Oxford Literary Festival at the Bodleian

3 April 2009

OLFToday, the Bodleian Library is hosting three events as part of The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival

12 pm - Diego Zancani: Renaissance Cookery

Renaissance writers on cookery were frequently interested in medicine, and specifically in dietetics, but what was the food they recommended really like? By using texts written in Italy between 1450 and 1650 this talk will examine changes in taste on courtly tables and in humbler kitchens, with a view to reconstructing, as much as possible, the flavours of food before the arrival of tomatoes, and of understanding some misleading cookery terms, and Italian words which have become international, such as ‘maccheroni/ macaroni’ or ‘pizza’.

2pm - The Music Room. A Reading and chance to see a Display of Books and Manuscripts selected by James Fenton from the Bodleian Vaults

James Fenton will read a selection of his work in the beautiful surroundings of the Divinity School. Visitors will have a chance to see a small display four manuscripts chosen by James and drawn from the Bodleian’s vaults for the occasion. The manuscripts on display in Proscholium are related to one of James’ current research interests: autobiography or life writing. Two of the items occasionally vie for the title of the earliest examples of autobiographical writing in the English language; a third records the adventures of a diarist who travelled 100, 888 miles and survived 1000 dangers; while the fourth, only just acquired, provides a rare insight into the enthusiastic spending habits of a wealthy London lady during the economic turmoil of the English civil war.
James Fenton was born in Lincoln in 1949 and educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he won the Newdigate Prize for poetry. He has worked as a political journalist, drama critic, book reviewer, war correspondent, foreign correspondent and columnist. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was Oxford Professor of Poetry for the period 1994-99. In 2007, Fenton was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

4pm – Richard Ovenden: The Future of the Past: The Bodleian’s Great Acquisitions

Richard Ovenden, Keeper of Special Collections and Associated Director of Oxford University Library Services will talk on the Bodleian’s great acquisitions. The library has recently benefited from Alan Bennett’s gift of his literary archive, and has been able to save for the nation the earliest surviving score of an opera in the English language, Cavalli’s Erismena.

Richard Ovenden was educated at Durham University and University College, London and has worked as a professional librarian since 1985. He has served on the staff of the House of Lords Library, the National Library of Scotland, at the University of Edinburgh, and now at the Bodleian Library. Richard has published widely on the history of collecting, the history of photography and on professional concerns of the library, archive, and information world. He holds a Professional Fellowship at St Hugh’s College, Oxford.

Podcasts of the talks will be available for download from our BODcast Library.


The Bodleian Library also announces two major events to be held in conjunction with The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival in 2010: the awarding of the Bodley Medal and the commencement of the Bodley Lecture.

The Bodley Medal is named for Sir Thomas Bodley, the founder of the Bodleian Library, Oxford’s four-hundred-year-old library, established to serve the republic of the Learnered. These medals are awarded to individuals who made a distinguished contribution to the advancement of fields closely connected to the work of the Library, such as literature, the arts of the book, and in information technology.  The most recent recipient of the Bodley medal was Alan Bennett.

The Bodley lecture will feature a leading figure in the cultural world who will speak on a topic relating to the world of books and literature.

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