Myths, Magic and Manuscripts

A medieval manuscript depicting a beast at the foot of a woman's bed

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The fabulous world of medieval books and storytelling

This is an online only event hosted on the British Library platform. Bookers will be sent a viewing link shortly before the event and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.

This event will be live captioned.

The rich and fascinating realm of our celebrated myths and legends explored and retold, alongside the story of the books and manuscripts in which they are held, many at the British Library itself.

Three authors join us to introduce their beautifully written and illustrated new books.

In Dragons, Heroes, Myths & Magic, Chantry Westwell uses her profound knowledge of the British Library’s illuminated manuscript collections that give the book is extraordinary illustrations. She explores some of literature’s most celebrated stories of heroes, heroines and villains, epic battles, magical events, quests, animals and love stories. From tales of King Arthur and Sir Gawain, Renard the Fox, Dante and Beatrice, the Odyssey, Saint Brendon and Tristan and Isolde, this book provides an intimate insight into the medieval mind.

In Storyland: A New Mythology of Britain, Amy Jeffs breathes new life into enduring medieval tales of the British Isles, rooted in our oldest legends and wildest landscapes, and illustrates them with her own dramatic and elegant linocuts. They begin with the Creation and Noah’s Flood and lead right up to the Norman Conquest, as the country fills with tribes from Syria, Troy, Egypt and beyond. Lear and Cordelia, Arthur, Merlin and Gogmagog make their appearances, and places as diverse as Glastonbury, Stonehenge, Snowdonia, Grimsby and Leicester.

Mary Wellesley’s Hidden Hands: The Lives of Manuscripts and their Makers is a deep exploration of the surviving manuscripts, sometimes exquisite, sometimes tattered, that bring us close to the women and men of medieval world. Beowulf, visionary Margery Kempe who wrote the first autobiography in English, Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, Chaucer, the appearances of people of colour, and of little-known women’s histories, from Leoba, the first named English female poet, to Emma, William the Conqueror’s aunt, twice Queen of England, who commissioned her own, far from impartial biography.

The event will be introduced by Dr. Kathleen Doyle, Lead Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library.

Purchase a copy of one of the books with your ticket and watch the event for free – please select at checkout. Books will be posted out within 7 days after the event. Please ensure your address is up to date on your British Library account,

Amy Jeffs is an art historian specialising in the Middle Ages as well as an artist. In 2019, she gained a PhD in Art History from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, having studied for earlier degrees at the Courtauld Institute of Art and the University of Cambridge. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. She has researched medieval badges and pilgrim souvenirs at the British Museum and worked in the British Library's department of Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern manuscripts. Her writing is often accompanied by her own linocut and wood-engraved prints. Amy is a regular contributor to Country Life magazine, and is based in Somerset. Storyland is her first book.

Mary Wellesley is a Research Affiliate at the British Library and medieval language and literature course tutor for the Library’s adult learning programme. She studied English Language and Literature at Lincoln College, Oxford, before gaining a PhD from University College London in 2017. She has published academic articles and book chapters on Middle English literature and codicology and recently co-edited Stasis In The Medieval West: Questioning Continuity and Change, for Palgrave. From January 2016 to March 2018 she worked in the department of Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts at the British Library. Mary also writes widely for a non-academic readership.

Chantry Westwell studied modern European and African languages in Cape Town, followed by an MA in Historical Linguistics at Ohio State, and in Medieval Studies at University College London. Her special interest is in Old French and Anglo-Norman romance, on which she has published blog posts and online articles. For the past 12 years she has worked as a volunteer at the British Library, where the magnificent collection of illuminated manuscripts has provided inspiration for this book. She is from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Image: Detail of a miniature of the Woman and the seven-headed, ten-horned dragon-beast of the Apocalypse, from the Welles Apocalypse, England, c. 1310, Royal MS 15 D II, f. 153r

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Name: Myths, Magic and Manuscripts
Where: Entrance Hall
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: Online Full Price: £5.00
Online Member: £5.00
Online event w/book (Dragons, Heroes, Myths & Magic by Chantry Westwell) UK postage: £33.00
Online event w/book (Dragons, Heroes, Myths & Magic by Chantry Westwell) Non-UK postage: £37.50
Online Event w/book (Storyland by Amy Jeffs) UK postage: £28.00
Online Event w/book (Storyland by Amy Jeffs) Non-UK postage: £32.50
Online Event w/book (Hidden Hands by Mary Wellesley) UK postage: £28.00
Online Event w/book (Hidden Hands by Mary Wellesley) Non-UK postage: £32.50
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546