Designing English: Early Literature on the Page

About the exhibition

This exhibition illustrated the graphic design of handwritten manuscripts and inscriptions for the first thousand years of English, across the Middle Ages.

Designing English: Graphics on the Medieval Page showcased the Bodleian Library's rich holdings of medieval manuscripts in English, ranging from Old English picture books or notes scratched into herbals, through to fragments of medieval songs scribbled on spare pages, masterpieces framed with illustrations and gold, or new page designs for practical tasks, such as manuals for handling swans. It covered the experiences of both the makers and the users of writing: how craftspeople planned and made books, and how readers responded to their designs.

To show the likeness to modern craft, Designing English was shown alongside Redesigning the Medieval book a competition and display of contemporary book arts inspired by the exhibition. A podcast series and YouTube playlist was also recorded by Professor Daniel Wakelin and colleagues.

 The curator

Professor Daniel Wakelin, Jeremy Griffiths Professor of Medieval English Palaeography at the University of Oxford

While the skill in an illuminated manuscript... is evident, Designing English also considers more mundane books, which are rarely exhibited.

- Hyperallergic -

Gifts & books

A gold horizontal flourish


Designing English


Making Medieval Manuscripts


Medieval branch scarf


Medieval Branch Pencil Case


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