Gifts & Books: From Early Myth to the Present

By Nicholas Perkins

Giving and receiving gifts can be tricky. Gifts may be touching or puzzling, either strengthening bonds of friendship or becoming a burden. This volume explores how books and writing have described gift-giving over the centuries, but also how books became precious gifts themselves. In a series of thought-provoking essays, richly illustrated from the Bodleian Library’s collections and beyond, the contributors illuminate some of the striking ways in which writing interacts with those fundamental impulses to give, receive, and reciprocate.

Each chapter draws on a particular perspective, including archaeology, religion, history, literature, and anthropology. From an ancient Sumerian tablet recording the founding of a temple to contemporary children’s literature that highlights the pleasures and troubling histories of exchange and inheritance, the dynamics of the gift are at work across space and time. This book features gorgeous medieval manuscripts, gifts made by and for Queen Elizabeth I, Victorian Christmas tales, and a mysterious Scottish book sculpture. Stories of sacrifice, love, loyalty, and friendship are woven into these books and objects, showing the ongoing power of the gift to shape the stories we tell about ourselves.

192 pages
hardcover, colour illustrations


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