Skip to main content

On Seeing the Author: Portraits in Libraries, from Antiquity to the Present 

30 January 2015 – 26 April 2015

Palace Green Library

For millennia, people watching plays, listening to songs and poetry, and reading books have understood that an author was responsible for the words they are experiencing. Thinking about the author has always been important in thinking about the words themselves. 

The Living Poets research project in Durham University’s Classics and Ancient History Department explored how people have imagined ancient authors over time. It also considered how readers and listeners imagine authors look, as a way of thinking about their works. 

This research was brought together in a fascinating exhibition which considered Bishop Cosin’s Library; a seventeenth-century building decorated with the portraits of important authors. Many books in the library also include portraits of authors and offer a valuable opportunity to explore how people in the past imagined the faces of the authors they read. This leads us to think about how we view modern authors through their portraits and personalities. 

The exhibition concluded with a commission of author portraits by photographer Julian Germain contributing to the exploration of what we experience on seeing the author.

On Seeing the Author exhibition illustration