Sensational Books

About the exhibition

Rub, stroke, chew, wear, sniff – Sensational Books explores our experiences of the book beyond reading.

Structured around six senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, touch and proprioception – the sense of self-movement and body-perception – this exhibition will unlock a world of sensory engagement with books.

Explore how early books and manuscripts engaged with the senses, in ways similar to more recent works by book artists in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Using dynamic and interactive elements from sound artists, tactile displays and even a smell wall, come and celebrate the book in all its forms.

For the first time, researchers have been able to extract the smell from books in the collection of Oxford University's Bodleian Library and bottle it.

- The Daily Telegraph -

  Exhibition tours

Sensational Books exhibition tours are available at 1.15 – 1.45pm and 2 – 2.30pm on the following dates:

29 June, 13 July, 27 July, 10 August, 24 August, 7 September, 21 September, 5 October, 19 October, 2 November, 16 November, 30 November.   

These tours will include audio-description and are open to all. You do not need to book a tour to visit the exhibition.

To book call 01865 277225 or email

 Beyond the glass: audio described highlights tour

An audio described highlights tour is available to listen to on your device in the exhibition. Scan the QR code as you enter the gallery.

This tour was developed in collaboration with our blind and visually impaired community group and is suitable for everyone.


Kathryn Rudy, Professor of Art History at the University of St Andrews

Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Oxford

 Artist responses

A number of art works were commissioned for the exhibition in partnership with Fusion Arts, Oxford. The works are available to see in the exhibition.

Gill Partington
Five flips books

Helen Frosi, When Air Becomes Breath and Breath Becomes Spirit
Performance score and ritual sounding objects
The final work will be performed in the autumn


Pale Blue Dot Collective – Louise Beer + John Hooper, Audioscripts
New and archival sound

Andrew Albin and Amy Sterly, Multiplicamini
Sheepskin parchment, lightsheet, sound


Events related to this exhibition

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