British literary icons to be exhibited in China for the first time

Title page, Shakespeare’s First Folio (shelfmark: G.11631), London 1623. Image courtesy of the British Library

The British Library has announced that for the first time ever it is to display some of its most iconic literary treasures in China, including Shakespeare’s First Folio and Charlotte Brontë’s fair copy manuscript of Jane Eyre.

Ten items will star in pop-up exhibitions taking place across China between 2016 and 2019. They are expected to include handwritten manuscripts and early editions by some of the greatest British authors of all time, from Shakespeare and Dickens to the Brontë sisters and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The £1.6 million project will be funded by the UK Government as part of an ambitious cultural exchange programme with China.

As well as displaying the UK’s literary treasures in China, the British Library will also create related online resources in Mandarin, building on its hugely popular learning website Discovering Literature.

The announcement of the project follows the opening of a new display at the British Library in London showcasing 3,000 years of Chinese writing, from ancient engraved oracle bones to a vast 15th century encyclopaedia.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said:

“As a global institution for world culture and knowledge, the British Library is thrilled to be taking some of our greatest literary treasures to share with audiences in China. Writers such as Shakespeare, Dickens and the Brontës continue to resonate with people across the world, and nothing compares to the excitement of seeing original manuscripts at first-hand. These displays will allow the Chinese public to engage with Britain’s rich literary heritage as never before.”


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