Tom Phillips Dante Archive comes to Bodleian Library

19 April 2007  


Canto_XXXiv-4_book_of_lightThe Bodleian Library has acquired The Dante Archive belonging to the contemporary artist and Oxford graduate, Tom Phillips. Enriching the Library’s collection of materials associated with the arts of the book, the archive is also a major addition to the Bodleian’s holdings related to Italian studies, one of the strongest foreign collections of the Library.


The archive contains Phillips’ preparatory work (c.1976-86) on the Talfourd Press edition of Dante’s Inferno which the artist translated and illustrated himself. It includes all the surviving original artwork, the proofs and trial sheets, bound and dis-bound versions of the final production, correspondence with other artists (including a substantial section with Frank Auerbach), specially bound copies and a section dealing with the TV production for Channel 4 based on the book, undertaken in collaboration with Peter Greenway.


The acquisition was made possible through funds made available from the independent art charity The Art Fund, the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund and the Library’s support group, the Friends of the Bodleian. The archive was bought directly from the artist whose own preference was that it found a home at the Bodleian.


Richard Ovenden, Keeper of Western Manuscripts and Special Collections, Bodleian Library, said: ‘The Bodleian Library is delighted to be able to add the archive of one of the greatest Artists’ Books of the 20th century to its collections. It will be a major resource for Art History, Literature, Film Studies, and Modern Languages researchers. Students and scholars alike will have access to this extraordinary archive in Oxford.’


David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: ‘The Divine Comedy is one of the few undisputed masterpieces of European literature and Dante’s poetic vision inspired Tom Phillips to create one of the most  remarkable artist's books of the twentieth century. I am delighted that The Art Fund was able to play such a major part in helping the Bodleian to acquire it. It will be a rich resource for students of the work of both Phillips and Dante, and will, I am sure, also be a revelation to the wider public.’


The Tom Phillips Dante Archive is featured both in the Bodleian Library’s 2007 summer exhibition, Italy’s Three Crowns: Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio and the accompanying publication of the same name.  The exhibition will be open from 19 June to 31 October in the Exhibition Room, Old Schools Quadrangle, Catte Street, Oxford. Admission is free.


Picture: Tom Phillips, Inferno XXXIV: Book of Light. Copyright: Tom Phillips.

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