic domed snow house, approached by a flight of steps lit by ice lanterns. “I heard you ask Daddy what I was like and where I lived,” he wrote to three-year-old John Tolkien, and as the family grew to four children, he continued to write every Christmas for 23 years, until the youngest, Priscilla, was 14.

The letters followed the children to several addresses in Leeds where their father, JRR Tolkien, took up a university post, and then back to Oxford when he became became professor of Anglo-Saxon. They were eventually delivered to a much larger house, which has now been listed, despite its scant architectural interest, as the birthplace of ...

Winnie-the-Pooh heads to the V&A in London for bear-all exhibition

Scores of ink and pencil drawings will line walls of museum as part of tribute to AA Milne’s much-loved children’s character

Winnie-the-Pooh had many exciting encounters with woozles, balloons, and irritable bees – but the one adventure his creators would never have dared suggest for the bear of very little brain is that, heading towards his 90th birthday, he would star in a large exhibition at the V&A Museum in London.

The exhibition will open this week featuring close to a century’s worth of Winnie-the-Pooh merchandise, including toys, books of the wisdom of Pooh on subjects as arcane as Taoism and management theory, a Russian bear created by a designer who had clearly never seen the original, and a hand-painted Christopher Robin and Friends china tea set presented to the baby Princess Elizabeth in 1926 – either she did not like it and never played with it, or more probably ...

George Orwell returns to loom over BBC

A larger-than-life statue of the author and former BBC employee has been unveiled outside Broadcasting House in London

On the threshold of the building he once described as a cross between a girl’s boarding school and a lunatic asylum, on an appropriately grey and drizzly day, George Orwell has returned to the BBC, cigarette in hand.

On the wall behind him a suitable confrontational quote from Animal Farm has been inscribed: “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

Continue reading...

Cambridge academics seek to ‘decolonise’ English syllabus

University condemns abuse directed at group of students who sought to broaden literature studies to include black authors

A group of academics at the University of Cambridge is considering how to implement a call from undergraduates to “decolonise” its English literature syllabus by taking in more black and minority ethnic writers, and bringing post-colonial thought to its existing curriculum.

The debate is being followed closely by other universities. “I think it will grow and I think it will spread - and rightly. It is a good thing that there should be healthy dialogue between university academics and their students, and that their views should be taken seriously,” said Bethan Marshall, a senior lecturer in English education at Kings College in London, and former chair of the National Association fo the Teaching of English. “Good writing is good writing - it is ridiculous to stick to the reified canon when there ...

Moomins and more: UK show to exhibit Tove Jansson’s broader work

Britain’s first major retrospective of Finnish artist, at Dulwich Picture Gallery, aims to enhance her reputation as serious artist

Halfway through the first major UK retrospective of paintings by Tove Jansson, which opens this week at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, visitors will recognise some little blobby creatures in a glass case – the Moomins.

The stars of some of the most famous children’s books of the 20th century, they have become deeply familiar in their incarnations as fridge magnets, soft toys, on the tail fins of Finnish planes and in a newly opened museum in Finland. They have also appeared in cartoon strips and animations, with a new film coming at Christmas and a new animated series promised in 2019 featuring the likes of Kate Winslet, Rosamund Pike and Will Self.

Continue reading...

Broomsticks and dragon bones in British Library’s Harry Potter magic show

Manuscripts for JK Rowling’s books mix with a centuries-old mermaid and a witch’s crystal ball in hotly anticipated exhibition

It’s all true, and the incontrovertible proof has gone on display in the British Library. Side by side with original manuscripts and illustrations for the Harry Potter books, in an exhibition that opens on Friday and has already sold a record 30,000 tickets, there are dragons’ bones, a mermaid, a step-by-step illustration (on a scroll six metres long) of how to create a philosopher’s stone, a black crystal ball owned by a 20th-century witch known as Smelly Nelly, and a broomstick on which another west country witch regularly startled Dartmoor walkers.

Even JK Rowling, on a preview visit to the exhibition combining a history of magic with her creations, was astonished to come face to face with the tombstone of one of her characters. She tweeted the image, writing: “Guess ...

Jane Austen to star in Bank of England literary links exhibition

Exhibition features author’s deposit ledger as well as other writers preoccupied with money including Charles Dickens Jane Austen is not just the heroine of the new £10 note, to be unveiled on Tuesday on the 200th anniversary of her death, but also the star of an exhibition on the literary connections of the Bank of England. “Jane Austen’s novels are not taken up with chit-chat about bonnets in carriages, as some people who haven’t read them think. She was very well aware of the value of money, and it is a major theme in her work,” the exhibition’s curator, Jenni Adam, said. Continue reading...

Charles Dickens’s journalism explored in display at his home

Museum examines social issues that were focus of writer’s campaigning work, which he mined for his novels Anyone at large in the small hours of the morning in Victorian London might have bumped into the most famous writer of the age: Charles Dickens criss-crossing the city, walking off insomnia and depression, but also scooping up material for his campaigning journalism. En route he would have passed theatres and cathedrals, shops and pubs, Bethlem mental hospital and the Marshalsea, where his father had been imprisoned for debt. Related: Tale of Dickens' fight to save Shakespeare house retold in exhibition Continue reading...

Entire art gallery of Ladybird book covers is world first

Archive of artworks from a century of the imprint’s simple, wholesome worldview go on display at Museum of English Rural Life If all you knew of the world came from a Ladybird book, you would be forgiven for believing factories are always shining temples of industry and optimism rather than zero-hours sweatshops, policemen are invariably handsome and friendly, and mothers wear white gloves to take their impeccably dressed children shopping. Related: The Ladybird phenomenon: the publishing craze that's still flying Continue reading...

Portrait of ‘real’ Mr Darcy unlikely to set 21st century hearts aflutter

Experts believe Jane Austen’s ideal Darcy would bear little comparison to the one played by Colin Firth in BBC’s 1995 series A dispiriting portrait of the “real” Mr Darcy, showing Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice hero as a pale, slope-shouldered, weedy character, thin of mouth and chin with his hair powdered white, has been created by a panel of experts through studying contemporary fashions and social history. Their conclusions have been embodied in a portrait by the illustrator Nick Hardcastle, unlikely to set many 21st century hearts aflutter. Continue reading...

V&A celebrates Kipling’s father, an artist with a passion for Indian crafts

Exhibition reveals Victorian designer’s expertise, promotion of Punjabi arts, and lasting impact on son Rudyard If the teenage son of a Methodist preacher had not visited the Great Exhibition in 1851, The Jungle Book and other beloved works of Rudyard Kipling would probably never have been created. The awe-struck visitor was not the author but his father, John Lockwood Kipling, whose life was changed forever by the Indian treasures he saw on display at Crystal Palace, and whose passion for India profoundly influenced his son. Continue reading...

Philip Larkin memorial to join literary greats in Westminster Abbey

Purbeck stone inscribed with lines from one of poet’s most loved works will be unveiled on 31st anniversary of his death A memorial stone to the poet Philip Larkin, inscribed with lines from one of his most famous works – “our almost instinct almost true/What will survive of us is love” – will be unveiled in Westminster Abbey on Friday evening, the 31st anniversary of his death. Related: Larkin belongs in Westminster Abbey – but plenty of other writers do too Continue reading...

Prayer book that may have been Henry VIII’s could fetch £2.5m at auction

The Bute Hours, to be auctioned at Sotheby’s, is particularly rare because few such books survived Reformation A dazzling, extravagantly decorated 16th-century English prayer book, which some experts believe may have belonged to the young Henry VIII, is to be auctioned at Sotheby’s with a £2.5m estimate – 156 years after the same auction house sold it for £84. Few such English books survived the Reformation, and this one is particularly rare because it contains an image of Thomas Becket, which survived the widespread destruction of his image after Henry VIII outlawed the cult of the saint and martyr. The experts believe another image of Becket was removed from the book, but the censors missed this one. Continue reading...

Unique copy of first full-length audio book found in Canada

Set of four LPs with full text of Joseph Conrad’s 1902 novella Typhoon was made by RNIB in 1935 A unique copy of the first full-length audio book ever made, a set of four LPs recorded in 1935 with the full text of Joseph Conrad’s 1902 novella Typhoon, has been rediscovered in Canada. The hunt continues for surviving copies of more of the earliest titles, including The Gospel According to St John, and Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Continue reading...

Charlotte Brontë’s dress gaffe ruled out 165 years after Thackeray dinner

It has long been thought the author was inappropriately attired at the famously awkward meeting with her hero He was a mere mortal who ate too many potatoes, and she was a plain little woman with no social graces, but 165 years after a mutually disappointing encounter between William Makepeace Thackeray and Charlotte Brontë, she has at least been cleared of the mortifying gaffe of wearing a completely unsuitable dress to a grand London dinner party. The dress has usually been in store at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, since it was donated to the museum in 1928, but is now about to travel on loan to the Morgan library and museum in New York. It has traditionally been described as the one she wore to a dinner given by Thackeray in her honour, at his own home on 12 June 1850. Continue reading...

Signed copy of Marx’s Das Kapital to fetch up to £120,000 at auction

Rare presentation copy was kept within family of philosopher’s peer Johann Georg Eccarius since 1867, despite souring of friendship A first edition of Das Kapital, inscribed by Karl Marx to the man he once described as one of “my oldest friends and adherents”, and after the friendship had soured as “a scoundrel pure and simple”, is coming up for auction, with an estimated price tag of up to £120,000.
The first volume was the only one published in Marx’s lifetime – in German – and presentation copies are very rare. Marx signed and dated the book on 18 September 1867, just four days after publication of the landmark work in leftwing ideology. Continue reading...