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World of the book 2021-22

27 January 2022, 10:00am30 June 2022, 6:00pm
Location Dome Galleries, Level 4
The Dome

About the exhibition

Chart the rise, and restyling, of the beloved book in this one-of-a-kind exhibition on the history of book design, production and illustration from the Middle Ages to today.

From books that break the mould to books that changed the world, World of the book features more than 200 never-before-exhibited items and celebrates the unique place books have in our hearts and minds.

This new display features a 19th-century boxed set of Jane Austen’s complete works; artist responses to Dante’s iconic Divine Comedy, from the 16th century to today; a selection of works by Jack Kerouac, and a photograph that hints at a Heide connection; a reflection on the Civil Rights Movement by Martin Luther King Jr that resonates today; and a collection of rare pirated editions of James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Sylvia Plath, Bob Dylan and Philip Roth. Plus, see rare medieval manuscripts and sacred texts, magnificent natural history and botanical illustration, as well as children’s books, sketches and sculpture.

Thematic sections cover:

  • Books and ideas – medieval manuscripts and early printed books, sacred texts from around the world and from different religious traditions, and a display exploring the self in society, from Descartes to Martin Luther King Jr
  • Books and imagination – famous works from the literary canon, including a boxed set of the complete works of Jane Austen; a collection of first-edition novels by Margaret Atwood; and, a special display of sketches, sculpture, photography and published editions by acclaimed children’s author Shaun Tan
  • Exploring the world – books that catapulted big ideas around the globe long before the internet, including the first detailed study of the Alhambra, a masterpiece of Islamic design; as well as richly illustrated works of natural history, including a special display exploring the first European images of the native Australian lyrebird, and Audubon’s ground-breaking Birds of America
  • Art and nature – botanical art and landscape design from the 16th century to today, with a special focus on the history of garden design books
  • Artist and books – a focused display of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, in celebration of the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death, including Tom Phillips’ Inferno (1983), often described as the most significant artist’s book of the 20th century.

Join us for a free guided 'World of the book' tour, which showcases some of the rarest and most significant works from the Library’s rare books collection.

Planning your visit

Visitors to the Library over 18 years of age must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and will be required to provide proof of vaccination, either with a digital certificate linked to the Service Victoria app or a printed copy of their vaccination certificate with identification. All visitors must check in using the Service Victoria app upon arrival. Read more about a COVID-safe Library