Novelist Hilary Mantel awarded Bodley Medal

26 March 2013

mantel-MW5A0091The Bodleian Libraries presented this year’s Bodley’s Medal to novelist Hilary Mantel. The award ceremony took place on 24 March in the Sheldonian Theatre following Mantel’s delivery of the Bodley Lecture, part of the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival. The award, libraries’ highest honour, was presented by Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian.

Hilary Mary Mantel is an English author who has recently become the first woman to win the Man Booker Prize twice for the first two volumes of her trilogy on Thomas Cromwell, following in the footsteps of J. M. Coetzee, Peter Carey and J. G. Farrell (who posthumously won the Lost Man Booker Prize). Mantel won her first Booker Prize in 2009 for the novel, Wolf Hall, and again in 2012 for the second instalment of the trilogy, Bring Up the Bodies. 

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 Australian writer, Peter Carey who received the honour in 2012. Past winners also include writer and actor Alan Bennett, film director Lord Richard Attenborough, author PD James 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 on the ‘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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