SOLO Tip: Finding a Specific Edition of a Work

Need to find a copy of a popular text, but are struggling to find the one with a specific editor or introduction? The English and Film Studies Subject Librarian, Helen Scott, has put together a handy-dandy how-to guide to help you navigate this on SOLO!

Use ‘Sort & Filter’ options in SOLO to locate a specific edition of a work.

Example: looking for Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, edited by Edward Copeland (Cambridge University Press)

Search SOLO for brief details, including the editor’s name, eg: ‘austen sense copeland’:

A SOLO screenshot of someone searching for 'austen sense copeland', with the filter set to 'Oxford Collections'

Note: The filter is set to ‘Oxford Collections’

Limiting the search to ‘Oxford Collections’ can help to make your search more targeted (but is only appropriate when searching for books, not when searching for articles).

The search results will show a ‘cluster’ of the different editions of Sense and Sensibility, with the edition you are looking for highlighted:

A SOLO screenshot of a search result for Sense and Sensibility - a copy with 88 versions

Note: The 88 versions of the title have been clustered together into one search result

Click on the title, to open up the cluster of 88 versions. The default will be date order, with the most recently published at the top. To find the Copeland edition, use the ‘Sort & Filter Results’ menu on the left-hand side, and open up the ‘Author/Creator’ options:

A SOLO screenshot of the clustered item opened to show all 88 results individually.

Note: You can filter the clustered results by ‘Author/Creator’ on the left hand side.

Click on the editor you are looking for and this will narrow the results accordingly:

A screenshot of the newly updated SOLO search results, now only showing the copies edited by Edward Copeland

Note: Now that the filter has been applied, only the copies edited by Edward Copeland are shown

By Helen Scott, English and Film Studies Subject Librarian

Referencing Resources

A title 'Referencing Resources' displayed over a photograph of a hand skimming through an open book.Hello, hard workers! We hope Michaelmas term is treating you well. Whether you’re a first year undergraduate or a more experienced academic, referencing can be a complex thing. We thought now would be a good time to put together a blog of helpful library resources on referencing for you.

Please note: This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide on how to reference. Rather, we want to help you to access resources that can provide more thorough guidance. If in doubt, we always recommend contacting your faculty for advice.

Some Advice for English Students

There is no mandatory referencing system from the faculty, though individual tutors may have their own requirements. The most important things are consistency, clarity, and common sense (see the English Language and Literature LibGuide to read this explained in more detail). However, pre-written faculty support is provided for MHRA  – so if you’re able to be flexible about what system you use, you may find this easiest as a starting point.

Whatever style you chose to use, we’ve laid out some resources below that may help you in your studies.

Course Handbooks

Your first port of call for referencing advice should always be your course handbook. For English students of all different courses and year groups, these can be found in the Oxford English Student Space. Your handbook will explain to you what referencing systems you can or should use for your faculty, and go into further detail on some of the most frequently used types of resources. Some handbooks even include guidance for subject specific resource referencing (such as for the Oxford English Dictionary or Text Analysis Tools for English Language and Literature students).

Referencing LibGuides

The English Faculty Library has put together a Referencing tab in our LibGuide which is full of detailed advice and helpful tips for English students. It explains some of the most commonly used referencing systems, bibliographies, and reference creation and management tools. This page is tailored to support members of the English Faculty, but similar pages are available for other subjects too. You can access a comprehensive referencing LibGuide on Managing your References.

Cite Them Right

Cite Them Right is a useful database to which the University of Oxford provides access for its members. You’ll need to log-in to SOLO with your SSO before accessing the website if you’re away from the university network. CTR explains how to create references for loads of different materials and in 8 different referencing systems. You also get the option to input the information to create a reference which you can copy and paste into your bibliography.

This offers usefully detailed information on resources like manuscripts, historical texts, reprints, and facsimiles, which can be particularly useful to scholars within the English faculty.

Citation Tools and Software

A screenshot from SOLO showing the various citation tools available

There are lots of citation tools and pieces of software that the university offers access to which may be of benefit to you. A couple of examples include

  • SOLO Citations: SOLO will automatically generate text citations in 5 different referencing styles directly from the item SOLO record, which can be copied and pasted into your bibliography.
  • Reference ManagersThe University of Oxford offers its members free use of external reference managers such as RefWorks, EndNote, and also supports the always freely-available Mendeley. You can attend Bodleian iSkills workshops (when available) to teach you how to use these reference managers. Alternatively, you can access training materials at any time. If you find yourself struggling, the Bodleian even have an email address you can contact for help with reference management:

Useful Books

If you prefer manually creating citations, the following helpful titles are available through the library service.

  • Neville, C. (2016) The complete guide to referencing and avoiding plagiarism. Third edition. London: Open University Press – Available in ebook and in print.
  • Pears, R., Shields, G. (2019) Cite them right: the essential referencing guide. Red Globe Press – Available in ebook and in print.
  • Gibaldi, J. (2008) MLA style manual and guide to scholarly publishing. 3rd ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America. – Available in print.

We hope that these resources will be useful to you in your studies! Remember, if you’re every really stuck, you can always ask for help! The faculty and the library are always here if you need us.

Until then – happy reading!

Shakespeare Resources

To kick off Trinity Term, we’ve put together a rundown of the different types of resources about and by Shakespeare which you can find at the EFL, either in the library or online.

Because there are so many Shakespeare resources to choose from, this selection is far from comprehensive. Instead, it’s intended to give you an idea of the types of resource you could look for – from primary texts and critical material to performances and films.

If you’d like to find out more about the library’s Shakespeare resources, the Shakespeare LibGuide would be a good place to start. There are tabs covering the resources we’ll talk about in this blog post, like eTexts and eBooks, as well as resources we don’t have space to cover here like journals, newspapers and ephemera.

While this post will give a few examples of specific titles you can find online or in the library, it’s not a reading list. But if that’s what you’re after, help is at hand! The English Faculty have put together an ORLO list of titles intended as an entry point into different ways of approaching and thinking about Shakespeare and his works.

An engraving of Shakespeare, coloured pink. There are two quotes on his collar: on the left, "You must translate; Tis fit we understand them."; and on the right, "Bless thee Bottome, bless thee; thou art translated."

©️ Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford 2023


Finally, if you’re interested in discovering more about Shakespeare at the wider Bodleian, head over to the Weston Library to see the Thou Art Translated display. The display celebrates 400 years since the publication of the First Folio and is open until Sunday 14 May.


Primary Texts

Where better to start this list of Shakespeare resources than with the plays themselves? There are a few different options available if you’re looking for texts of the plays, including digital and physical versions. Keep reading to find out more about some of these options, or for a fuller list have a look at the eTexts tab of the LibGuide.

Arden Shakespeare (via Drama Online)

Cover images, left to right: Macbeth edited by S. Clark and P. Mason; Measure for Measure edited by A.R. Braunmuller and R.N. Watson; and Othello (revised edition) edited by E.A.J. Honigmann

Examples of Arden Shakespeare titles available via Drama Online

Drama Online provides access to the searchable full-text of approximately 1,500 plays, forming a collection of the most studied, performed and critically acclaimed plays from Aeschylus to the present day. Those texts include the Arden Shakespeare series, offering annotated, scholarly editions of Shakespeare’s plays with modernised texts and comprehensive commentary notes.

Use the search function from the Drama Online homepage to find a specific text, or search for Arden Shakespeare Third Series to browse what’s on offer. Many texts in the Arden series are also available as physical books in the library – you can search for them by title on SOLO.

Oxford Scholarly Editions

Oxford Scholarly Editions makes Shakespeare’s work available in both original- and modern-spelling editions. It includes all of Shakespeare’s plays as well as his sonnets, in addition to critical material. The texts are all available online, and you can browse a list of available titles on the Oxford Scholarly Editions website. You can also find physical copies in the library; search for them by title on SOLO.

The Bodleian First Folio

Webpage capture of The Bodleian First Folio:

Page-turn view of The Bodleian First Folio

Diplomatic editions of the plays of the Bodleian First Folio (Bodleian Arch. G c.7) are available online. There are different ways to view the digital edition, depending on what you need and what you prefer.

You can view an image of each page with the digital text alongside, look at just the page images using the page-turner, or view the XML version of the text. There are multiple ways to navigate the text too, including by part, play, act, scene, and signature. And if you’d prefer to view it offline, you can download images, digital text, and XML.

If you’d like to see a physical copy of the First Folio, head over to the Weston to catch the Thou Art Translated display, which runs until Sunday 14 May.

Critical material

In addition to the plays themselves, there’s a broad array of critical material available, including both series and standalone titles.

Shakespeare: The Critical Tradition

Book covers, from left to right: King Henry V, edited by Joseph Candido; Coriolanus, edited by David George; and The Tempest, edited by Brinda Charry

Examples of titles in the Shakespeare: The Critical Tradition series

The aim of the Critical Tradition series is to increase our knowledge of how Shakespeare’s plays were received and understood by critics, editors, and general readers. Each volume traces the course of Shakespeare criticism, play-by-play, from the earliest items of recorded criticism to the beginning of the modern period.

In February, four more titles in this series arrived at the EFL. They are:

You can use an advanced search on SOLO to browse all the books in this series which are available at the EFL.

Cambridge Collections Online

Book covers, clockwise from top left: The New Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare; Shakespeare and Contemporary Dramatists; Shakespeare on Film; and Shakespeare's First Folio

These are some of the titles in the Cambridge Companions series

The Cambridge Companions series offers a huge range of material on an enormous variety of subjects. Fully searchable digital editions of the series in Literature, Classics, Philosophy, Religion and Culture are available. The Companions can be searched by title or keyword, and you can read chapters online or download them as PDFs.

There’s lots to choose from – here are a few examples from the collection:

Many of the Cambridge Companions are also available as physical books in the library. You could search for a specific titles on SOLO, or use an advanced search to see what’s available.

Standalone books

Alongside these series, there are lots of standalone critical texts relating to Shakespeare and his works. Quite a few new ones arrived at the library at the end of Michaelmas term and through the Easter vacation – have a look at the Shakespeare or Shakespeare Studies tags on LibraryThing to browse the latest arrivals.

As you might expect, there are too many standalone books available to go through them all here! But having so much choice can be overwhelming, and that’s why the English Faculty have put together an ORLO reading list offering some initial guidance and reading suggestions about possible topics and approaches to the English BA FHS Paper: Shakespeare. It’s not intended to be prescriptive, nor as a canon of approaches or texts, but it can be a good place to start when you’re looking to discover texts, critics and areas of interest for yourself.

Audio-visual Resources

If you’d like a break from books, there are still lots of resources to choose from at the EFL and online, from recordings of performances to film and TV dramas, and more besides.

A photo of wooden shelves in the library - the top two shelves contain the new journals display, and the lower three shelves contain the Shakespeare Film Collection

The Shakespeare Film Collection in the library

You can find lots of DVDs in the library, including a whole section of Shakespeare plays on film (and some VHS cassettes!). The Shakespeare films can be found in a different place to the main Film Collection – they’re under the New Journals display, by the quick search PCs.

If you’d like to watch one of the DVDs, you can borrow a portable DVD player from the enquiry desk. You can also watch DVDs or VHS cassettes in the computer room – just ask a member of staff if you’d like help getting set up.

And of course, there’s plenty of audio-visual material online too …

Plays and Performances

We’ve already talked about the play texts you can access through Drama Online, but alongside those texts you can find a huge range of recordings of Shakespeare plays, including performances from the RSC, National Theatre, and Shakespeare’s Globe.

Webpage capture of Drama Online:

Homepage of Drama Online [© Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 2022]

The resources are organised into different collections, some of which feature content about Shakespeare’s plays.

Shakespeare’s Globe on Screen

This collection features 30 productions recorded live on the Globe stage. It includes performances from Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry in Twelfth Night, and Roger Allam’s Olivier Award-winning Falstaff in Henry IV. The latest collection of productions, all staged between 2016 and 2018, includes plays performed at the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse, the Globe’s indoor Jacobean theatre.

RSC Live Collection

The RSC Live Collection offers recordings of 32 RSC productions, with two more due to be added later this year. Each recording is accompanied by fully searchable transcripts with real-time tracking of lines spoken. The available plays including The Tempest starring Simon Russell Beale and featuring live motion capture, and Hamlet with award-winning Paapa Essiedu in the title role.

So far this year, five plays have been added. These are:

Richard III and All’s Well That Ends Well are coming later this year.

National Theatre Collection

Drawing on 10 years of NT Live broadcasts alongside high-quality archive recordings never previously seen outside of the NT’s Archive, the National Theatre Collection offers a total of 50 filmed performances. There are 9 Shakespeare productions available in Collection 1, including Coriolanus starring Tom Hiddleston and Twelfth Night with Tamsin Grieg as a transformed Malvolia in a new twist on Shakespeare’s classic comedy.

You can access Collection 1 now with your Oxford SSO. We will soon have access to Collection 2 as well, featuring two further Shakespeare plays: Macbeth with Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff, and Romeo and Juliet (2020) which was filmed using the backstage spaces of the National Theatre during the Coronavirus pandemic.

TV and Film

Drama Online has a wealth of resources, but it’s not the only way to access audio-visual material relating to Shakespeare. Box of Broadcasts, or BoB, gives you access to over 2.2 million broadcasts from UK TV and radio. Once you’ve registered or signed in using your Oxford SSO, you can view recordings, save and organise programmes into playlists, and create clips of programmes.

Webpage capture of Box of Broadcasts homepage:

Box of Broadcasts (BoB) homepage [Copyright © 2023 · Learning on Screen – the British Universities and Colleges Film and Video Council]

Searching for a broad term like ‘Shakespeare’ can bring up lots of results, so we’ve put together playlists to help you find programmes and get started. The Film & TV Dramas playlist includes films such as David Tennant’s RSC Hamlet performance, and series like the BBC’s Hollow Crown and the BBC Shakespeare Performances. There’s also a Documentaries playlist of both TV and radio broadcasts, including the Shakespeare Uncovered series. These playlists give an indication of the programmes available, but there’s lots more to be found on BoB!

Too much screen time?

Recordings of performances, films and TV are great, but sometimes you might want to give your eyes a rest and listen to some interesting Shakespeare resources. That’s where the English Faculty’s podcast series can help!

Webpage capture of English Faculty podcasts:

Podcasts from the English Faculty [© 2011-2022 The University of Oxford]

One of the podcasts you could listen to is Approaching Shakespeare, a series of lectures by Professor Emma Smith. Each lecture focuses on one play and employs a range of different approaches to try and understand a critical question about it. The series aims to show the variety of different ways we might understand Shakespeare, the kinds of evidence that might be used to strengthen our cultural analysis, and above all the enjoyable and unavoidable fact that Shakespeare’s plays tend to generate our questions rather than answer them. You can listen online, or find it on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.

Another Shakespeare (or at least Shakespeare-adjacent!) podcast from the English Faculty is Not Shakespeare: Elizabethan and Jacobean Popular Theatre. In this series, Professor Emma Smith introduces 12 once popular but now little-known plays from Shakespeare’s Elizabethan and Jacobean contemporaries. These plays can tell us a lot about what their first audiences enjoyed, aspired to and worried about, as well as broadening our understanding of the theatre Shakespeare wrote for, all while recreating some of the excitement and dramatic possibilities of the new, popular technology of Renaissance theatre. You can listen online, or find it on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.

And there you have it – a quick rundown of some of the types of Shakespeare resources available to you. Don’t forget to check out the Shakespeare LibGuide and the Shakespeare ORLO list for even more!

More Than Just Books – Accessibility

Hello, readers! Welcome to the fourth instalment in our More Than Just Books series. This series was created to draw attention to the wonderful things that the library offers beyond just the books on our shelves. You can check out the other posts in the series here.

Today we’re going to be talking about the accessibility provisions offered in the English Faculty Library. Topics include:

Building Access

The English Faculty Library is located across 2 floors in the St Cross Building. The building itself has level access through a lift in the main foyer, and all parts of the library have level access through a lift located in the library office. You can read more about navigating the building here.

Photograph of the exterior of the English Faculty Library

The English Faculty Library is in the St Cross Building at the corner of St Cross Road and Manor Road. Source: Access Guide (linked above)

Parking outside the building is limited and often in high demand, so we usually recommend using the Park and Ride service where possible. However, a parking space for Blue Badge holders is available.

Guide dogs and hearing dogs are welcome.

Specialist Services

We offer some specialist services to readers who are registered with the Disability Advisory Service or by individual arrangement, at the discretion of the library staff. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Hearing Loops
  • Extended loan periods and unlimited renewals
  • Large print or Braille copies of our informational leaflets
  • Permitting the consumption of food and drink in the library (only where medically necessary)
  • Pre-booking of socially distanced desk space
  • Proxy borrowing
  • Book fetching and reserving
  • One-to-one inductions
A photograph of a single-occupant table by the window.

Socially-distanced seating is available upstairs in the library.

You can find out more information about the specialist services we offer here.

Accessibility Station

We’ve talked to you about our Accessibility Station before, but it seems worth reiterating here. We keep a variety of accessibility equipment in the library for any readers to use as necessary. All we ask is that you put it back where you found it when you’re finished. The station includes:

  • Footstools
  • Bookrests
  • Coloured acetate sheets
  • Reading rulers
  • Earplugs
  • Daylight lamp (stored on the height adjustable desk upstairs)
  • Magnifying glass
  • Laptop stands
A photograph of our Accessibility Hub

The equipment in our Accessibility Hub can be used by any library users.

We also have some height-adjustable desks and ergonomic chairs. You can read more about our height-adjustable furniture here.

The Bodleian Libraries

Beyond just the English Faculty Library, the wider Bodleian Libraries offers a range of services to assist disabled readers with accessing and using resources. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • ARACU (The Accessible Resources Acquisition and Creation Unit): a team who can help you with accessing printed resources in alternative formats.
  • RNIB Bookshare: a database of accessible books and resources.
  • SensusAccess: a service that reformats inaccessible files into accessible ones, including ebooks, audio books, and digital Braille.
  • Self-Help Reading Lists: curated by the University Counselling service

You can see the full offering of services for disabled readers here.


If you’d like any more information on anything we’ve talked about today, you can contact:

More Than Just Books – Study Spaces

Hello, readers! Welcome to the third instalment in our More Than Just Books series, where we aim to share our information with you about our library provision beyond just the wonderful books on our shelves. You can check out the rest of the series here, if you’re interested.

Today, we’re going to talk about using the English Faculty Library as a study space. We’ll be showing off all the different study spaces available for you to use in the library and explaining the individual benefits of each one.

Our Study Spaces

Ground Floor Reading Room

The ground floor reading room is the first study space that you see when you walk into the library. Chairs are arranged on either side of seven long rectangular tables, with capacity for up to 76 readers. The chairs here are leather-covered and armless. This reading room is lit by ceiling windows as well as overhead light fittings, and each space has an individual study light over it. This makes it the area with the most customisable lighting in the library.

It’s worth noting that this is the space that readers have to use when consulting rare books or special collections items. It’s also the only space in the library with plug sockets available – though please keep in mind that these are only available at 36 seats.

The ground floor reading room in the English Faculty Library.

The ground floor reading room in the English Faculty Library is our largest study space.

Conveniently located for: Enquiries desk, displays, accessibility hub, film collection, Bodleian closed stack self-collect, reference collection, periodicals, English language material including prelims paper 1 materials, English literature up to the 16th century.

Gallery Reading Room

The gallery reading room can be found by going up the stairs, and crossing to the other side of the library. This space has a similar set up to the ground floor reading room, with 5 long rectangular tables and capacity for up to 57 readers. Lighting here is provided by overhead lights, and natural light coming in from large windows to one side of the room. This is an ideal space for silent group study, as readers can easily face one another over the tables.

Please note that there are no plug sockets available at the tables in the gallery reading room.

The gallery reading room in the English Faculty Library is an ideal workspace in which to spread out with lots of materials.

Conveniently located for: PCAS machines, English literature of the 16th century and beyond (including Shakespeare), Scottish and Irish literature, American literature, postcolonial literature, bibliography.

Computer Room

The computer room is located on the ground floor of the library, on the far side of the wall to the right of the entrance. It contains 28 computers, which can be used by readers, as well as some DVD/video viewing equipment. This room is lit by overhead lighting and some large windows on one wall. It is often well-regulated in terms of temperature, staying comparably cool in summer and warm in winter. These spaces also come with ergonomic chairs.

The computer room, complete with reader PCs and a presenting desk.

Please note that the computer room may occasionally be booked out for classes/training. We’ll always hang a sign on the door, if this is the case.

Single Occupant Desks

In addition to our larger study areas, the English Faculty Library also has some individual study spaces.

6 of these are located on the first floor of the library, secluded behind the bookshelves straight ahead of the stair case. They’re comprised of single-occupant desks, spaced out in front of the windows, each with a high-backed wooden chair with arms. These desks are primarily lit from natural light coming through the windows, supported by the overhead lights. They benefit from plenty of sunlight, and from being right next to the warm radiators in winter and open windows in summer.

These spaces are perfect for those looking to social distance, or who simply work best alone. Please remember that these spaces can be pre-booked by individuals registered with the disability advisory service (a sign on the desk will mark it as reserved, if this is the case).

Single occupant desks are arranged by large windows with views outside.

There are also 2 single occupant desks which are height adjustable and served by an ergonomic chair. One is on the edge of the ground floor reading room, near the enquiries desk. The other is on the first floor, between the top of the stairs and the PCAS machines.

A height adjustable desk, complete with ergonomic chair and daylight lamp – perfectly located for using the PCAS machines!

Turville-Petre Room

The English Faculty Library also has one more reading space, which may not be immediately obvious to our readers. We have a dedicated room to hold our Icelandic/Old Norse literature and language collections, known as the Turville-Petre Room. To access it (and the materials therein), readers must come to the enquiries desk and temporarily swap their Bodleian Reader’s card for a ‘TP card’. We’ll then show you down to use the Turville-Petre room.

This is a small study space. The walls are lined with caged books and one large desk fills the centre of the room, with capacity for up to 8 readers (seated on bamboo and wicker chairs). The room is lit by overhead lights and large windows on one wall.

This room provides excellent access for those referencing Icelandic and Old Norse materials.

The Turville-Petre Room is a cosy study space for those referencing the collections.

Special Collections Spotlight

Welcome to the first Special Collections blog post! I’m Katie, the Senior Library Assistant for Collections.

With all the English Faculty Library rare book collections moving off-site by the time of our Schwartzman Centre move in 2025, we’ve been going through, boxing to archival standard, and admiring our hoard. With over 6000 books in the Rare Books Room alone, there’s a lot to do! We had the idea to use this overview to highlight cool, unique, weird, and otherwise fun stuff in our rare book collections!

Therefore, to make light of the amount of work still ahead of us, I decided to kick these updates off with one of our goofiest holdings – the 1940 edition of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot.

This is the first illustrated edition, which is what drew me to it on the shelf (as well as my childhood love for Macavity the Mystery Cat!). The dustjacket had started to crumble away with time, so after this first photo was taken I jacketed it (with library-grade materials, an easily-reversible process) to support and protect it – we don’t want to lose our handsome cat couple! Illustrated in full by Nicolas Bentley, each poem receives its own full-page illustration, as well as closing with an outline of a cat.

The opening of the poem 'Mr Mistoffelees' on the right page, with a full page illustration on the left. A black cat - Mr Mistoffelees - is pulling a kitten out of a cat, surrounded by six more kittens in various stages of disarray.

‘Mr. Mistoffelees’. Which kitten best expresses how you feel today? I would say I’m the orange one tangled in yarn.

However, it wasn’t just these great illustrations that drew me to this item, but the fact in the back there was a piece of publishing paraphernalia; just a fun extra, or so I thought…

A sheet of faded paper on a black background. 'Faber Book News' is written at the top, and then a description of the cat Morgan who lived outside their publishing house. Instead of writing the word 'cat', a black outline has been drawn.

Page from Faber and Faber’s 1951 Autumn/Winter catalogue, discussing Cat Morgan.

Faded sheet of white paper, with the heading 'Faber Book News' in red, showing the poem 'Cat Morgan introduces himself'.

The poem ‘Cat Morgan introduces himself’.

Despite the pretence, Morgan was, of course, not the author of either work; T.S. Eliot wrote the poem, ‘Cat Morgan Introduces Himself’, while Morley Kennerley, one of the Faber and Faber board members, wrote the introduction upon receipt of the poem, ‘without any thought whatsoever, for I simply haven’t had time’ (The Poems of T.S. Eliot p75), as part of the publishing houses 1951 Autumn/Winter catalogue. This catalogue was the first time this poem was published; it was not incorporated into Practical Cats until 1953. Morgan, a generous cat, also chose not to assert his copyright, (“Morgan’s verses may be reproduced without his permission”), allowing the poem to subsequently be republished in multiple newspapers at the time. To enable this during post-war paper shortages, ‘[Morgan] is sympathetic to the problem of others and has so arranged his natural history that the first and last verses form an entity when printed by themselves”.

However, despite the initial kind waiver of copyright, it’s still rather valuable – and there was no record that the EFL had a copy of Morgan hidden away with his fellow Practical Cats. Just like the real Cat Morgan, it seems to have found its way here with mysterious provenance, but now it’s turned up, we all love it just as much (and have added a note to the record, to acknowledge his fine presence). What other secrets may be hiding away inside the books of the Rare Books Room?

A orange cat, spotted with inky-blue, is dancing on his hind legs. One leg is raised off the floor, and both front paws are over his head in delight. In the background you can see the foot of the conductor, who is copying the cat's dance.

Me, upon finding this cool item! (Actually the main illustration from ‘Shimbleshanks: The Railway Cat’.)

Unfortunately, while the letter says, ‘Photographs of authors available’, I can’t turn up any pictures of the original Cat Morgan. This elegant outline in the sheet, showing his rich black fur, is the closest we’ll visually get (at least for now), leaving each of us to imagine the finest black cat we can.

References and further reading

  • Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. Available (in multiple editions) in the library.
  • ‘Cat Morgan Introduces Himself’. Another copy is available at the Weston.
  • The Poems of T.S. Eliot (vol. 2). This includes more information about the history of the real Cat Morgan. The most relevant extracts can be found on pages 75-77. Available in the library.
  • 1940s‘, Faber and Faber website. No direct mentions of Cat Morgan, but discussion of T.S. Eliot’s time at the publishing house on Russell Square.

Fantasy and Science Fiction at the EFL

You’ll have (hopefully!) seen that we recently posted our new book round-up for October on the blog. But those aren’t the only books that arrived at the library – far from it! A number of fantasy and science fiction books also made their EFL debuts last month. Here you’ll find a few highlights that showcase the breadth of these new books, as well as some of their similarities.

The selections below range in style from high fantasy to dystopian future, incorporating visions of war, social breakdown, and eco-terrorism. But like all good science fiction and fantasy, although these books explore new worlds and possible futures they also speak to the issues and challenges we face today.

The main issue: climate crisis. All these writers are exploring what a world ravaged by climate change might look like, and how – or even if – humanity can respond. While some are more hopeful than others, they all ultimately ask the question: what if it’s too late to change our future?

Interested in finding out more? These books barely scratch the surface of the EFL’s collection! You can browse our newest fantasy and science fiction books on LibraryThing (as ever, you can also have a look at all our new books if you’d prefer) and remember to keep an eye on the new books display in the library too. Or read on for helpful pointers about some of the reference guides, films and other resources at the EFL, as well as a reminder of last year’s Fantasy Fiction: Scattered Seeds virtual display …

The Books

Cover image: N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth SeasonN. K. Jemisin, The Broken Earth Trilogy: The Fifth Season (2015), The Obelisk Gate (2016), and The Stone Sky (2017)

Each year, the Hugo Award is presented to the best science fiction or fantasy work published in the preceding calendar year. With The Broken Earth trilogy, Jemisin became the first African American writer to win the prize, the first author to win three years in a row, and the first to win for each book in a trilogy. It’s easy to see why!

The story is set in a supercontinent called Stillness, home to many races and species. Among them are orogenes who have the power to control energy, meaning they can, for example, prevent earthquakes and manipulate temperatures. Because of their power, the orogenes are feared and misunderstood, often persecuted and even murdered. But now, Stillness is experiencing what is known as the ‘Fifth Season’, a period of immense climate catastrophe which comes around every few centuries. Huge clouds of ash darken the sky, civilisations collapse, and resources are scarce. Across the trilogy, we follow three orogene women who must ultimately decide: does the apocalypse offer a chance to fix what is broken and build a new world, or is destroying what is corrupt once and for all the only option left?

Throughout the trilogy Jemisin holds a mirror to our world, reflecting racial and religious intolerance as well as climate change and environmental issues. But it cannot be denied that The Broken Earth series is a masterful and gripping adventure story too!  

Cover image: Octavia Butler's Parable of the SowerOctavia E. Butler, Earthseed series: Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998)

Butler (1947-2006) wrote 11 novels in total, including Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998). Together these two novels form the Earthseed series.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future (beginning in the far-off year 2024!), they lay bare the dangers and potential consequences of climate change, social inequality, and religious extremism. In Parable of the Sower, faced with the breakdown of society, one girl tries to find a different way to live, establishing her own religion and setting up a new community. In Parable of the Talents, Butler explores how this new community comes into conflict with the right-wing fundamentalist Christians and populist politicians who dominate the political landscape.

Although she was writing in the 1990s, Butler’s vision remains an all-too-plausible future. She describes a world in which basic commodities like water have become scarce and unaffordable luxuries, where physical walls separate rich from poor (or rather, just-surviving from destitute), and where a populist president rises to power with the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’. Taken as a whole, the Earthseed series not only exposes the dangers that could yet lie in our future, but proposes alternative philosophical and religious solutions to them.

There are many books by Butler at the EFL. You can browse them on SOLO.

Cover image: Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup GirlPaolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (2010)

The Windup Girl is Bacigalupi’s first novel and in 2010 it won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. The story is set in the twenty-second century, in a world that is fighting environmental collapse and where corporate bioterrorism is rife.

In a break from common science fiction templates, Bacigalupi does not locate his narrative in America or the west. Instead, the action takes place in Bangkok, where rising water levels are just-about kept at bay against a backdrop of isolationist policies in Thailand aimed at avoiding the worst of the dystopian excesses that have taken root elsewhere. That includes a ban on ‘New People’, genetically modified humans created to obey and serve – like Emiko, the ‘windup girl’ of the title, who has been abandoned in Bangkok by the Japanese businessman who bought her, leaving her with no choice but to work in a brothel and try to avoid the authorities.

With themes of climate change, ecology, and environmental destruction, Bacigalupi deftly explores issues of gender, race and corporate greed without suggesting that humanity will somehow magically solve our tendencies towards intolerance, selfishness and cruelty. In this captivating debut, Bacigalupi has undoubtedly created ‘a realistic plunge into a plausible future’ (from Travelfish review).

Also by Bacigalupi at the EFL: The Water Knife (2016).

Cover image: Jeff Vandermeer's Hummingbird SalamanderJeff Vandermeer, Hummingbird Salamander (2021)

Hummingbird Salamander follows ‘Jane Smith’ (not her real name), a cybersecurity guard and suburban mom in the American Pacific Northwest who one day receives a mysterious package containing a key, an address, and the number seven. She pieces together the clues to find a taxidermy hummingbird, which leads her deep into the dark worlds of eco-terrorism and wildlife trafficking and propels her towards a realisation of the extent of humanity’s exploitation of our planet.

Vandermeer’s setting is intriguing too. While clearly set in the future, initially that future doesn’t seem too remote. There are mentions of climate refugees and unusually intense storms but, much like Jane, we’ve become desensitised to the crisis that these events portend. It’s only as the story progresses and Jane’s quest becomes more urgent that we fully grasp the scale and inevitability of the climate crisis hurtling towards us.

Undeniably Jane is not a sympathetic character. She is selfish and single-minded, and her often-inexplicable decisions frequently put innocent people and those she loves in danger. But at the same time, her story is fascinating and engrossing, and the question it poses – whether we have realised too late the enormity of the disaster we face – should give us all pause.  

Also by Vandermeer at the EFL: Wonderbook: An Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction (2013). Illustrated by Jeremy Zerfoss.

Cover image: Omar El Akkad's American WarOmar El Akkad, American War (2018)

American War is set in the late twenty-first century and concerns the events of the Second American Civil War. The root cause of the conflict is climate breakdown: while most of the USA has outlawed fossil fuels, some southern states refuse and attempt to secede from the union. However, the Civil War itself is only one aspect of the narrative.

The story is an allegorical reflection of America’s meddling in other countries’ affairs, and an exploration of how war and trauma lead to extremism and terrorism. By considering the circumstances in which extremism emerges El Akkad aims not to inspire sympathy for terrorists, but to facilitate an understanding of how ordinary people can be dehumanised and radicalised by conflict.

This central message is intriguing, yet its universalising aspects are arguably carried too far into the narrative itself. Many reviewers have observed that the story doesn’t seem very rooted in its American South setting, and that the main character, Sarat, appears neither very American nor very naunced (from the Guardian’s review and The Atlantic’s review). Even so, set against a backdrop of climate change and the horrors of war, American War is a chilling cautionary tale extrapolated from the Middle East of today to the America of fifty years hence. 

Cover image: Kim Stanley Robinson's New York 2140Kim Stanley Robinson, New York 2140 (2018)

It’s a common image in disaster movies as much as science fiction: the world is crumbling, and New York stands (or falls) as a totemic symbol of either catastrophe or resilience. As overused and omnipresent as this trope can be – not least for the unfortunate New Yorkers who seem to have fallen victim to every apocalypse-level event imaginable – Robinson succeeds in putting a new spin on it.

In the year 2140, sea levels have risen 50 feet, leaving huge swathes of New York underwater. But it’s not only an inhospitable climate that twenty-second century New Yorkers face. The world Robinson creates is a consequence of (and continues to suffer under) our current financial systems and rampant toxic capitalism, of which climate change is but a symptom. Nevertheless, people have not abandoned the city, though admittedly they’ve retreated from the lower floors of buildings! Robinson focuses on the inhabitants of one skyscraper and how they both cope with the new world order and ultimately seek to change it.

The potential for change in Robinson’s narrative should not be understated. While many books (including many of the selections here) present a dystopian vision of a climate-ravaged future, Robinson keeps his narrative tinged with optimism, underpinned by a fundamental belief in people’s ability to come together. As one reviewer said, ‘beneath its anger at toxic capitalism and its despair over inadequate environmental measures is the thread of hope that somehow, maybe, we might yet balance the boat enough to make it through the ruins’ (from NPR review).  

Also by Robinson at the EFL: The Ministry for the Future (2020).

Hungry for more?

If you’d like to learn more about fantasy and science fiction literature, there’s plenty of resources available at the EFL, including a wealth of reference material, films and online databases.

The reference material available includes books such as:

  • The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature (2012). Available online and in the library.
  • The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (2003). Available online and in the library.
  • Richard Mathews, Fantasy: the liberation of imagination (2011). Available online and in the library.
  • Patrick Parrinder, Learning from Other Worlds: Estrangement, Cognition, and the Politics of Science Fiction and Utopia (2000). Available in the library.
Cover images, clockwise from top left: The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature; The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction; Learning from Other Worlds by Patrick Parrinder; and Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination by Richard Mathews

Clockwise from top left: The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature; The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction; Learning from Other Worlds by Patrick Parrinder; and Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination by Richard Mathews

Beyond Books

Although books are great (obviously!) maybe you’re interested in fantasy and science fiction on film and TV? There are loads of online resources and databases available through the library. Some are freely available, such as films you can watch free on the BFI player, but you can get access to even more with your Oxford Single Sign-On (SSO).

Through Box of Broadcasts (BoB, also known as Learning On Screen), for example, you can access over 2 million TV and radio broadcasts from channels including BBC One, Two and Four, Channel 4, Film4, and ten foreign language channels. You can find a range of fantasy and science fiction programmes here, from the classic 1953 adaptation of The War of the Worlds and the first episode of Doctor Who (‘An Unearthly Child’, 1963) to documentaries such as 2014’s Tomorrow’s Worlds: The Unearthly History of Science Fiction. Bear in mind that these programmes are available for educational purposes, and do look over the BoB terms and conditions if you want to use any of the material in your work.  

Homepages for Box of Broadcasts (top) and Kanopy (bottom)

Homepages for Box of Broadcasts (top) and Kanopy (bottom)

Another site you have access to with your Oxford SSO is Kanopy. Kanopy have partnered with libraries and universities to provide ‘thoughtful entertainment … with no fees and no commercials’, for everyone ‘from film scholars to casual viewers’ (from Kanopy’s website). There’s an enormous range of films available, from early- and mid-twentieth-century films like Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) to cult classics such as Donnie Darko (2001) and more recent offerings like No Men Beyond This Point (2015), a mockumentary which explores a world where men are no longer needed for reproduction and face extinction.

These resources – and all the other databases you can access through the library – can be found on the Bodleian’s Databases A-Z page. If browsing all 1,700 databases at once is a little too much, try filtering by subject – you could narrow it down to databases relating to English or Film Studies for example.

A screenshot of the Databases A-Z page filtered for databases relating to English, with a red circle in the top left highlighting the drop-down menu to filter by subject

The Databases A-Z list, filtered to show databases relating to English

Scattered Seeds

Did you catch the Fantasy Fiction: Scattered Seeds virtual display in January? Written by last year’s EFL Graduate Trainee, it’s a deep-dive blog post exploring the growth and transformations of the fantasy genre from ‘Scattered Seeds’ and ‘Classic Roots’ to ‘Branching Out’.

It begins with The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, a short tale dating from Middle Egypt (2040 – 1782 BCE) and arguably the world’s oldest work of fantasy. You can read the story online or find it at the Sackler Library. From that original seed of the genre, we jump to more scattered ones with the advent of mainstream film and TV in the twentieth century. In fact, one of the oldest examples of fantasy on screen is the 1924 film The Thief of Baghdad, which is available in the EFL’s film collection. The blog post also includes a discussion of fantasy in gaming, from videogames like The Witcher to table-top RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons.

And finally …

What I hope this (very long!) post has shown is that there is huge variety in fantasy and science fiction, from books through films and TV to gaming, and that there is an enormous wealth of resources available at the EFL.

All of these works are incredible stories full of adventure and often not a little magic. But whether they look to the future or new imagined worlds, the best of the genre also say something about the world we live in today. They prompt us to think about our choices and the consequences of our decisions, to recognise and perhaps change our prejudices and preconceptions; more than anything, they inspire us to creativity and to see the world – and ourselves – in a different light.


International Women’s Day: Book Review

Greer, Germaine, Shakespeare’s Wife (London: Bloomsbury, 2007)

The front cover of Shakespeare's Wife by Germaine Greer.

Women are too often defined by men. This is the central contention of Germain Greer’s Shakespeare’s Wife, which reappraises the enduring aspersions cast over Ann Shakespeare’s worthiness of her husband. The book serves as a rescue mission in its attempt to balance the history books through an initial scoping of a neglected literary trend – that is, with the exception of certain protestant reformers, the wives of great authors from Socrates thereafter are ignored or vilified by virtue of their marriage.

“Until our own time, history focused on man the achiever; the higher the achiever the more likely it was that the woman who slept in his bed would be judged unworthy of his company.”

Greer acknowledges that the scant available evidence from which to paint a complete picture of the woman who supposedly trapped William Shakespeare in a union he resented cuts both ways. Just as the unflattering representations of Ann that come down to us over the centuries rely in part on artistic licence to fill in the gaps, so too does Greer indulge in a degree of interpretive heavy lifting to argue Ann’s case from a position of parity.

“No one has ever undertaken a systematic review of the evidence against Ann Shakespeare, while every opportunity to caricature and revile her has been exploited to risible lengths.”

No new evidence is revealed to us, no unknown archive unlocked to categorically dismiss the assertion that an unfavorable age differential, or educational divide, led to a dysfunctional relationship. But neither is such a discovery required in order to inject our largely circumstantial understanding of the Shakepeares’ domestic life with some level-headed pragmatism. Is it too much to say that in the social context of Elizabethan Warwickshire a union between Shakespeare and Hathaway was less unusual than assumed; or that an 18-year-old William may have wooed and won a 26-year-old Ann, rather than the other way around?

The book has a remarkable ability to turn established, prejudicial thinking on its head with a straightforward line of questioning: the effect of trailblazing revisionism is achieved simply by re-walking a well-trodden path with a different perspective. The result is a volume that champions the right for women both past and present to be given a fair hearing. Deborah Hicks of the University of Alberta concludes her review as follows: “This excellent portrait of an early modern woman in all of her richness and complexity belongs in academic and larger public libraries.” As such, you can find a copy in the EFL at PR2906.G74 GRE 2007.



Hicks, Deborah, “Shakespeare’s Wife (Book Review)“, Library Journal, 133 (2008), pp. 83