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Planning a visit to the exhibition?

A visit to Magic Pencil can help teachers deliver curriculum targets in Art and Design and Literacy. Primary teachers can make connections between familiar contemporary books and the illustrated books from different and past cultures on show in the Library's permanent gallery. Secondary teachers of Art and Design can use Magic Pencil to explore illustration techniques and problems.

You can book a visit by emailing or calling +44 (0)20 7412 7797. Find out more about learning opportunities from Discover, Question, Debate.

On a visit to the exhibition...

You will see original designs and paintings, including sketchbooks.

You will get the best out of your visit if you focus on what you can learn from seeing the originals.

The printed books will be available in the exhibition so you can compare them to the originals:

  • Look at differences of scale, cropping of edges, colours and tones.
  • Look closely for evidence of technique.
  • Look at sketches and layouts to see the illustrator's choices and problems.

The layout of the exhibition, and the large quantity of small works, makes it difficult to teach whole groups in front of the displays. The best approach is to break your class into task groups. There are plenty of spaces near the exhibition to reconvene.

You can make connections with the illuminated manuscripts and illustrated books from around the world in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library.
You can discuss:

  • How were such precious books seen and used compared to modern picture books?
  • Why were there no children's books before the modern age?
  • What is the difference between illuminations that are mostly decorative and illustrations that can tell a story without needing words?

You can also use the interactive gallery, the Workshop of Words, Sound and Images, to explore the history and crafts of book making and printing.

  • Look at the contemporary illustrations to see the range of reproduced images made possible by new technologies. Look at the limitations of early printing, yet consider what it made possible compared to making single books by hand.

The exhibition includes film screenings and links made with historic children's book illustration. There is also a supporting programme of lectures and seminars for older individual students and adults. Click here to see What's On.

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