The University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries is set to open a new exhibition looking at some of the earliest examples of English graphic design.
On display at the Weston Library from next month, Designing English: Graphics on the Medieval Page will largely showcase the work of Anglo-Saxon and Medieval scribes, painters and engravers dating from the fifth to the 15th century.
The exhibition will trace the origins of graphic design from this era, when specialists first began to preserve and present writing in English. For the previous 1,000 years, the majority of texts had been written in Latin. Producing new books in English gave their creators the opportunity to reimagine how they were designed and laid out, according to the exhibition curator, Daniel Wakelin, who is also a professor of Medieval English Paleography at the university.
“Medieval writers had to be graphic designers every time they wrote or carved their words,” says Wakellin. “Tracing the earliest uses of English, from illicit annotations on Latin texts, to more everyday jottings in ephemeral formats, this exhibition celebrates the imagination and skill of these early writers.”
The exhibition will feature over 60 manuscripts and objects from the Bodleian collections, which is one of the largest medieval collections in the UK, according to the University of Oxford. These will sit alongside items on loan from the British Museum and Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Exhibits range from medical texts including a rotating volvelle diagram, to religious texts such as an English translation of the Bible that may have belonged to Henry VI, which includes colour coded instructions on how to read them.
Other highlights include some of the earliest known works in the English language, such as Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and English translations of hymns composed by Caedmon; an illiterate cowherd by trade who is said to be the first English poet.
Designing English: Graphics on the Medieval Page runs from 1 December 2017 – 22 April 2018 at The Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries, Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3BG. Entry is free. For more information, head here.
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