Enter the Exhibition

The great libraries of the world are large institutions which expect their readers to come to them. But the recent acquisition by the Bodleian of an unusual late Gothic book-box (or coffer), made of wood with leather covering and metal fittings, has prompted us to think about the people carrying books, through time and across cultures. The large devotional woodcut pasted inside the lid of the coffer suggests that the writings it was designed to carry were religious; many of the other boxes and satchels displayed (some of them elaborately decorated) were for the safe transporting of precious religious texts. Other books were itinerant by nature, such as the charts taken on sea-voyages. The varied uses of boxes in modern times question the theme of protection: one box here contained legal documents but was lined with recycled waste sheets from a disused printed almanac, whilst another playfully subverts the idea of the luxury box designed to accompany the artist’s book.

This website records a display held Blackwell Hall, Weston Library from 19 January to 17 February 2019. The captions for the exhibits, and newly commissioned 3D photogrammetry models and photographs, are available to view on the University of Oxford’s Cabinet website, which uses digitization to make collections widely accessible for teaching and research.

Curated by Martin Kauffmann and Andrew Honey, Bodleian Libraries.

3D content by Jamie Cameron and Sarah Griffin, Oxford Internet Institute.