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Looking at Dürer in the British Museum

Ok, let’s get into something a bit meaty, that has nothing to do with bookbinding and all to do with plates.

At the National Library of Australia we have plates of Dürer’s Little Passion (RBRS 13), which you can view here. It was printed in 1511 and rebound in a non-contempory calf binding, with blind tooling along perimeter.

This is what I saw at the British Museum:


35 of 36 wood blocks. And we were also shown some corresponding impressions. What deliciousness! Yes, you can handle the book, look at the plates, but when you are confronted with the medium, which may have been engraved by the Master himself and most certainly drawn on by him, then you marvel at the skills that were available in 1511.

My interest in Dürer is this, of course:



We were asked to examine the blocks closely; could we detect different hands in the relief structure of the matrix?


I took photos of the signatures; I figured that you might be able to tell one worker from another by the way he/she carved the AD. If we look closely are the ADs similarly different?

It’s not every day you get to see the plate and its impression.

That was all I had time to photograph I’m afraid.

I haven’t had the time to properly examine these photos; I am just reporting our day. I feel very privileged to have seen these. However these were seen in a reading room, and if you are going to London, I believe if you make an appointment well before hand, you may be able to experienced these for yourself.

The Print and Drawing reading room, very light but not airy. In the summer bring your own fan.



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Day 1: Reconnaissance

Saturday was pretty much a write off; the trip was long, I had too many bags to pull and when I got to my very bijoux room I realised I didn’t bring enough shirts. No, I did not go to tango.

Ping 4am sunday morning I’m awake. I’m glad to have brought the laptop because I was able to map out my day (and evenings).

Senate House is not very far, but this part of London is a maze of streets and little garden squares. I feel like I’m on a living Monopoly board.

The loop today would encompass the British Museum, Shepherd’s Store (for papers) and Senate House. Found a neat little french patisserie called Les Deux Amis on my way. I’m hoping to have breakfast there every day, but things don’t open until 9am!

Good coffee

So, as directionally challenged as I am, I made it to Russsell Square, found a shopping mall and continued onto Shepherd’s only to find them closed!

Store number two, closed on sundays, despite what the website says

Didn’t matter; plenty of time to return. On a sunday morning the streets are eerily empty. Which is great and I made my way to the British Museum, which was not empty at all. I’d been there twice before, and I couldn’t remember anything. Where did I go first? Actually I went to see the Mummies second. The first place one comes to is a hall with plenty of books.

Yes that is me touching the (replica) Rosetta stone

Lots of Books and stuff

I spent a few hours there, and had I more time I would have maybe read the labels as well. I kind of intuitively made my way around the building. Had a cup of tea, wrote some postcards, tried to avoid tourists. The only two places I deliberately went to where the Egyptians mummies (bring back childhood memories) and the hall of clocks. I took lots of photos for Dad because he used to make clocks.

I thought I’d stay up a bit to get used to the time difference and made my way to the V&A.

I can hear you say: Where are the books, where are the books? I saw some at the Museum, and by the time I got to the V &A I was a bit tired. I saw ball gowns and thought of Jac.

I thought I was in a period movie

I get a bit frustrated at tourist places, so lucky for me no sooner had I left my things in the cloakroom that the fire alarm went off. Not much happened; you couldn’t actually understand that the loudspeaker was saying (isn’t that always the way?!) Crowds didn’t really move or seem worried. But I figured I’d best get my packages (oh yes on the way there I went shopping) and coats before i got stuck outside without them.  I wove my way around through the bewildered crowd, and soon enough there were attendants shepherding people to the exit. There was a queue at the cloakroom – frankly I would have thought they’d make us leave without our things. Still, I didn’t want to risk it, so I grabbed my gear and left on the nearest bus.

London is gearing up for the Olympics, although you wouldn’t know it from the state of the airport (ie dull and boring)

With the sun out it is all cheery

The transport system is terrific. And the top of the bus is the best way to see any city. As the afternoon wore on, crowds were evident, especially from up high. I got caught in a few sudden showers. I took the bus all the way to King’s Cross and to my new favourite tapas bar Il Camino.

at Il Camino a very atmospheric bar in Bloomsbury

I went to tango on Sunday night. But that’s another blog!

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