Gifts and Books

About the exhibition

The giving and receiving of gifts is fundamental to human societies.

Drawing on material from ancient Sumerian writing tablets to contemporary fiction for children, Gifts and Books will explore the importance of gift-giving through books and across time, and how this apparently simple act reveals wider interactions, relationships and belief systems.

Generosity. Power. Reverence. Love. Struggle. Obligation.

Come and explore the meaning of gifts, exchange and the stories we tell about them.


This exhibition was curated by Dr Nicholas Perkins, Associate Professor and Tutor in English, St Hugh's College, University of Oxford

 Audio highlights

Listen to a selection of academics and authors discuss the role of giving and receiving in objects from a medieval text to contemporary children's fiction.

Listen in the gallery using the QR codes, or at home.

  Object highlights

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In the shop

A gold horizontal flourish

Gifts and Books: From Early Myth to the Present
Nick Perkins

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
Olaudah Equiano

The Gifts of Reading
Robert Macfarlane

Lady Macbeth brass bookmark