SKU: BODS-101699

'This lovely book will give great pleasure to very many readers.’  - Philip Pullman

'A wonderful book … A thought-provoking collection, and beautifully produced.’ - Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern


We all know about giving and receiving gifts: they can be touching or puzzling, either strengthening bonds of friendship or becoming a burden. Gifts are an integral part of human societies and this volume explores how, over the centuries, books and writing describe gifts in all their complexity, but also become precious gifts themselves. In a series of thought-provoking essays, richly illustrated from the Bodleian Library’s collections and beyond, the contributors illuminate some of the striking ways in which writing interacts with those fundamental impulses to give, receive and reciprocate.
Each chapter draws on a particular perspective, including archaeology and religion, history, literature and anthropology. From an ancient Sumerian tablet recording the founding of a temple to contemporary children’s literature that highlights the pleasures and troubling histories of exchange and inheritance, the dynamics of the gift are at work across space and time. This book features gorgeous medieval manuscripts, gifts made by and for Queen Elizabeth I, Victorian Christmas tales and a mysterious Scottish book sculpture. Stories of sacrifice, love, loyalty and friendship are woven into these books and objects, showing the ongoing power of the gift to shape the stories we tell about ourselves.


NICHOLAS PERKINS is Associate Professor of Medieval English at Oxford and a Fellow of St Hugh’s College.


  • Hardback
  • ISBN 9781851246106
  • 200 pages 259 x 237mm
  • 75 colour illustrations
  • Published June 2023

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