Book Club


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

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.

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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.

Retail Recommends

Specialist booksellers from the British Museum Bookshop give their recommendations for the best illustrated titles across art, archaeology history and world cultures.  This week,  Akemi and Carlos go head to head with their favourites from our Masterpieces series:

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Masterpieces of Ancient Egypt is full of powerful images of the Ancient Egyptian collections in the British Museum. With concise and clear text providing a valuable introduction to the magnificent history of Ancient Egypt it’s ideal as both a gift and an educational resource.” Akemi, bookseller

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“Masterpieces of Classical Art is the definitive introduction to the arts of the Classical World. Lavish images and accurate descriptions will take you on an amazing journey of discovery through the British Museums’ splendid collections.”  Carlos, bookseller

Can’t make your mind up? Masterpieces of the British Museum offers an introduction to over 250 of the museum’s higlights. Available now from the British Museum shop.

Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman


Here’s a sneak preview of our forthcoming exhibition catalogue Grayson Perry: The Tomb of Unknown Craftsman (publishing on the 3rd October).

Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry will be curating an installation of his new works alongside objects from the British Museum’s collection this autumn. To accompany the exhibition we will be publishing this beautiful catalogue; written by the artist and including over 200 colour illustrations.

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….

Be one of the first to own a copy – pre-order yours now through the British Museum shop .

Find out more and book your tickets for the special exhibition Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman (6 October 2011 – 19 February 2012) now at

Ritual and Honour: Warriors of the North American Plains

We’d like to introduce you to Kevin Haywahe.

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Kevin is an Assiniboine dancer who features in our new release Ritual and Honour: Warriors of the North American Plains.

Author and British Museum curator Max Carocci has been conducting research with Plains Indians since 1989 and in this beautifully illustrated book he explores the world of Native North American warfare and ritual. Through exceptional examples of feather headdresses, mocassins, painted hides, pipes and tomahawks, Ritual and Honour reveals the ceremonial, spiritual and political lives of the warriors of the North American Plains.

‘Read the rest of this entry’ for some more preview images from the book or visit the British Museum shop to find out more.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Ancient Olympic Games

With exactly one year to go until the London 2012 Olympics begin, advances of our forthcoming title The Ancient Olympic Games have arrived!

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Written by Judith Swaddling, with a preface by HRH The Princess Royal, this vividly illustrated title takes the reader right back to the origins of the Games: to Olympia, where people from all over the classical world flocked to attend the sacred ceremonies, celebrations and sporting competitions that were a part of the Ancient Olympic Games.

While the book highlights many differences between the ancient Games and the modern day Olympics we’ve also found out some surprising similarities. For example, the ancient Greeks spent virtually all of the year before building up to the games, with site preparations to rival the Olympic village and rigorous training schedules for all the competitors.

This quote from Epictetus’ Discourses, written in the 1st century AD, will surely resonate with all the athletes preparing to compete this time next year:

You say ‘I want to win at Olympia’. But wait. Look at what is involved… You will have to obey instructions, keep away from desserts, eat only at set hours; in both heat and cold you must not drink cold water, nor can you have a drink of wine whenever you want. You must hand yourself over to your coach exactly as you would to a doctor.” Discources, 15, 2-5

The Ancient Olympic Games will be available from the British Museum shop from 24 August, so why not prepare for the year ahead with a look back at the Olympics of the ancient past?

British Museum Press title wins William M.B. Berger Prize for British Art History

Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria: A Mirror to the World has won the 2011 William M.B. Berger prize for British Art History, one of the most prestigious awards in its field.


Created to reward excellence in the history of British art, the Berger prize is awarded annually to an outstanding book or exhibition catalogue published in any language. The winner is judged against a number of criteria, including research, lucidity, quality of writing and international appeal.

Announcing Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria as the winner at the awards ceremony last night, writer and broadcaster A.N Wilson as guest of honour said, “The wonderful thing about this book is that one can see what was happening in the world at the time reflected in the jewels discussed … the book takes you through some of the most beautiful objects you could possibly imagine… I can’t commend it highly enough.”

The judges found it ‘brilliantly organized in a wholly unexpected way’, hailing it as ‘a model of how to take a complex subject and package it into parts, each of which tells a story’. Referring to the size of the 552 page tome, one of the prize judges commented that the book was “hard to pick up, but even harder to put down!”

This is the first time the British Museum Press has won the William M.B Berger Prize, and also the first time a study of jewellery has been recognized by the prize.

Thrilled with the win, authors Judy Rudoe and Charlotte Gere said “We are both absolutely delighted to have won such a distinguished prize. Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria was not intended as a book for jewellery specialists, but for a much wider audience in an attempt to understand the 19th century through its jewellery. That this has been recognized means a huge amount to us”.

Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria: A Mirror to the World by Judy Rudoe and Charlotte Gere, £50

Available now from the British Museum shop