Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination Listings 11 November 2011- 13 March 2012

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination is the British Library’s first major exhibition to bring together the Library’s Royal collection, a treasure trove of illuminated manuscripts collected by the kings and queens of England between the 9th and 16th centuries. This dazzling exhibition will debunk the myth that these were ‘the Dark Ages’ by showcasing beautiful artistic artefacts.

Public Events

The public events programme accompanying the exhibition Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination will include lectures by leading writers and scholars of the middle ages, taking in art history as well as the political, social and intellectual context of the period.

The speakers include well known writers and historians Eamon Duffy, Andrew Marr, and Michael Wood.

Tickets for all events will be available at or by calling +44 (0)1937 546546 (Mon - Fri, 09.00 - 17.00) or in person at the British Library.

All That Glisters: the Art of Illumination

Friday 18 November 18.30 – 20.30

An opportunity to learn more about the historical and artistic significance of illuminated manuscripts and of what they can tell us about those who commissioned, made and used them. Michelle Brown, Professor of Medieval Manuscript Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, will address these issues through a detailed look at some of the works exhibited, followed by a demonstration and talk about the techniques of writing and illumination by prominent calligrapher and illuminator, Patricia Lovett.

£7.50/£5 concessions / Conference Centre

The Great Lost Library of England’s Kings

Monday 21 November 18.30 – 20.00

From 1066 the kings of England amassed countless precious books of history, religion and science. Yet the 'royal' manuscripts on display at the British Library only hint at the great collection that went before. One of our most brilliant historians of the central Middle Ages, Nicholas Vincent, presents a provocative and approachable investigation of what might have been the composition and fate of this library, and the reading habits of Kings from William the Conqueror to Henry III.

£7.50/£5 concessions / Conference Centre

The Diamond Queen

Friday 25 November 18.30 – 20.00

Andrew Marr examines the changing role of the monarch and the monarchy since 1952. He explores the Queen's pivotal role at the centre of the state, her political relationships and her commitment to that Commonwealth of nations, which continue amid media glare and widespread pressures to modernise.

£7.50/£5 concessions / Conference Centre

The English Kingdom of France

Monday 28 November 18.30 – 20.00

Henry V's victory at Agincourt and subsequent conquest of large swaths of France are among the most extraordinary episodes in English history. At turns glorious and shameful, often chivalrous and involving many fascinating characters, the campaigns and occupation are brought into vivid life by renowned historian and biographer Juliet Barker.

£7.50/£5 concessions / Conference Centre

The Story of a Book

Monday 12 December 18.30 – 19.45

Historian and presenter Michael Wood tells the story of a single manuscript from Anglo-Saxon England; its journeys from France to Italy and then to Britain; its various owners and escapes from destruction. At the heart of the tale is Athelstan, the first king of England, in whose time additions were made to the book that give us an intimate insight into the mind of an Anglo-Saxon king in the Viking Age.

£7.50/£5 concessions / Conference Centre

The English Castle

Tuesday 13 December 18.30 – 20.00

England is still richly studded with the remains of castles, great and small. They were monuments at the heart of social and political life in this country: strongholds, centres of government, houses and powerful showpieces. Leading expert John Goodall tells the story of their use and development and use in a richly illustrated lecture.

£7.50/£5 concessions / Conference Centre

The King of Beasts

Friday 16 December 18.30 – 20.00

The Lion, king of beasts, has been a symbol of royalty for millennia. This lavishly illustrated talk explores various aspects of the relationship between the animals and medieval English monarchs from the heraldic lions on the Plantagenet coat of arms to the skulls of actual lions discovered within the palace precincts at the Tower of London. Presented by Deirdre Jackson, author of Lion (Reaktion Books, 2010) and researcher on the exhibition Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination.

£7.50/£5 concessions / Conference Centre

Sublime Words, Ridiculous Images: Visual Humour in the Royal Manuscript Collection

Monday 3 February 18.30 – 20.00

In the later Middle Ages, sacred, solemn texts were often accompanied by images seemingly intended to distract, to amuse and perhaps even to shock their readers. Playful and sometimes perverse, such images offer powerful insights into the nature of devotion in the period. Drawing on the monkeys and monsters depicted in the margins of the British Library's Royal manuscripts, this lecture by Alixe Bovey (presenter of the BBC television series In Search of Medieval Britain) considers what these image tell us about the people who made and owned these books.

£7.50/£5 concessions / Conference Centre

The Royal Library: old and new

Friday 10 February 18.30 – 20.00

In 1757 George II presented the magnificent manuscripts and books collected by generations of kings to the nation. They are housed today in the British Library, together with a subsequent donation by George IV known as the King’s Library. The Royal Library, principally at Windsor Castle, has continued to grow into a rich collection boasting many fascinating personal links to successive monarchs. The stories of these libraries are explored by Kathleen Doyle and John Goldfinch of the British Library and Jane Roberts, the Royal Librarian.

£7.50/£5 concessions / Conference Centre

Late at The Library: Illuminate!

Friday 2 March 19.00 – 22.30

A phenomenal night showcasing some of the finest illustrators working today – graphic novelists and comic artists, cartoonists, children’s book illustrators, calligraphers and contemporary illuminators. Enjoy an after-hours chance to soak up the sumptuous art of medieval world at the same time as its breathtaking modern day counterparts. Bar, DJs and VJs until late.

£10 / Entrance Hall

New Learning out of Old Books: Henry VIII and the Re-Invention of the Royal Library.

Friday 9 March 18.30 – 20.00

David Starkey, celebrated historian and leading expert on the Tudor monarchy explains how Henry VIII turned the Royal Library from what can be seen as essentially a collection of illustrated books into a working library that provided the intellectual justification for the Divorce and the Royal Supremacy and laid the foundations of a national book repository.

£7.50/£5 concessions / Conference Centre

More events will be announced later this year including a talk by Eamon Duffy discussing monarchy and religion and a live concert with the celebrated choir, The Sixteen. Find out more about exhibitions and events on our What's On pages.

Notes to Editors

The research for this exhibition has been made possible by research generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Additional funding has also been gratefully received from a number of philanthropic sources.

Media partner – The Times

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination is open from 11 November 2011 – 13 March 2012 in the PACCAR Gallery at the British Library.

Admission £10 with Gift Aid, concessions will be available including free admission for under 18s and schools. An audio guide will be included in the price of admission.

Booking information
For further information please visit and register for our e-what's on newsletter

Exhibition opening hours
Open Mon, Wed-Fri 10:00am-6pm; Tue 10:00am-8pm; Sat 10:00am-5pm; Sun 11am-5pm

All galleries are accessible by wheelchair. Information can be requested from Visitor Services staff on: T +44 (0)20 7412 7332.

Learning programme
An exciting range of free workshops exploring Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination will be available for primary, secondary and further education students.

Workshops for primary aged pupils will explore medieval life through the illuminated manuscripts and images on display. Using creative activities, students will gain an understanding of royal identity, religious beliefs and education during this fascinating period. Looking closely at the items on display, groups will deconstruct the symbols of the paintings and develop an understanding of who the manuscripts were made by, who they were made for, and how they were made.

Workshops for secondary and further education students will examine a range of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts from colourful histories, genealogies and Bibles to scientific works and accounts of coronations. By interpreting the artistry and symbols within the images on display, students will gain new insights into faith, learning, the monarchy and international politics in medieval times. Groups will evaluate the reliability of sources and develop skills in interpreting historical texts.

Phone and Ipad Application
The Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination application will feature nearly sixty illuminated manuscripts from the exhibition and will contain nearly 500 images. There will also be a selection of videos featuring experts discussing the illuminated manuscripts.

£2.39 iPhone and Android, £3.49 iPad, with an introductory offer of £1.19 for iPhone and £2.39 for iPad until the exhibition opens.

The app will be available to download worldwide for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

For more information:

Evenings and weekends:
+44 (0) 20 7412 7150

Press Office contacts

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