21 March 2012
The Bodleian Libraries have announced the latest recipient of the Bodley Medal. The renowned Australian writer, Peter Carey will receive libraries’ highest honour following his delivery of the Bodley Lecture (which is to be held for the first time at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival on 1 April). The award, , will be presented by Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian following the event where Peter Carey will discuss his last novel, The Chemistry of Tears, with Peter Kemp, the Sunday Times Chief Fiction Reviewer.
Peter Carey is one of the greatest contemporary writers having received the Booker Prize twice, once for Oscar and Lucinda in 1988 and again for True History of the Kelly Gang in 2001. His other honours include the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Born in Australia he now lives in New York City, where he is the director of the Hunter College program in creative writing.
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 the writer and actor Alan Bennett in 2008. Past winners also include film director Lord Richard Attenborough, author PD James and inventor of the world wide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
Peter Carey said: ‘As we enter a warmer, darker, more turbulent age, the Bodleian Libraries will assume an importance far greater than anything we are yet prepared to imagine. I would be honoured to be even a footnote in the history of this great institution.’
Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian said: ‘Peter Carey is one of the greatest contemporary authors. The Bodleian Libraries are pleased to have the opportunity to honour his exceptional contribution to literature.’
About Peter Carey
Peter Carey was born in Australia in May 1943 and is the author of twelve novels. He won the Booker Prize in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda and was shortlisted in 1985 with Illywhacker. His other novels include The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and Jack Maggs (winner of the 1998 Commonwealth Writers Prize). He has also written a collection of short stories, The Fat Man in History, and a book for children, The Big Bazoohley. Peter Carey won The Man Booker Prize for the second time in 2001 with True History of the Kelly Gang and was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize in 2007 and 2009.
His most recent novel, The Chemistry of Tears, follows the huge success of his last novel, Parrot and Olivier in America. The Chemistry of Tears is a rich tale with historical themes. Based in present-day London and 19th-century Germany, it follows museum conservator Catherine Gehrig as she mourns the loss of her lover of 13 years. Tasked with bringing a 19th-century mechanical creature back to life, she discovers the notebooks of the man who originally commissioned it. The stories are interwoven and together explore the mysteries of human invention, love, feeling, life and death.
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.