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

The Edinburgh International Book Festival 2013


We are delighted to announce that the British Museum Press will be a partner of the Edinburgh International Book Festival for the first time in 2013. Senior curator and head of the Roman collections Paul Roberts will discuss life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum, deputy keeper of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic material Jill Cook will discuss groundbreaking works of art from the Ice Age, and world-renowned Shakespeare historian Jonathan Bate and curator of Renaissance Europe Dora Thornton will explore the world and works of William Shakespeare.

Paul Roberts

Paul Roberts

Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum

12:30pm on Monday, 12th August 2013 | Peppers Theatre | Adult Programme

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Jill Cook

Jill Cook

Ice Age art

arrival of the modern mind

4.00PM on Friday, 16th August 2013 | Peppers Theatre | Adult Programme

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Dora ThorntonJonathan Bate low-res

Jonathan Bate & Dora Thornton


staging the world

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12.30PM on Sunday, 25th August 2013 | Peppers Theatre | Adult Programme

For full information on the above events and to find out more visit the Edinburgh International Book Festival website.

We hope to see you there!

Happy Birthday to Shakespeare!

Today would have been William Shakespeare’s 449th birthday.  We’ve included here an excerpt from our 2012 bestseller Shakespeare: staging the world, shedding light on Shakespeare’s world  in his first year of life.

Shakespeare -staging the world

“William Shakespeare was born in 1564, on or about 23 April, St George’s Day. He was baptized in Holy Trinity Church in the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon in the Midland county of Warwickshire, on 26 April. His father was John Shakespeare (c. 1531 – 1601), a glove-maker. His mother, Mary Shakespeare (c. 1537 – 1608) was born Mary Arden, daughter of a yeoman farmer from the nearby village of Wilmcote.

Stratford was a crossroads between very different worlds. The ancient forest of Arden lay to the north, while there was rich farming land to the south. Within a hard day’s walk was the university city of Oxford. To the east, and closer, were Kenilworth, home of Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (1532 – 1588), and Warwick, where stood (in considerable disrepair) the castle of the Earls of Warwick. Just beyond that lay Coventry, the fourth largest city in the land. At the time of Shakespeare’s birth, the old biblical plays from medieval times – Creation and Flood, Crucifixion and Judgement – where still performed there annually on pageant carts stationed around town. The country and the city, the old rural ways and the new learning, the traditions of play-acting and the powerful presence of the aristocracy: some of the key resources for the creation of Shakespeare’s imaginary worlds were present in his very childhood environment.

Playing cards with maps of English and Welsh counties. Stratford is marked with an S on the map of Warwickshire. Designed by William Bowes and engraved by Augustine Ryther in 1590, this is the earliest known set of cards with English county maps. Hand-coloured engravings, 9.5 x 5.7 cm. British Museum, London.

Playing cards with maps of English and Welsh counties. Stratford is marked with an S on the map of Warwickshire. Designed by William Bowes and engraved by Augustine Ryther in 1590, this is the earliest known set of cards with English county maps. Hand-coloured engravings, 9.5 x 5.7 cm. British Museum, London.

For centuries the administration of government and of the law in England had depended on the king or queen, or their representatives, notably the judges, travelling the country on ‘circuits’. Shakespeare was born on the margin between the Midland circuit, which consisted of Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland and Lincolnshire, and the Oxford circuit, which covered Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. Among the many hundreds of stage plays that arrive from his lifetime, the only ones that include scenes located in Warwickshire and Gloucestershire are his. His territory, then, was the Midlands. In the national imagination, ‘Shakespeare country’ would eventually become synonymous with ‘Middle England’.

In the year that he was born it became possible to visualize the shape and disposition of the counties or shire for the first time. Laurence Nowell’s ‘A general description of England and Ireland’ was made for Sir William Cecil, later Lord Burghley (1521 – 158). Stratford-upon-Avon is marked near its centre. Six years into the reign of Elizabeth I, it shows a view of Englishness and nationhood as Shakespeare’s generation experienced it.”

Text and images © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Shakespeare: staging the world, written by Jonathan Bate and Dora Thornton, is available for £25 in paperback and £30 in hardback from the British Museum online shop.

The Telegraph Hay Festival: 31 May – 10 June 2012


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


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:


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.


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.