What: Murder in the Library – An A-Z of Crime Fiction. A FREE exhibition curated by The Folio Society presenting the famous figures and themes of literary crime past and present.
Where: The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB
Why: My reason was three-fold:
1. I am a massive fan of Agatha Christie – one could say I have a small addiction to Miss Marple.
2. I had never been to the British Library before and was intrigued from photos I had seen.
3. FREE – and since January is an epically long and depressing month you need to find some entertainment.
Refreshments:It’s a Library and also an exhibition so refreshments are probably frowned upon. However, a nice cup of coffee in the Library cafe is a good idea especially when you’re overlooking a beautiful, massive wall of books!
I had heard about this exhibition through many social and printed mediums and so, on a rainy January afternoon a fellow book loving friend and I braved the weekend TFL and visited The British Library.
The exhibition was on the upper floor and presented by The Folio Society. This was extremely apparent in the colourful nature of the attractive, yet small presentation which resembled their trademark ‘Beautiful Books’ down to a tee.
There were different sections of information for each letter of the alphabet comprising original manuscripts, like Sherlock Holmes ‘The Retired Colourman’, first editions and author notebooks. These were fascinating, especially when you could read the author’s doodles and notes in the margins demonstrating thought processes and even title ideas.
Even those who live and breathe nothing but Crime Fiction may find they learn a few handy facts for a pub quiz. I for instance was thrilled to find out two titbits about Agatha Christie, one being that the character Miss Marple was based on her own mother. The other being that she once described Poirot as an, ‘egotistical creep,’ and never wanted anyone to draw him – my sentiments exactly such a smug Belgian, although annoyingly readable.
I also delighted in learning that Crime Novels used to exist (and maybe still do?) in the form of both Crime Dossiers and Puzzle Tales. The reader would be made to either solve the crime with clues attached throughout the book or to piece a jigsaw together to reveal the image of the murder.
The exhibition was a treat, however for me personally, I would have liked there to have been more, of everything – but for those with small attention spans it’s perfect.
As well as the exhibition we ventured into other sections of the library, when in Rome , and discovered the ‘Treasures of the British Library’ in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery. This room is full to the brim of centuries old texts, from the Magna Carta to early drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. The exhibition is one of the permanent galleries of the British Library and is well worth a wander around whether your interest ranges from the Arts to Science. Unfortunately, for us we’d arrived at the library at 3pm and only had two hours to spend exploring, however, if you do go I’d definitely give yourself more time to admire the rest of the building.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the exhibition and the library and would recommend a visit to this exhibition before it closes on the 12th May, if not to just remind yourself how lovely libraries are. Plus there’s a challenge in it for you: there’s a small grammatical error in one of the commentaries – Go find it!
Rating: 8 out of 10