Beasts, a salient pig, Wilfred Owen's poetry and Magna Carta: 12 of the Bodleian Library's best

By Culture24 Reporter | 07 April 2016

The most expensive printed book ever sold at auction - sold for $14.2 million - is part of the collection at the Bodleian, where it's in fine company

A photo of an advert for a women's suffrage at Manchester's albert hall in 1908
This souvenir comes from a women’s suffrage march and mass meeting held in The Albert Hall on June 13 1908. "They looked as if they wanted votes, and meant to have them, whoever said 'No',” reported the Observer at the time. “On their faces was a smiling consciousness of triumph which disarmed all the potential hostility of the rowdy section of the crowd.”

An original engrossment of the 1217 issue of Magna Carta that was sent by royal chancery to Oxfordshire.
© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
This is an original engrossment of the 1217 issue of Magna Carta that was sent by royal chancery to Oxfordshire.

A photo of poppy illustrations in Flora Londinensis
18th century botanist William Curtis published these poppy illustrations in Flora Londinensis (1777-98), which described the flora found in London. They were drawn from living specimens in gardens established by the author at Bermondsey then Lambeth Marsh.

A photo of a draft of Wilfred Owen’s war poem Dulce et decorum est
© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
This is a draft of Wilfred Owen’s war poem Dulce et decorum est, written and corrected in his own hand. The draft, dated October 8 1917, shows Owen composing the lines of his poem on a gas attack. He died at the age of 25 while serving in France.

A photo of the Gough Map dating from the 1360s
© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
The Gough Map dates from the 1360s and is believed to be the earliest surviving modern map of Great Britain. Mystery surrounds who made it and what it was made for. It is named after one of its former antiquarian owners, Richard Gough (1735-1809).

A photo of the first public issue of the Ordnance Survey map of Kent, showing the River Thames from London Bridge to the coast
© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
This is the first public issue of the Ordnance Survey map of Kent, showing the River Thames from London Bridge to the coast.

A photo of Biblia Latina, also known as the Gutenberg Bible
© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
Biblia Latina, also known as the Gutenberg Bible, was printed in 1455. It was the first major book printed using movable type and epitomises the great advances in printing in the 15th century.

A photo of an ephemeral souvenir celebrates Gutenberg’s invention 300 years later
© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
An ephemeral souvenir celebrates Gutenberg’s invention 300 years later, printed at a frost fair on the frozen Thames on Christmas Day 1739.

A photo of the whole book of Psalmes, printed in 1640
© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
The whole book of Psalmes, printed in 1640, is also known as The Bay Psalm Book. Modest in appearance, the book is now the most expensive printed book ever sold at auction thanks to its sought-after status as the first book printed in North America. A copy fetched $14.2 million in 2013.

A photo of a lavish 9th century book of psalms written in gold ink on vellum
© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
A lavish 9th century book of psalms written in gold ink on vellum dyed “royal purple” with a murex shell. The opening verse of Psalm 27, The Lord is my light, is the University of Oxford’s motto.

A photo of a superbly-illustrated compendium of beasts dating from the 13th century
© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
A superbly-illustrated compendium of beasts dating from the 13th century. These books of beasts add a Christian moral dimension to the natural history of the ancient world. This page tells the story of a tiger who is looking for her stolen cub and is tricked into thinking her reflection in a glass thrown by the thief is her cub.

A photo of a Victorian advert for a performance by Toby the sapient pig
© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
A Victorian advert for a performance by Toby the sapient pig, a learned pig who took London by storm in 1817 by storm with his ability to play cards and read minds. Toby performed his tricks several times a day, touring the provinces and possibly France.

  • Bodleian Treasures: 24 pairs is at the Weston Library until February 19 2017.

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Three great libraries to see

National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh
Seven million printed books, 120,000 volumes of manuscripts, 1.6 million maps and more than 20,000 newspaper and magazine titles. This is Scotland's largest library and the world centre for the study of Scotland and the Scots.

Palace Green Library, Durham
Founded in 1833 and occupying listed buildings within the Durham World Heritage site, the library has two exhibition spaces: the Wolfson Gallery, which regularly exhibits treasures from all of the university's heritage collections, and the prestigious, newly opened Dunelm Gallery.

Wellcome Library, London
One of the world's greatest collections of books, manuscripts, pictures and films around the meaning and history of medicine from the earliest times to the present day. The collections span the globe from Aztec medicine to Japanese surgery and include film, photographs, manuscripts, archives, paintings and books.
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