Novelist Ian McEwan awarded Bodley Medal

31 March 2014

Ian McEwan with Bodley's medal

The Bodleian Libraries presented this year’s Bodley Medal to novelist Ian McEwan. The award ceremony took place on 27 March in the Sheldonian Theatre following McEwan’s delivery of the Bodley Lecture, part of the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival. The award, the Libraries’ highest honour, was presented by Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian.

Ian McEwan is an English author of many award-winning, internationally critically acclaimed novels that have been adapted for film, including The Child in Time, winner of the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, The Cement Garden, Enduring Love, Amsterdam, winner of the 1998 Booker Prize, Atonement, Saturday, winner of the 2006 James Tait Black Memorial Prize, On Chesil Beach, and Solar.

The Bodley Medal is awarded by the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the worlds in which the Bodleian is active: literature, culture, science, and communication. The last recipient of the Bodley Medal was English writer, Hillary Mantel, who received the honour in 2013, the same year she became the first woman to win the Man Booker Prize twice. Past winners also include writer and actor Alan Bennett, film director Lord Richard Attenborough, the late poet Seamus Heaney and inventor of the world wide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

The Bodley Medal

The Bodley Medal was first engraved in 1646 to honour Sir Thomas Bodley, the founder of the Bodleian Library. It was designed by the Frenchman, Claude Warin, one of the leading medal-makers of the 17th century. Library accounts for 1646 contain an entry – ‘Item, to ye painter that drew Sir Thomas Bodley’s picture, and to Mr Warren that made his medale, to each of them 2s’. The original Medal is gilt, probably on bronze. When the roof of Duke Humfrey’s Library was being replaced during the major renovations in the Library at the millennium, the idea was conceived of using the metal from the Library’s roof to create a limited number of replicas of the original Medal.

The new Medal was struck in 2001 at the Royal Mint, to celebrate the restoration of Duke Humfrey’s Library, the first purpose-built library in the University founded in 1438 and endowed by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (fourth son of Henry IV). The medal is made from copper salvaged from the old roof of the building.

The obverse of the medal shows the right profile of Thomas Bodley and bears the inscription ‘TH•BODLY•EQ•AVR•PVBL•BIBLIOTH•OXON•FVNDATOR’, which translates ‘Sir Thomas Bodley, Founder of the Public Library in Oxford’. The reverse reads ‘A•P•LITERARIAE•AETERNITAS’, which translates ‘The Eternity of the Republic of Letters’. It shows a female figure, probably representing the Republic of Letters, bearing a head in each hand. The medal is signed ‘Warin’ on the obverse.

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