Book Club

Icon

Publishers of award-winning illustrated books on art, history, archaeology, world cultures and more.

Edinburgh Festival Fever

People all over the country have been gripped by Festival fever this month and we at the BM Press are no exception! Not one but two of our authors were invited to speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival: Irving Finkel, the curator in charge of the British Museum’s collection of cuneiform tablets – the largest in the world – and Henrietta Lidchi, Keeper of the Department of World Cultures at National Museums Scotland.

Charlotte Square looking beautiful in the sunshine

Charlotte Square looking beautiful in the sunshine

In his sell-out event, Irving took his audience on a roller-coaster tour of the 3,500 year history of the world’s oldest writing system – cuneiform. With his trademark enthusiasm, he explained that the strange, wedge-shaped markings invented in Mesopotamia represent syllables and so can be used to record any language, from Sumerian to Spanish. He then pointed out that we can find a surprising parallel in modern text-speak, in which symbols have  once again come to stand in for syllables or even whole words – just look at ‘c u l8r’. The audience were left full of questions and many stayed behind to talk to Irving, have their books signed and admire the real cuneiform tablet that he had brought along with him.

Irving addresses a huge crowd in the tent

Irving addresses a huge crowd in the tent

Irving was similarly well-received at the National Museums Scotland, where he taught a group of 90 local schoolchildren how to write their own cuneiform inscriptions. They used plasticine and lollipop sticks rather than clay and reeds, but the results still looked as if they could have come from the museum archives!

An impressive effort from the Edinburgh schoolchildren!

An impressive effort from the Edinburgh schoolchildren!

The weekend also saw Henrietta Lidchi launch her wonderful book Surviving Desires: Making and Selling Native Jewellery in the American Southwest – the product of twenty years of research. She captivated the audience with her talk about the iconic turquoise and silver jewellery and the transformations it has undergone in response the competing desires of traders, tourists, curators and government agencies. The audience were fascinated and at the end many came forward with their own pieces of Native jewellery, which Henrietta was able to put into context for them.

Henrietta signing books after her event

Henrietta signing books after her event

Many thanks to Henrietta and Irving for taking part in the Festival and to the National Museums Scotland for hosting the schools event. We hope to be back next year!

If you would like to find out more about either of the books, just follow the links below:

Cuneiform

Surviving Desires

We’ve had a very exciting day over at the British Museum as our next major exhibition has been announced! From 24th September, Celts: art and identity will be exploring the truth behind our romanticised imaginings of the so-called Celts and discovering how this diverse group of people actually defined themselves.

Celts: art and identity

We at the British Museum Press have been working hard to produce a catalogue and giftbook that do justice to the beautiful objects on display, and we’re looking forward to sharing it with you!

Over 250 remarkable objects have been selected from the collections of the British Museum, National Museums Scotland and other key European institutions to illustrate the narrative and highlight the artistic accomplishments of craftspeople through the centuries.

You’ll see everything from jewellery to feasting accoutrements, weaponry to illuminated manuscripts – much of it decorated in those distinctive swirling patterns that, upon closer inspection, transform into images of fantastical men and beasts.

Stone cross

Come and join us on a journey tracing what it means to be Celtic. The more you look, the more you’ll see…

The Telegraph Hay Festival: 31 May – 10 June 2012

TheTelegraphHayFestival-White

This summer, the Hay Festival celebrates its 25th year with a stunning programme of international writers and thinkers. The British Museum Press is delighted to be partnering with Hay to present a lecture and talk for our recent release, Shakespeare: staging the world.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Shakespeare 1 – Staging the World

Barclays Pavilion

1.00PM

Written by internationally-acclaimed author and editor Jonathan Bate and the curator of Renaissance Europe at the British Museum, Dora Thornton, Shakespeare: staging the world provides a unique and fascinating insight into the early modern world, seen through the lens of Shakespeare’s plays.

The event will be chaired by Clemency Burton-Hill, and will be the first of three Shakespeare sessions.

The full festival programme is available here.

Bath Literature Festival – 2-11 March 2012

While the outlook is cold and gloomy, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a bright spot on the horizon for literature lovers. The full line up for the Bath Literature Festival (2-11 March 2012) has now been released and as predicted, it looks fantastic. The British Museum Press is delighted to be joining up with this event for the first time and presenting lectures and talks from the Authors of three of our most recent releases.

The full programme is available here or read the rest of this entry for details of all featured British Museum Press events:

FRIDAY 9TH MARCH 2012

Indigo
Guildhall, G5
1.00pm – 2.00pm, This event has now sold out.

Writer, artist, traveller and lecturer, Jenny Balfour-Paul has researched and worked with indigo for over two decades. In today’s multi-coloured world, it is hard to imagine the incredible impact indigo must have had on the many civilizations that chanced upon it. Jenny uncovers all aspects of this subject: historical, agricultural, and scientific; sociological, medicinal, and folkloric.

Ticket holders can enjoy a FREE screening of Mary Lance’s documentary film Blue Alchemy: Stories of Indigo from 2.45 – 4pm.

SATURDAY 10TH MARCH 2012

David Stuttard on The Olympics
Bath Masonic Hall, H2
1.00pm – 2.00pm, £8 (£7 concessions)

Power: The power of the gods, the power of Greek cities, the power of the human body; all of these were celebrated at the ancient Olympic Games. David Stuttard gets up close and personal and shows us what it was like to be there, to witness the rituals, official banquets, bloody contests, victory celebrations and subsequent political parleys. This is your chance for a ringside seat.

How the Olympics Came to Be
The Holburne Museum, H8
1.15pm-2.15pm £5
Ages 5 – 10, children must be accompanied.

Join Helen East, storyteller and author, to hear all about the excitement of the ancient Olympic Games and the gods, heroic mortals and adventures that inspired them! Helen will be telling stories around the museum so seek her out and find out more about the origins of the Olympic Games.

Event bookings are now open, head to the Bath Literature Festival site for more information.

Competition: Win a signed copy of Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

You may have seen the Grayson Perry exhibition at the British Museum (6 October 2011 – 19 February 2012), well now here’s your chance to win a signed copy of the exhibition catalogue Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman.

 

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

 

Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry uses the seductive qualities of ceramics, tapestry, metalwork and other art forms to make stealthy comments about societal injustices and hypocrisies, and to explore a variety of historical and contemporary themes.

Offering an insight into the artist’s fantastic imaginative world, the book draws on themes such as pilgrimage, transvestitism, shamanism and tomb guardians to take the reader on a journey to an imaginary afterlife.

Including an introduction by Grayson Perry and lavishly illustrated with over 200 colour illustrations, this book takes us to the fantasy world of a contemporary artist who never fails to challenge and unsettle his audience.

It is the perfect accompaniment to the exhibition and a great showpiece for your book collection.

To win a copy of Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, signed by Grayson Perry himself, please comment below and answer the following question:

What is the name of Grayson Perry’s 50 year old teddy bear?

Competition closes Sunday 15th January 2012 at 5.00pm GMT. The winner will be drawn and notified by Tuesday 17th January 2012. The winner will be selected at random providing they answer the question correctly.

For more information and to book tickets for the special exhibition Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman (6 October 2011 – 19 February 2012) , head to britishmuseum.org/graysonperry

Shop this book and many other titles online through the British Museum Shop

Hoshino Yukinobu and Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure

Lots of excitement this week as our first ever manga,  Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure, by Hoshino Yukinobu, is now printing and will be arriving at British Museum Press HQ in less than two months!  In anticipation of its publication Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, who has been working with Hoshino sensei on the project since its inception, took a trip to Japan to show the artist the final proofs of  his book. We asked Nicole to tell us a little more about her trip, Hoshino Yukinobu, and his thoughts on the English  publication of Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure. Read the rest of this entry to see what she had to report.

Through her work with Hoshino Yukinobu, Nicole inspired the character of Chris in Professor Munakata's British Museum Adventure

Nicole's work with Hoshino Yukinobu inspired the character of Chris in Professor Munakata's British Museum Adventure

Read the rest of this entry »

Power Games: Ritual and Rivalry at the Ancient Greek Olympics

Look up the sky tonight and you should see the August full moon: a lunar event that has resonated throughout history. Next year this mysterious night will fall right in the middle of  the London 2012 Olympic Games and we’ve asked David Stuttard, author of our forthcoming title Power Games, to explain why this is more than just coincidence.

Power Games

For over a millennium, the August full moon marked the focal point of the four-yearly Festival which included the Olympic Games. To many Ancient Greeks the moon was a goddess, so the full moon had especial power. Like our Easter, the timing of the Olympic Festival was closely linked to the movement of the heavenly bodies – and, although we do not know exactly how the date was calculated, it seems to have coincided with the second or third full moon after the summer solstice, thus associating it with important dates in both the lunar and solar calendars.

The Greeks’ days began at sunset, and the central ‘day’ of the Olympics, when the moon was full, was spent in evening banqueting, morning sacrifices, and a few races in the afternoon. For the ancient Olympics were not just about athletics. They were part of ancient religious observations, where ritual was just as important as the sport – perhaps even more so. In 2012 the Olympic full moon is on 2nd August – but, although contestants in beach volley-ball, table-tennis or cycling events might take encouragement from the auspicious date, of all that day’s contestants, only the boxers can boast a truly ancient Olympic pedigree.

Power Games: Ritual and Rivalry at the Ancient Olympic Games will be publishing on 7 November 2011. ‘Read the rest of this entry’ for an extract from Chapter Four -  ‘the full moon chapter’

Read the rest of this entry »

Stories of Indigo

BLUE ALCHEMY: Stories of Indigo Trailer from Mary Lance on Vimeo.

Earlier this month award-winning film producer Mary Lance launched her latest project in Santa Fe. Blue Alchemy: Stories of Indigo is a feature documentary that weaves together visually stunning stories about the history, production and importance of indigo: the world’s only natural source of blue.

Jenny Balfour-Paul, indigo expert, artist, lecturer and British Museum Press author acted as consultant on the film and to tie in we’ll be releasing a new edition of Jenny’s classic study of indigo this summer.

Updated with a brand new final chapter, as well as a stunning new cover design, Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans is the definitive book on this magical dye; exploring everything from the historical, agricultural and botanical origins of indigo to different production and dyeing methods; commerce and economics; indigo’s continued presence in folklore, art and alternative medicine; and its iconic status as the dye that makes blue jeans blue.

Indigo_Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans

Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans will be available from the British Museum shop from 19 August.

Jenny Balfour-Paul and Mary Lance will be screening Blue Alchemy: Stories of Indigo at a number of UK events in Spring 2012. Subscribe to the books blog now to make sure you don’t miss any of the details.