Sensational Books

About the exhibition

Rub, stroke, chew, wear, sniff – Sensational Books explored 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 unlocked a world of sensory engagement with books.

We explored 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.

Displays included dynamic and interactive elements from sound artists, tactile items and even a smell wall.

Artist responses

A number of art works were commissioned for the exhibition in partnership with Fusion Arts, Oxford. The works included:

Gill Partington
Five flips books

Helen Frosi, When Air Becomes Breath and Breath Becomes Spirit
Performance score and ritual sounding objects
A final work was performed at the accompanying late evening event


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

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

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 -


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

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


Related links

Press & media enquiries