Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library: Budapest’s Beautiful Palace Library

An oak-panelled library with a spiral staircase, chandelier and yellow armchairs

Not every library begins life as a former palace, but the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library in Budapest, Hungary, is no ordinary institution. Complete with gilded interiors, floor-to-ceiling mirrors and ornate chandeliers, the library is a beloved spot for researchers and students alike. Its story stretches back to 1887, when aristocrats Count Frigyes Wenckheim and his […]

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The Vinegar Bible and the history of the English Bible

Vinegar Bible at St Mary's Chiddingstone

Nestled close to the altar of St Mary’s Church in Chiddingstone in Kent is a Bible with an extraordinary story. Known as the ‘Vinegar Bible,’ this rare edition of the King James Bible takes its name from a misspelling of ‘the parable of the vineyard’ in Luke 20:9 as ‘the parable of the vinegar.’ While […]

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Forgotten voices – Early Medieval Women’s Writing

Whitby Abbey

From coded manuscripts to commissioned texts, a new book shines a spotlight on the overlooked works of early medieval women writers. Marie de France, Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich feature prominently in accounts of medieval women’s writing, but when did English women’s writing begin? This was a question that intrigued Diane Watt when she […]

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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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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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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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Unicorns in medieval manuscripts

Unicorn bestiary manuscript British Library Harley 4751 13 century

From Starbucks’s unicorn frapuccinos to unicorn beauty products, the mythical creature dominates popular culture. But, the sparkling and gentle animal that is portrayed today is a far cry from its earlier depictions. Ancient origins The first reference to the unicorn occurs 2,500 years ago in the work Indica, written by the Greek physician, Ctesias. A […]

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The origins of Gothic Literature

Henry Fuseli The Nightmare 18th century

From Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, to Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, explore the 18th century texts that have shaped the origins of Gothic Literature

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