The life of Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich stained glass Norwich Cathedral

She was one of medieval England’s most radical thinkers, yet her writings remained unknown for centuries. Born in 1343, Julian of Norwich was the first known woman to write a book in English – a potentially life-threatening endeavour. This was a time when society condemned women’s writing and heretics could be burnt at the stake […]

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Beautiful medieval manuscripts

The Book of Durrow

From bibles and prayer books to bestiaries and herbals, medieval manuscripts demonstrate extraordinary diversity in subject matter and decoration. The term ‘medieval manuscript’ refers to books that were made in Europe between the fifth and fifteenth centuries. These were produced by hand and were typically written on either vellum (the skin of a cow) or […]

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The Chained Library at Hereford Cathedral

Chained Library Hereford Cathedral

Giving off serious Hogwarts vibes, Hereford Cathedral’s Chained Library is the largest of its kind in the world. Home to 1,500 texts, including 229 medieval manuscripts, the Chained Library is a surviving example of a once popular security system in European libraries. During the Medieval and Early Modern period, books were seen as valuable commodities, […]

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Exploring Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon

Gardens Shakespeare's Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon

The birthplace of William Shakespeare, the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon is steeped in history and culture: half-timbered buildings line the streets and medieval churches sit next to the River Avon. Baptised on 26 April 1564, Shakespeare spent much of his early life in the town. Here, he was introduced to the works of classical writers […]

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Treasures of the Austrian National Library

State Hall Austrian National Library

It’s easy to see why the Austrian National Library in Vienna is regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful libraries.Inside the central State Hall, frescoed ceilings soar above walnut bookcases, and marble columns frame the room. Home to more than 12.5 million books and artefacts, the Library’s history stretches back over 650 years. Its […]

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Lady Mary Wroth and the literary world of Penshurst Place

Penshurst Place

From its enchanting state rooms to its landscaped grounds, Penshurst Place is steeped in literary history. Located in the idyllic Weald of Kent, this 800-year-old estate was home to one of the Jacobean era’s most prolific – and overlooked – women writers. Born in 1587, Lady Mary Wroth came from a talented literary family. Literary […]

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Exploring the Penguin Classics series with Henry Eliot

The Penguin Classics Book Henry Eliot

For more than 70 years, Penguin Classics have adorned the shelves of bibliophiles across the world. From the tales of Ancient Mesopotamia to the poetry of World War One, the series brings together the best of classic literature. But with so many works to discover, it can be hard to know where to begin. Eager […]

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Poets of the First World War

Remembrance poppies

The horrors of the First World War resulted in an outpouring of poetry. In their writings, soldier-poets including Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, describe the harrowing realities of war, from scenes of dismembered comrades to their subsequent psychological trauma. Surrounded by brutality, many poets filled their work with nostalgia for the people and places back […]

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Exploring Dr Johnson’s House

Dr Johnson's House

Hidden amongst Fleet Street’s winding alleys is this characterful Georgian townhouse, the home of the renowned 18th century critic and writer, Dr Samuel Johnson. The great lexicographer lived here for a period of eleven years (c. 1748-1759),  during which time he compiled his masterpiece, A Dictionary of the English Language. A bustling intellectual hub, Dr […]

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Anglo-Saxon Women: Wielders of Power

Whitby Abbey

Records from the Anglo-Saxon period largely depict the deeds of men, from the military successes of King Alfred the Great to the piety of Edward the Confessor. Yet, at a time when women were seen almost as commodities – whether as tools to strengthen political unions or child bearers – some managed to wield considerable […]

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