Like @ SAC! Tutankhamun at the Sackler Library: Excavating the Archive


‘Yes, wonderful things’(?)
A Book Display at the Sackler Library

By Susanne Woodhouse


Fig. 1: The Tutankhamun book display at the Sackler Library. Image credit: S. Woodhouse


In 1922, as Egypt moved towards becoming an independent nation, the tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered at Luxor. The excavation of the tomb by Howard Carter and his team developed into a media event and was photographed by Harry Burton (1879–1940), from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The prints and negatives became part of an archive created by the excavators, along with letters, plans, drawings and diaries. When Carter died in 1939, he bequeathed most of his estate to his niece, Phyllis Walker (1897–1977), including the archaeological records. Following the advice of Egyptologists Alan H. Gardiner (1879–1963) and Percy E. Newberry (1869–1949), who had both been on the team, Walker presented the documentation, with associated copyright, to the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford, in 1945. The physical archive remains in Oxford and can be freely explored online, allowing scholars from across the world to continually reassess the burial and its discovery (Rosenow, Parkinson 2022: 8).

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in November 1922, Griffith Institute staff, working with Bodleian Libraries staff, created the exhibition Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive which can be seen at the Weston Library until 5 February 2023. (Fig. 2A). The accompanying publication (Fig. 2B) provides an overview of the archive, featuring 50 key items.



In conjunction with both anniversary and Weston Library exhibition, the current Tutankhamun book display at the Sackler Library (Oxford’s central repository for research publications on Egyptology) showcases a selection of works from its collections (Fig. 1). The items are organised into four thematic groups, with relevant new publications added throughout the duration of the display. Special features of this Sackler book display also include the facsimiles of two drawings by Carter; of Carter’s 1922 excavation diary in which he noted the discovery of the first step of an unknown tomb on 4 November; and of a photo album sold to tourists during the clearance of the tomb (Fig. 3).



Fig. 3: Items from the Howard Carter Archive (facsimiles). Image credit: S. Woodhouse


The publication group “The Excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb and its finds” sets the scene with the authoritative work The tomb of Tut.ankh.Amen: discovered by the late Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter, published in three volumes between 1923 and 1933 by Howard Carter and Arthur Mace (1874-1928). The first volume, opened at page 96 (Fig. 4), features in the centre of the display: here, the reader will find the magic words ‘Yes, wonderful things’, supposedly uttered by Carter when glimpsing, through a small breach in the doorway into the Antechamber of the tomb, and making out, in the flickering light of a candle, golden beds in various animal shapes, exquisite furniture, alabaster vessels and food containers. The b/w photo (Plate XV, opposite page 96) captures Carter’s view. However, according to his Excavation Journal (26 November 1922), held in the Griffith Institute Archive, Carter replied ‘Yes, it is wonderful’, casting doubt on the precise wording of his comment (James 2006: 253); the Weston Library exhibition catalogue leans more towards the version given in the Excavation Journal, written close to the events (Parkinson 2022: 40-41) and not intended for the general public.


Fig. 4: ‘Yes, wonderful things’ (Carter, H., Mace, A. C. (1923): 96. Image credit: S. Woodhouse


When concerns regarding media access and the constant stream of visitors to the small tomb came to a head between Carter and the Egyptian Antiquities Service in February 1924, Carter and his team departed from the site mid-season, leaving behind the heavy coffin lid hanging from the scaffolding above the coffin. In a statement underpinned by documents for private circulation Carter sets forth his line of action. With only a few dozen copies printed, this historic document was reprinted and introduced by N. Reeves in 1998 (Fig. 5).

These events also feature in a then little-known publication, ‘Schlagzeile Tutenchamun’ in which the author retraces the general media coverage of the discovery of the tomb received in the world press, including in Germany (Fig. 6).



Once recorded by Carter and his team, the finds were crated and shipped to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo at the end of each excavation season, for immediate display. Curious travellers calling on Carter for a tour of the tomb were referred to the Tutankhamun collection at the Egyptian Museum. In 1926 the first catalogue of the permanently displayed objects was published (Fig. 7), serving interested visitors as a gallery guide. Future supplements of the catalogue were to include newly added objects.


Fig. 8: Drawing of the four sides of all four nested shrines which enclosed the coffin (Piankoff 1951-1952: pl. 22). Image credit: S. Woodhouse


The popular account ‘The tomb of Tut.ankh.Amen’ was Carter’s only monograph on this subject. Although he continued adding to the excavation files, the planned multi-volume work dedicated to the finds never materialised. Owning the publication rights, Carter was in a position to ask colleagues for help with this colossal task but it doesn’t seem he ever did. After his death in 1939 the rights, together with his papers, were transferred to his niece who subsequently deeded them to the Griffith Institute in 1945. Finally, in 1951 the first scholarly monograph, dedicated to one object group from the tomb, was published by Alexandre Piankoff, a specialist in religious texts.


In the introduction to ‘Les chapelles de Tout-Ankh-Amon’ (Fig. 8) the author recalls how during WWII the Director General of the Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte suggested he prepare a study of the texts on these four shrines, and how afterwards Oxford-based Alan Gardiner granted Piankoff the publication rights. An expanded English version was published in 1955 (Fig. 9).


Fig. 9: The second golden shrine (Piankoff 1955). Image credit: S. Woodhouse


In her extensive study of the iconic photographs produced by Harry Burton, Christina Riggs calls them ‘the most famous and compelling archaeological images ever made’ (Fig. 10). She describes the technical aspects of producing glass negatives and the difficult working conditions under which Burton took well over 3,000 shots.


Fig. 10: Harry Burton’s photo of Tutankhamun’ coffin being examined (Riggs 2019: fig. 7.1). Image credit: S. Woodhouse


Sumptuous colour images of the objects were published in 2007 in the form of a coffee-table book, the product of a  successful cooperation between the photographer Sandro Vannini and the Egyptologist Zahi Hawass (Fig. 11).

Once Carter’s papers and the publication rights were transferred to the Griffith Institute, Alan Gardiner worked tirelessly on having the tomb content published; this is the topic of the second thematic group on display: “Tutankhamun and Oxford”. The Griffith Institute did not have the financial means required for the multi-volume scholarly publication of the tomb finds (Fox 1951: Preface; Eaton-Krauss 2020: 17) and the outbreak of the Egyptian Revolution in 1952 put an end to Gardiner’s efforts to find the necessary funding in Egypt (James 2006: 445; Eaton-Krauss 2020: 217-218).



In 1951 Oxford University Press published ‘Tutankhamun’s treasure’, written by the Griffith Institute’s Assistant Secretary Penelope Fox and highlighting various objects from the tomb (Fig. 12). Although this book was not the ultimate publication Alan Gardiner had in mind, it was the first monograph dedicated to the tomb’s finds produced in Oxford.

Eleven years later the Griffith Institute finally published its first object-focused study. ‘Tutankhamun’s painted  box’ is the result of a collaboration between the preeminent copyist and illustrator Nina de Garis Davies (1881-1965), who painted facsimiles of all five decorated surfaces of the box, and Alan Gardiner, who wrote the introduction (Fig. 13).


Fig. 13: Panel of a box from the tomb of Tutankhamun, copied by Nina de Garis Davies (Davies, Gardiner 1962). Image credit: Griffith Institute


Finally, in 1963 the Griffith Institute’s Tutʿankhamūn’s Tomb Series (Fig. 14) was launched and a total of nine monographs were published until 1990 when the series was discontinued (Eaton-Krauss 2020: 218-219). Since this date the Griffith Institute has published further definitive monographs on specific object groups from the tomb, though these are no longer part of a series.


Fig. 14: Tutʿankhamūn’s Tomb Series (v. 9 was on loan at the time the image was taken). Image credit: S. Woodhouse


Fig. 15: Catalogue for the Tutankhamun exhibition at the British Museum in 1972 (Edwards 1972b). Image credit: S. Woodhouse

Titled “Tutankhamun and the British Museum” the third publication group on display centres on one of the most iconic exhibitions ever shown in the UK. With 1,602,000 visitors, it was the most successful exhibition at the British Museum to date. In 1972, after years of preparations and negotiations, the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the tomb was celebrated with a special exhibition at the British Museum; 50 objects from the tomb were on show, including the golden mask. The cover of the accompanying exhibition catalogue shows an intimate scene between the King and his Queen from a gilded shrine, framed in shades of orange and brown typical for the time (Fig. 15). In a contemporary BBC 4 documentary Magnus Magnusson introduced viewers to the exhibition. The proceeds from this  — £600,000 (today’s value £7,6m) — helped pay for the rescue of the temples at Philae (Edwards 1972a: 10; Zaki 2017: 86).


In 1992, the 70th anniversary of the tomb’s discovery, the British Museum showcased Howard Carter’s 30 years of work in Egypt prior to 1922. The exhibition was an academic and popular success (Fig. 16).


Having known families of colleagues as well as close contacts of Carter and having been granted unique access to their papers, T.G.H. James (1923-2009), Deputy Keeper of the Egyptian Department at the British Museum at the time of the 1972 blockbuster, wrote an authoritative biography on Carter (James 2006: Fig. 17). This publication was followed by a lavishly illustrated book in which he discusses objects from the tomb (James 2007).

Aspects addressed in the fourth thematic group on display, “Reception of Tutankhamun”, are Egyptomania (Fig. 18), literature, Egypt’s nationalist movement, and tourism in Egypt in the wake of the discovery of the tomb.


Fig. 18: A Cartier brooch inspired by Tutankhamun’s head, shown emerging from a lotus flower (Humbert, Pantazzi, Ziegler 1994: cat. No. 366). Image credit: S. Woodhouse


Susanne Woodhouse
Subject Librarian for Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies
Bodleian Libraries

With the assistance of Jenna Ilett
Graduate Library Trainee
Bodleian Libraries



Eaton-Krauss, M. (2020) ‘Publications in monographic form of the ‘treasure’ of Tutankhamun, 1952-2020′, Göttinger Miszellen, 262, pp. 217-225.

Eaton-Krauss, M. (2014) ‘Impact of the discovery of KV62 (The Tomb of Tutankhamun)’, KMT, 25.1, pp. 29-37.

Rosenow, D. and Parkinson, R.B. (2022) ‘Tutankhamun: The Oxford Archive’, Scribe. The American Research Center in Egypt, 58, 8–11.

Zaki, A. A. (2017) ‘Tutankhamun Exhibition at the British Museum in 1972: a historical perspective’, Journal of Tourism Theory and Research, 3(2), 2017, 80-88. DOI: 10.24288/jttr.312180

Displayed books

Baines, J. and el-Khouli, A. (1993) Stone vessels, pottery and sealings from the tomb of Tutʿankhamūn. Oxford: Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum.

Beinlich, H., Saleh, M. and Murray, H. (1989) Corpus der hieroglyphischen Inschriften aus dem Grab des Tutanchamun : mit Konkordanz der Nummernsysteme des “Journal d’Entrée” des Ägyptischen Museums Kairo, der Handlist to Howard Carter’s catalogue of objects in Tutʿankhamūn’s Tomb und der Ausstell. Oxford: Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum.

Broschat, K. and Schutz, M. (2021) Iron from Tutankhamun’s tomb. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.

Carter, H. (1998) Tut·ankh·amen : the politics of discovery. London: Libri.

Carter, H. and Mace, A.C. (1923-1933) The tomb of Tut.ankh.Amen discovered by the late Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter. 3 vols. London ; New York: Cassell.

Černý, J. (1965) Hieratic inscriptions from the tomb of Tutʿankhamūn. Oxford: Griffith Institute (Tutʿankhamūn’s Tomb Series ; 2).

Colla, E. (2007) Conflicted antiquities : Egyptology, Egyptomania, Egyptian modernity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Collins, P. and McNamara, L. (2014) Discovering Tutankhamun. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum.

Davies, N.M. and Gardiner, A.H. (1962) Tutankhamun’s painted box : reproduced in colour from the original in the Cairo Museum. Oxford: Griffith Institute.

Dobson, E. (2020) Writing the Sphinx : literature, culture and Egyptology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh critical studies in Victorian culture).

Eaton-Krauss, M. and Graefe, E. (1985) The small golden shrine from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Oxford : Atlantic Highlands, N.J: Griffith Institute ; Distributed in the U.S.A. by Humanities Press.

Eaton-Krauss, M. (1993) The sarcophagus in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Oxford: Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum.

Eaton-Krauss, M. and Segal, W. (2008) The thrones, chairs, stools, and footstools from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Oxford: Griffith Institute.

Edwards, I.E.S. (1972a) ‘The Tutankhamun exhibition’, British Museum Society Bulletin, 9, pp. 7-11.

Edwards, I.E.S. (1972b) Treasures of Tutankhamun. London: British Museum.

Fox, P. (1951) Tutankhamun’s treasure. London ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Gabolde, M. (2015) Toutankhamon. Paris: Pygmalion (Grands pharaons).

Germer, R. (1989) Die Pflanzenmaterialien aus dem Grab des Tutanchamun. Hildesheim: Gerstenberg (Hildesheimer ägyptologische Beiträge ; 28).

Haas Dantes, F. (2022) Transformation eines Königs : eine Analyse der Ausstattung von Tutanchamuns Mumie. S.l.: SCHWABE AG.

Hawass, Z.A. and Vannini, S. (2007) King Tutankhamun : the treasures of the tomb. London: Thames & Hudson.

Hepper, F.N. (2009) Pharaoh’s flowers : the botanical treasures of Tutankhamun. 2nd edn. Chicago ; London: KWS Pub.

Humbert, J.-M (2022) Art déco : Égyptomanie. Paris: Norma Éditions

Humbert, J.-M., Pantazzi, M. and Ziegler, C. (1994) Egyptomania : l’Égypte dans l’art occidental, 1730-1930. Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux.

James, T.G.H. (2006) Howard Carter : the path to Tutankhamun. Rev, pbk. London: Taurus Parke Paperbacks.

James, T.G.H. (2007) Tutankhamun : the eternal splendor of the boy pharaoh. Rev. Vercelli: White Star.

Jones, D. (1990) Model boats from the tomb of Tuʿtankhamūn. Oxford: Griffith Institute (Tutʿankhamūn’s Tomb Series ; 9).

Leek, F.F. (1972) The human remains from the tomb of Tutʿankhamūn. Oxford: Griffith Institute (Tutʿankhamūn’s Tomb Series ; 5).

Littauer, M.A. and Crouwel, J.H. (1985) Chariots and related equipment from the tomb of Tut’ankhamūn. Oxford : Atlantic Highlands, N.J: Griffith Institute ; Distributed in the U.S.A. by Humanities Press (Tutʿankhamūn’s Tomb Series ; 8).

Málek, J. (2007) Tutankhamun : the secrets of the tomb and the life of the Pharaohs. London: Carlton.

Manniche, L. (1976) Musical instruments from the tomb of Tut’ankhamūn. Oxford: Griffith Institute (Tutʿankhamūn’s Tomb Series ; 6).

Manniche, L. (2019) The ornamental calcite vessels from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Leuven: Peeters (Griffith Institute publications).

Matḥaf al-Miṣrī (1926) A short description of the objects from the tomb of Tutankhamum now exhibited in the Cairo Museum. [Cairo: Egyptian Museum].

McLeod, W. (1970) Composite bows from the tomb of Tut’ankhamūn. Oxford: Griffith Institute (Tutʿankhamūn’s Tomb Series ; 3).

McLeod, W. (1982) Self bows and other archery tackle from the tomb of Tutʿankhamūn. Oxford: Griffith Institute (Tutʿankhamūn’s Tomb Series ; 4).

Murray, H. and Nuttall, M. (1963) A handlist to Howard Carter’s catalogue of objects in Tutʿankhamūn’s tomb. Oxford: Printed for the Griffith Institute at the University Press by V. Ridler (Tutʿankhamūn’s Tomb Series ; 1).

Otto, A. (2005) Schlagzeile Tutenchamun : die publizistische Begleitung der Entdeckung und der Ausräumung des Grabes von Tutenchamun. Marburg: Tectum.

Parkinson, R.B. (ed.) (2022) Tutankhamun : excavating the archive. Oxford: Bodleian Library.

Piankoff, A. (1951-1952) Les chapelles de Tout-Ankh-Amon. Le Caire: Impr. de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale (Mémoires publiés par les membres de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale du Caire ; t.72).

Piankoff, A. and Rambova, N. (1955) The shrines of Tut-Ankh-Amon. New York: Pantheon Books (Bollingen Series ; 40:2).

Quaegebeur, J. and Cherpion, N. (1999) La naine et le bouquetin : ou l’énigme de la barque en albâtre de Toutankhamon. Leuven: Peeters.

Reeves, N. (1990) The complete Tutankhamun : the king, the tomb, the royal treasure. London: Thames and Hudson.

Reeves, N. and Taylor, J.H. (1992) Howard Carter before Tutankhamun. London: British Museum Press for the Trustees of the British Museum.

Reid, D.M. (2015) Contesting antiquity in Egypt : archaeologies, museums & the struggle for identities from World War I to Nasser. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.

Riggs, C. and Wace, R. (2017) Tutankhamun : the original photographs. London: Rupert Wace Ancient Art.

Riggs, C. (2019) Photographing Tutankhamun : archaeology, ancient Egypt, and the archive. London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts (Photography, history: history, photography).

Riggs, C. (2021) Treasured : how Tutankhamun shaped a century. London: Atlantic Books.

Tait, W.J. (1982) Game-boxes and accessories from the tomb of Tutʿankhamūn. Oxford: Griffith Institute (Tutʿankhamūn’s Tomb Series ; 7).

Vartavan, and Boodle, L.A. (1999) Hidden fields of Tutankhamun : from identification to interpretation of newly discovered plant material from the Pharaoh’s grave. London: Triade Exploration (Triade Exploration’s opus magnum series in the field of Egyptology ; 2).

Veldmeijer, A.J. (2010) Tutankhamun’s footwear : studies of ancient Egyptian footwear. Norg, Netherlands: Drukware.

Vogelsang-Eastwood, G., Hense, M. and Wilson, K. (1999) Tutankhamun’s wardrobe : garments from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Rotterdam: Barjesteh van Waalwijk van Doorn & Co’s.

Wilkinson, T. (2022) Tutankhamun’s trumpet : the story of ancient Egypt in 100 objects. London: Picador.


Like @ Sac! – Black History Month Book Display


Black History Month has its origins in ‘Negro History Week’, established by historian Carter G. Woodson in the US in February 1926.  It steadily grew in popularity in the decades to come before becoming Black History Month as we know it in 1970.  It finally crossed The Pond in 1987 with its establishment in the UK by Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo.  The aim of the month is to commemorate important figures and events in the African Diaspora.

To celebrate Black History Month, we’ve set up a book display in the foyer of the Sackler.  The books featured in the display cover topics ranging from the work of black artists in 20th Century Britain, to the representation of race in art; and from the influence of Africa upon Western culture in antiquity, to the existence – or absence – of racism in the ancient world.

First of all, the display features a number of books on the art of eminent black artists. Yinka Shonibare – a British-Nigerian artist known for his work with brightly-coloured Dutch wax fabric ­– is particularly prominent (Yinka Shonibare MBE, Yinka Shonibare: Double Dutch).  Wifredo Lam (Wifredo Lam: Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work), a Cuban painter who melded Afro-Cuban culture with the radical artistic styles of the 20th Century, also features.  Finally, Black Artists in British Art: A History since the 1950s provides an overview of the contributions of black artists to the modern British art scene.

Inverting the focus, the display also includes a number of books on black people in art.  Readers looking to explore representations of Blackness in art over time need look no further than The Image of the Black in Western Art, a 10-volume series (of which 3 feature in our display) that exhaustively documents 5000 years of black people in art.  A more geographically-specific take on artistic representations of race can be found in Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico, a beautifully illustrated analysis of paintings of racial mixing among Africans, members of the indigenous population and Spaniards in colonial Mexico and the racial dynamics showcased in these images.

Moving out of art and into antiquity, the display includes books representative of two thorny debates within classical scholarship.   The first of these is the infamous Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization.  In it, Martin Bernal makes the claim that ancient Greece was colonized by Egyptians and Phoenicians, and that from the 18th Century this influence was systematically obscured by Western academia.  Also included in the display is Black Athena Revisited, a collection of critical essays written in response to Bernal’s claims – a small sample of the scholarly firestorm that erupted following the publication of Bernal’s first volume in 1987.  Finally, African Athena is a more recent edited collection that seeks to re-open the debate while simultaneously moving beyond it, shifting its terms to focus on the intersections between the Greco-Roman world and Africa and the Middle East, and implications of those intersections.  The second debate featured in the display is the question of whether racism as we conceive of it today existed in classical antiquity.  In Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks, Frank Snowden contends that African blacks, far from being looked down upon, were in fact respected by Mediterranean Caucasians for their martial and mercantile prowess.  Representing the other side of the debate is The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity, in which Benjamin Isaac seeks to refute the view that the prejudice of ancient Greeks and Romans was merely cultural, not racial.

We hope that this display serves to highlight both the achievements of individual black artists and the influence of the African diaspora on Western culture more widely.  Furthermore, we hope that it illuminates some of the ways in which race plays a part in the subject areas covered by the Sackler’s collections.  The display will run until the end of the month, but the bibliography will remain accessible on this blog post.

Ben Gable, Graduate Trainee, Sackler Library

We welcome suggestions for future book displays.  Please speak to a Reader Services staff member if you are interested.


Bernal, Martin. 1987. Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. London: Free Association Books.

Bindman, David, Henry Louis Gates, and Karen C. C. Dalton. 2010. The Image of the Black in Western Art. New ed. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Chambers, Eddie. 2014. Black Artists in British Art: A History since the 1950s. London: I.B. Tauris.

Isaac, Benjamin H. 2004. The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Katzew, Ilona. 2004. Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico. New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press.

Kent, Rachel, Robert Carleton Hobbs, Anthony Downey, and Yinka Shonibare. 2014. Yinka Shonibare MBE. Revised and updated ed. London: Prestel.

Lam, Wifredo, Lou Laurin-Lam, and Eskil Lam. 1996. Wifredo Lam: Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work. Lausanne: Acatos.

Lefkowitz, Mary R. and Guy MacLean Rogers. 1996. Black Athena Revisited. Chapel Hill; London: University of North Carolina Press.

Mosaka, Tumelo, Annie Paul, and Nicollette Ramirez. 2007. Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art. New York: Brooklyn Museum in association with Philip Wilson Publishers.

Orrells, Daniel, Gurminder K. Bhambra, and Tessa Roynon. 2011. African Athena: New Agendas. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pinder, Kymberly N. 2002. Race-ing Art History: Critical Readings in Race and Art History. London: Routledge.

Shonibare, Yinka, Jaap Guldemond, Gabriele Mackert, and Barbera van Kooij. 2004. Yinka Shonibare: Double Dutch. Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Snowden, Frank M. 1983. Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Like @ Sac! – Staff favourites book display


As Trinity term draws to a close and vacation begins, it is time for another book display in the Sackler Library. Previous book displays related to celebratory months and days (LGBT History Month and International Women’s Day), but this time I decided to try something different by asking library staff members to choose a favourite publication housed in the Sackler Library. This criterion was deliberately left broad so staff could choose any format of physical item (monograph, periodical issue, pamphlet, catalogue…) on any topic within the library. I also asked staff to write a few lines about why the book was important and/or special to them.

The response was fascinating, with several library staff members immediately presenting me with their favourite book and sharing the story behind their connection with it. In the end, I have been able to display books chosen by a range of staff members, including reader services staff, subject librarians, supervisors and even our operations manager. There was a variety of reasons why people chose the books they did, but a couple of common themes emerged: books that were crucial to academic studies, and books that reminded people of a place that was special to them.

As with previous book displays, part of the aim is to showcase different disciplines and areas of interest together in one place to spark interest and ideas in readers. The display is also a chance for readers to connect more with staff and to remember that we interact with and appreciate the collections here, too.

Below is a list of the chosen books, along with the words written about each one. The books themselves are now on the display, each one captioned by the words people wrote to go with them. Some of these captions have been expanded here to tell the fuller story, and one or two should appear as full Like @ Sac! posts on the blog in good time.

I have enjoyed hearing these stories, and I hope the readers will appreciate them, too, as they browse the display, which is located opposite the issue desk and will run for a few weeks.


Books on display:

Aeschylus, & Fraenkel, E., 1962. Agamemnon, Oxford.

“We are very lucky in the Sackler, as the set on the Lower Ground Floor was the one that belonged to Fraenkel himself. This gives our copy a unique connection to an important period in the history of Classics in Oxford. Eduard Fraenkel was a hugely influential figure: a refugee scholar (he lost his German university post as a result of the Nazi anti-Semitic laws in 1933) he was invited to Oxford, given an academic position, and later became Corpus Professor of Latin. He brought the German style of commentary on Classical authors to an English-speaking audience and his influence on Classical philology cannot be overstated.

His ‘Agamemnon’ seminar became legendary; including in its alumnae the novelist Iris Murdoch, who wrote a poem about her experience, ‘Agamemnon Class, 1939′. By all accounts Fraenkel was both inspirational and terrifying (sometimes simultaneously). Fraenkel’s insistence on close reading, line-by-line and word-by-word interpretation, and his philological approach to the text set the precedent for the teaching of Classical Literature in Oxford for rest of the century (and beyond).

Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, for me, is the most beautiful and emotional play that has survived from antiquity. As an undergraduate I fell in love with its unique use of language and metrical patterns. Fraenkel’s commentary, for all its rigorous scholarly dissection, illuminates the play brilliantly, and has provided generations of scholars a strong foundation from which to launch their own approach to the text.”


Barolsky, P., 2014. Ovid and the metamorphoses of modern art from Botticelli to Picasso, New Haven.

“The Latin epic poem Metamorphoses by Ovid has been a thread running through my studies (and interests) from school through to university final exams and beyond. Many of the stories told within the poem – Pygmalion, the fall of Icarus, Narcissus – are familiar to us today through various retellings in different media.

This book is an accessible overview of how Ovid’s work has influenced (Western) visual arts in particular, and it represents a cross-over between two of the Sackler’s subject areas: Classics and art history. I especially love the Pieter Bruegel painting Fall of Icarus (reproduced in colour on the endpapers of the book and explored in Part V), as it reminds me of a school lesson where I was introduced to the Metamorphoses alongside this painting and the W. H. Auden poem Musée des Beaux Arts. This book is also a delightful reminder of how Ovid’s playful tales have taken on a life of their own and inspired artworks that are fascinating in their own right too.”


Bayer, P., & Waller, M., 1988. The art of René Lalique, London.

“I haven’t been at the Sackler very long, but on my first day I noticed a book on René Lalique. Although I knew of Lalique, I had not seen any of his work in the flesh (so to speak) until I visited St Matthew’s Church (also known as The Glass Church) in Jersey. It’s a wonderful example of his work and pictures of the church are on pages 184 to 186 of this book. This has also led me to a very large catalogue for Lalique, and I am sure some time will be sent looking at this and admiring the beauty within.”


Berne-Joffroy, A., & Dufy, R., 1983. Zigzag parmi les personnages de la Fée electricité, Paris.

“For a Francophile and fan of the artists of the “Fauve” movement there is no shortage of books to choose from in the Sackler’s collections.

The “Fauve” artists’ use of brilliant colours, botanical themes, and paintings depicting bright Mediterranean seascapes glimpsed through open windows have always cheered and uplifted me since first discovering them during my undergraduate studies of French language and culture.

It is very hard to choose one book and even harder to select a single painting but this small monograph dedicated to Raoul Dufy’s Fée électricité is my choice. The book contains a foldout at the back where the painting is reproduced in colour.

This original is a work of art on an epic scale, measuring over 600 square metres. Painted in less than a year for the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne, it tells the story of electricity. Its towering rainbow-coloured panels depict both mythical interpretations and practical applications of electricity, incorporating 110 portraits of the scientists and inventors who contributed to its discovery.”


Carr, L., Dewhurst, R., & Henig, M., 2014. Binsey: Oxford’s holy place; its saint, village, and people, Oxford.

“During Oxbridge entrance I had to analyse Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem ‘Binsey Poplars’. Although I knew the hamlet from walking the Thames path, it was several years before I discovered its gorgeous 12th century church tucked away along a lane not far from the ring road. It’s a magical place: a little piece of ancient countryside just outside the city. It’s also a place of legends and stories: St Frideswide; Catherine of Aragon visiting the holy well; Lewis Carroll and his Binsey treacle wells. In time I got married at Binsey. This book of essays about Binsey, its environs and history is beautiful and fascinating — a work of scholarly local history to treasure.”


Christie, Manson & Woods., 2004. A peaceable kingdom: the Leo Mildenberg collection of ancient animals, Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 October 2004, London.

“My favourite Sackler book is A peaceable kingdom: the Leo Mildenberg collection of ancient animals. It’s a 2004, London Christie’s Auction Catalogue. I first encountered it when Henry Kim, then at the Ashmolean’s Heberden Coin Room, said, “You’ve got to look at this!” He was right. This was at the very, very beginning of my DPhil, and though it was definitely going to be about animals in ancient Greece, I hadn’t yet decided if they would be snakes, or pigs (Boardman’s idea), or perhaps exclusively pets. At that point of indecision, and doubt about whether I was truly up to the job, this gorgeous catalogue gave me a bounce of delight that helped me into the next stage.

For 40 years Leo Mildenberg collected ancient Egyptian, Eastern, Greek and Roman animal representations. Many were already published, but this substantial catalogue offers Christie’s exquisite, high quality images for some of the choicest in Mildenberg’s collection. The pictures breathed fresh life into the objects, just before they disappeared again into secret, private, lucky hands.

During the writing of my thesis this ‘peaceable kingdom’ was a source of refreshment and supporting evidence, not only for study, but recreation too. A prancing cheetah on an Apulian red-figure plate (Lot 80) inspired an embroidered name tag, and the Mesopotamian leopard in limestone (Lot 153) was the focus of an intensive ‘lost wax’ silversmithing project. Both leopard and cheetah exemplify a charm and cheer that pervade the collection. They seem to reflect that of Mildenberg himself; delightfully pictured smiling throughout.

Back at the Sackler, my colleagues love these ancient beasts too, even down to the issues desk stationery. Among our many novelty items, we have an eraser in the form of a faïence hippo that’s very like one of Mildenberg’s. The eraser is actually after ‘William’, the Metropolitan Museum of Art example, but whenever I see it, I think ‘Mildenberg’, and, funnily enough, Mildenberg named his too. ‘Hubert’ (Lot 111).

I periodically run across A Peaceable Kingdom in the Sackler. It’s an old friend, and it gives me a sense of contentment and connection whenever I see it.”


Crouch, C., 2014. Contemporary Chinese visual culture: tradition, modernity, and globalization, Amherst.

“Having spent my formative years in China, I was drawn to this title during a routine shelving shift. A discerning look at modern China’s contemporary aesthetic, it is at once both accessible and informative. The editor, Christopher Crouch, accommodates for a Western readership by providing a related reading list of texts in English at the end of each chapter. His command of the subject shines through in his ability to deliver a book that, whilst boasting contributions from over twenty scholars, still exhibits a clear and cohesive progression of ideas.

In seeking to explain the juxtaposition between innovation and tradition in Chinese art and architecture, this assemblage of short studies, by numerous Chinese experts, is thorough in its examination. Its broad remit gives it licence to cover a variety subjects: from the significance of rocks in traditional Chinese gardens to the decline of avant-gardism in post-industrial societies. Not simply for art students, this book is an opportunity to escape Eurocentric narratives and gain insight into the visual legacy of Asia’s economic powerhouse. What’s not to love?!”


Euripides, & Conacher, D. J., 1988. Alcestis, Warminster.

“With its blend of tragic and satyric elements, Alcestis is one of my favourite Classical plays. This fourth play in Euripides’ tetralogy is the only “tragedy” with a happy ending. You can find in it several themes and features common in Euripides’ dramas, such as the limits of human life, but you can also read it as the story of a woman’s sacrifice for love, and of her devotion to her husband.”


Lister, R., & Palmer, S., 1988. Catalogue raisonné of the works of Samuel Palmer, Cambridge.

“It was difficult to choose just one favourite book in the Sackler’s collection. In the end I chose a catalogue raisonné of an artist whose etchings I enjoy collecting and which was instrumental to my research and future interest in collecting antiquarian and contemporary prints.

I previously worked in the Museum of Modern Art in New York having studied the History of Art. But when I came to the U.K. I became interested in the work of British visionary artists such as William Blake and Samuel Palmer. Palmer had been greatly influenced by Blake and I started to collect Palmer’s etchings. Therefore, I found the reference books at the Sackler, especially the catalogue raisonné by Raymond Lister, an invaluable guide in determining the various states or different impressions of Palmer’s work, particularly those of The Bellman and The Lonely Tower. These two etchings were used to illustrate Milton’s Il Penseroso and are among his greatest works in the medium harking back to his early inspired visionary period in Shoreham. These two images reflect his unique and Arcadian view of the English landscape and have a numinous quality that makes them particular favourites of mine. I owe much of my knowledge to this helpful guide.”


Lorenzetti, G., 1939. Torcello: la storia, i suoi monumenti, Venice.

“This book by Giulio Lorenzetti, printed in Venice in 1939, contains black and white pictures and a folded map of the Torcello estuary showing obscure places which are familiar to me. Being of Venetian origins, I feel a mixture of pride and nostalgia every time I encounter something related to the small island of Torcello.

From the Altino region on the mainland, the first “Veneti” were searching for a site where they would be safe from barbarian invasions. They chose Torcello surrounded by marshes which impeded enemies from reaching them by “terra o mare”, land or sea. This tiny island became the first Venetian settlement.

Today its fewer than 20 inhabitants can daily enjoy the beautiful landscape in which Hemingway holed up while writing. They have the privilege of living near the Basilica Santa Maria Assunta, first built in 639 A.D. and containing wonderful mosaics to be admired on the west wall and the main apse. Two carefully protected colour prints of those mosaics are to be found inside the guide.

Ancient storage facilities for the unloading and preservation of goods have been discovered on the island during archaeological work carried out in 2017, and continuing excavations are throwing new light on the early history of Torcello, which was the cradle of ‘the Serenissima’.

This simple 1939 guide inspires me to return to this tiny island which played an important role in early Venetian history before the seat of power moved to Rialto.”


Lucretius Carus, T., Rouse, W. H. D., & Smith, M. F., 1975. De rerum natura, Cambridge, Mass.

“I’ve chosen the Loeb edition of Lucretius as my favourite Sackler book. As an undergraduate, I studied Lucretius for a Mods paper and two Greats papers, so I spent rather a lot of time consulting this book!”


Petronius, A., & Walsh, P. G., 1995. The Satyricon, Oxford.

“The only preserved episode of this novel by Petronius was the lengthy scene of the dinner in Trimalchio’s house (Cena Trimalchionis).

Trimalchio was a former slave who paid to be set free. He became this eccentric wealthy (and tacky) rich person who had all sorts of shows and displays within his house. Unfortunately his taste was very bad and the extravagant demonstration of his wealth transformed him into a caricature. On another level he is compared to Nero, as Petronius was alleged to be living in Nero’s court. The novel is a parody of Nero and his extravaganza, a parody of low morale and wealth display without any substance. The automatons and the shows that Trimalchio opts to bring within that dinner resemble the automatons and the machinery that Nero was keen on using (see the ship which would break open in the ocean and drown his mother Agrippina). On another level the usage of automatons and machines was a common practice of tyrants. Trimalchio (and subsequently, Nero), become the tyrants.

This novel has set the foundations for all Western literature novels in the manner we know them now. The story of the Cena is actually a part of the adventures of Satyricon: Encolpius (the main narrator), Ascyltus (his lover) and Giton (Encolpius’s slave but a lover of both Encolpius and Ascyltus), are caricatures of the romance novel heroes. In the place of the traditional heterosexual couple who wonder across the seas in seeking their beloved ones, we have a homosexual couple plus their lover who go in adventures whilst seeking to find their beloved ones. It examines homosexual partnerships in a way that most literary pieces don’t.

Finally, the episode of Cena Trimalchionis inspired Fellini’s film Satyricon.”


Plato, & Rowe, C.J., 2012. Republic, London.

“I studied English at the University of Cambridge, but one of my favourite parts of the course was a paper in philosophy. Plato’s Republic – here translated by Christopher Rowe – is a fascinating insight into ethics, the concept of justice, and the ideal state. Plato likens the soul to a city, in having three parts: the appetitive element, the spirited element, and the reasoning element, which in turn can be found in the three types of people in a city. Ultimately, Plato decides, both the individual and the city must be ruled by reason in order to be just, but this conclusion has some uneasy implications for the largest part of the population.

I once wrote an essay about this text that tried to explain a problem of the state-soul analogy using my own analogy based on prawn sandwiches. This was probably a result of all-nighter-induced delirium on my part, but I have always enjoyed analogies: picking apart the similarities and discrepancies between two things, and using one to better understand the other. For this reason, and because it reminds me of engaging discussions with some very interesting people, I have chosen this work as my favourite book in the Sackler.”


Emily Pulsford
Graduate Trainee Librarian

Like @ Sac! – International Women’s Day 2018 Book Display


International Women’s Day is an event celebrated on 8th March every year that focuses attention on the efforts that have been made, are being made, and still need to be made, towards equality and women’s rights around the world. (See, in this regard, the New York Times’s Obituaries Overlooked series which includes, for example, photographer Diane Arbus and author Sylvia Plath.)

To coincide with International Women’s Day 2018, the Sackler’s Graduate Trainee has set up a book display in the library to showcase the work and contributions of women, past and present, in various areas of study covered by the library’s collections, including Egyptology, Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Archaeology, History of Art and Architecture, and Classics.



Subtitled Celebrating Women Past and Present, the display’s broad theme comprises individual women and their creative and intellectual contributions to the above-mentioned fields of study, as well as to wider society through various avenues: archaeological excavations and reports; travel writing and journalism; scholarly publications; paintings, drawings and photographs; and architectural designs.

The display features women from a broad historical range, from the 14th-century-BCE Egyptian ruler Nefertiti to Renaissance artist Sofonisba Anguissola; nineteenth-century travellers and archaeologists; ground-breaking twentieth-century feminist art historians such as Linda Nochlin; and contemporary authors writing for both academic and popular audiences today.



While many of the publications on display are detailed biographies of individual women – for example, twentieth-century British archaeologist Dame Kathleen Kenyon and Indian-born archaeologist, anthropologist, and folklorist Margaret Alice Murray – other publications bring together the work of several women active in a specific field. One such book is Women travellers in Egypt: from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century, which makes an excellent springboard for further research on women who travelled to, and wrote detailed accounts of, Egypt in that period.

We have also highlighted publications by some pioneering twentieth-century art historians. Frequently described as a seminal work of feminist art history, the 1971 essay ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’, published in ARTnews by the late Linda Nochlin (1931-2017), has greatly influenced the development of subsequent generations of art historians. To read more about Nochlin’s life, one of her many obituaries from late 2017 can be found here.

Our art and architecture collections are represented by a range of international women artists, from the Singh twins, Amrit Kaur Singh and Rabindra Kaur Singh, to Yayoi Kusama, Käthe Kollwitz and Zaha Hadid. We hope readers enjoy exploring the life and works of these women. To find other publications on the topic search the subject phrase ‘women artists’ (or ‘women architects’) on SOLO.

Writers are represented firstly by Agatha Christie, who was often inspired by her travels in the Middle East (the artwork for Le crime de l’Orient-Express (2013) is by photographer Martin Parr). We have also included one of the best-known poets from Classical Antiquity — Sappho — whose complete works have recently been translated by Diane Raynor (2014). This publication highlights not only the creative endeavours of a woman writing in the 7th-6th century BCE, but also the scholarly (and creative) work of a modern female translator, showing how women can give voice to women across the ages. Sappho is currently featured by the Bodleian Libraries in the exhibition Sappho to Suffrage: women who dared (Weston Library), which opened during the week of International Women’s Day.

It was, of course, impossible to include in the Sackler’s compact display as many fascinating and interesting women as are represented in the collections. We hope, however, that readers enjoy (re)discovering those selected for this year’s display, and that our chosen works spark ideas for further exploration and reflection on this year’s International Women’s Day. To this end, this blog post includes below not only a display list of the publications, but also a further reading list of other items in our collections.

We welcome (and encourage) suggestions for future book displays.

Emily Pulsford
Graduate Trainee Librarian
Sackler Library


Display list

Beard, M., 2017. Women & power: a manifesto, London.

Davis, M. C., 2008. Dame Kathleen Kenyon: digging up the Holy Land, California.

Flavio, C., 1994. Sofonisba Anguissola e le sue sorelle, Italy.

Fraser, H., 2014. Women writing art history in the nineteenth century: looking like a woman, Cambridge.

Hadid, Z. & Jodidio, P., 2013. Hadid: Zaha Hadid complete works 1979-2013, Köln.

Hawes, H. B., 1901. Excavations at Kavousi, Crete.

Hawes, H. B., 1904-5. Gournia: report of the American Exploration Society’s excavations at Gournia, Crete, University of Pennsylvania.

Hughes, B., 2005. Helen of Troy: goddess, princess, whore, London.

Kaur Singh, A., Kaur Singh, R., Spalding, J., Pal, R. & Swallow, D., 1999. Twin perspectives: paintings, Great Britain.

Kollwitz, K. & Fischer, H., 1995. Käthe Kollwitz: Meisterwerke der Zeichnung, Köln.

Manley, D., 2013. Women travellers in Egypt: from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century, Cairo.

Nagy, H., 2013. Elisabeth Jastrow (1890-1981), in Art Libraries Journal

Nochlin, L., 1988. Women, art, and power: and other essays, New York.

Parker, R. & Pollock, G., 2013. Old mistresses: women, art and ideology, London.

Peuckert, S., 2014. Hedwig Fechheimer und die ägyptische Kunst: Leben und Werk einer jüdischen Kunstwissenshaftlerin in Deutschland, Berlin.

Rayor, D. J., Lardinois, A. P. M. H., 2014. Sappho: a new translation of the complete works, Cambridge.

Samson, J., 1985. Nefertiti and Cleopatra: queen-monarchs of Ancient Egypt, London.

Searight, S., 2005. Women travellers in the Near East, Oxford.

Sheppard, K. L., 2013. The life of Margaret Alice Murray: a woman’s work in archaeology, Plymouth.

Tripp, C. & Collins, P., 2017. Gertrude Bell and Iraq: a life and legacy, Oxford.

Trümpler, C., 2000. Agatha Christie und der Orient: Kriminalistik und Archäologie, Basel.

Wolf, S., Rose, P., Mancoff, D. N. & Cameron, J. M., 1998. Juliet Margaret Cameron’s women, London; New Haven.

Yayoi, K. & Francis, M., 2012. Yayoi Kusama, London.


Further reading

Bell, G. L. & Howell, G., 2015. A woman in Arabia: the writings of the Queen of the Desert, New York.

Chadwick, J., 2014. The decipherment of linear B, Cambridge.

Christie, A., Mendel, J-M. & Parr, M., 2013. Le crime de l’Orient-Express, Paris.

Clapp, N., 2001. Sheba: through the desert in search of the legendary queen, Boston.

Cooney, K., 2015. The woman who would be king, London.

Davies, N. M. & Davies, N. de Garis, 1963. Scenes from some Theban tombs: (nos. 38, 66, 162, with excerpts from 81), Oxford.

Fox, M., 2013. The riddle of the labyrinth: the quest to crack an ancient code and the uncovering of a lost civilisation, London.

Freuler, O., 2017. A tale of two sisters: Simone and Hélène de Beauvoir’s La Femme rompue. Taylor Institution Library blog. [accessed March 12, 2018].

Haikal, F. M. H., 1970-. Two hieratic funerary papyri of Nesmin, Brussels.

Hawes, H. B., 1967. A Land called Crete: a symposium in memory of Harriet Boyd Hawes, 1871-1945, Northampton, Mass.

Heartney, E., Posner, H., Princethal, N., Scott, S., Nochlin, L., 2013. After the revolution: women who transformed contemporary art, Munich.

Howard, J., 1990. Whisper of the muse: the world of Julia Margaret Cameron, London.

Kusama, Y., 2011. Infinity net: the autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, London.

Kusche, M., 2003. Retratos y retratadores Alonso Sánchez Coello y sus competidores Sofonisba Anguissola, Jorge de la Rúa y Rolán Moys, Madrid.

Moon, B. E., 2006. More usefully employed: Amelia B. Edwards, writer, traveller and campaigner for ancient Egypt, London.

Murray, M. A., 1949. The splendour that was Egypt: a general survey of Egyptian culture and civilisation, London.

Murray, M. A., 1963. My first hundred years, London.

Nightingale, F., 1987. Letters from Egypt: a journey on the Nile 1849-1850, London.

Olsen, B. A., 2014. Women in Mycenaean Greece: the Linear B tablets from Pylos and Knossos, Abingdon.

Quibell, A. A., 1925. A wayfarer in Egypt, London.

Rees, J., 2008. Women on the Nile: writings of Harriet Martineau, Florence Nightingale and Amelia Edwards, London.

Thompson, C. E., Saggini, F. & Chaber, L., 2014. Women’s travel writings in North Africa and the Middle East, London.

Yamamura, M., 2015. Yayoi Kusama: inventing the singular, Cambridge, Mass.