2014 at the British Library: the UK’s biggest show of British comics, a trip into Gothic terror, and Hanif Kureishi’s personal archive joins the collections

2014 previewed at the British Library, including:

  • UK’s biggest ever show of British comics
  • A definitive exhibition on Gothic literature
  • The acquisition of Hanif Kureishi’s personal archive
  • A new digital resource to commemorate the centenary of the First World War

2014 at the British Library

2014 at the British Library

From the UK’s biggest ever exhibition of British comics to a definitive show of Gothic literature, 2014 promises to be a thrilling year at the British Library.

This spring sees the opening of the UK’s biggest exhibition of British comics, featuring unseen comics, original artwork and bizarre objects exploring the form’s tumultuous history.

From newly discovered Victorian comics to iconic titles such as V for Vendetta and Batman, Comics Unmasked will explore political and social issues raised by British comics and their creators over the last century, from violence and drugs to class and sexuality.

Today we are revealing a rare and little-known comic book from our archives, The Trials of Nasty Tales, an early example of an underground work by Dave Gibbons of Watchmen fame. The comic relates the story of the short-lived ‘Nasty Tales’ series which stood trial for obscenity charges in the early 1970s for its graphic content, an incident which crystallised the perception of the comics industry as a vehicle of subversion and dissent.

The Trials of Nasty Tales, Watchmen and many more titles both rare and iconic will be on display in Comics Unmasked this May.

  • Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination (3 October 2014 - 27 January 2015)

In October 2014 the British Library will stage the UK’s most comprehensive show of Gothic literature yet. Marking 250 years since the genre burst into undead life with the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Terror and Wonder will explore the enduring influence it has had, not just on literature, but film, fashion, music and art ever since.

The exhibition will explore how literary greats, such as Ann Radcliffe and Horace Walpole, broke conventions with 18th century gothic masterpieces, paving the way for some of the most imaginative minds of literature, from Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker to Mervyn Peake and Angela Carter.

Today we announce a newly-discovered letter written by ‘queen of gothic’ Ann Radcliffe, one of only three manuscripts in the world written in the author’s hand and the first known to exist in Britain. Surprisingly little is known about Ann Radcliffe’s life, but this letter appearing in the exhibition later this year will provide the most personal insight yet into the author.

The British Library is delighted to announce that BBC Four will broadcast a season of programmes about the gothic imagination to coincide with Terror and Wonder in Autumn 2014. Further details will be announced later in the year.

  • Announced today: the acquisition of Hanif Kureishi’s personal archive

The British Library has acquired the archive of Hanif Kureishi, the acclaimed novelist, playwright and screenwriter behind such landmark works as The Buddha of Suburbia and My Beautiful Laundrette. The archive includes over 50 personal diaries and notebooks as well as drafts and working material relating to all of his major works. The archive spans over 40 years, from an early teenage diary written in 1970 up to paper and digital drafts of his new novel, The Last Word, which is published on 6 February this year.

The archive will be made available to researchers in the British Library’s reading rooms at the end of 2014, and will join those of other contemporary writers held at the British Library, including Wendy Cope, Graham Swift, John Berger and Andrew Motion.

Rachel Foss, Lead Curator of Modern Literary Manuscripts at the British Library, said: “Hanif Kureishi is one of the most radical and challenging voices in contemporary literature. This archive will play a crucial role in developing critical understanding of his life and work and represents a resource of major international significance. Showing the changing nature of the 21st century archive, the digital material in the collection will allow researchers to uncover more information about an author’s working processes than has ever been possible before.”

Hanif Kureishi said: “I’m delighted that the British Library have decided to take on my archive, I can’t imagine it anywhere else. I hope with the British Library’s inventiveness and resourcefulness, it might be useful to a broad audience for a long time.”

Hanif Kureishi will be headlining the British Library’s Spring Festival on 29 March, talking about the art of screenwriting, and one of his diaries will be on display in the Library’s Treasures Gallery from 8 March onwards.

  • The British Library commemorates the First World War

The British Library holds tens of thousands of items relating to the stories of those who fought, lived and died during the First World War, including poems, letters, trench journals, and many other materials detailing the experiences of war from Britain and beyond.

During 2014, the British Library will be commemorating the centenary of the First World War through key projects including:

- Enduring War: Grief, Grit and Humour (19 June – 12 October), a free exhibition which will examine the question of how people coped with life during the First World War, from moments of patriotic fervour to periods of anxious inactivity, shock or despair.

- The British Library is leading the UK’s contribution to Europeana 1914-1918, an online resource which brings together original wartime documents, films and stories from 20 countries across Europe. The British Library has contributed 10,000 items from its own First World War collections to the site, which will launch on 29 January 2014

- The British Library will launch a new World War One website (launching on 30 January 2014) offering curated access to materials sourced from the Europeana project. The website, which explores themes such as race, class, propaganda and artistic and literary responses to the war, examines the conflict from all sides, and will be an important resource for schools, students, and anyone else wanting to learn about the First World War

Recently digitised World War One materials from the British Library include trench journals from foreign troops, iconic war poetry, London schoolchildren’s accounts of Zeppelin raids and many more eclectic items.

  • Discovering Literature (launching May 2014)

A new website launching in May 2014, which promises to transform how we experience English literature. Aimed at students, teachers, and all lovers of literature, Discovering Literature will illuminate the historical, cultural and political contexts in which many of the greatest English texts were written, bringing to life their worlds with specially commissioned films, essays and other learning materials.

A free exhibition in the Folio Society Gallery exploring the history of data visualisation through three key themes – weather, health and evolution. From Florence Nightingale to Nasa, Beautiful Science will show how our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map the mass data of the time.

Notes to Editors:

  • The British Library will launch its new World War One website on 30 January 2014, offering curated access to newly digitised pan-European material, from personal letters to propaganda posters
  • The British Library’s Treasures Gallery will re-open on 8 March 2014 after refurbishment, when Hanif Kureishi’s notebook will be displayed alongside other manuscripts on display for the first time

More information about exhibitions and events is available on our website at www.bl.uk/whatson

Exhibition opening hours: Monday, Wednesday-Friday 9.30 – 18.00, Tuesday 9.30 – 20.00, Saturday 9.30 – 17.00, Sunday and Bank Holidays 11.00 – 17.00

Prices: Standard Adult £9, Gift Aid £10, Over 60s £7, Other concessions £5, Under 18s Free, Friends of the British Library Free

All galleries are accessible by wheelchair. Information can be requested from Visitor Services staff on: T +44 (0)20 7412 7332.

Box Office:
Telephone: +44 (0)1937 546546
Email: boxoffice@bl.uk

For more information contact:


The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.  



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