Published to mark the display of library of exile at the British Museum, this beautifully produced new book reflects on the themes raised by de Waal’s thought-provoking work of art. The introduction from Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum, positions the artwork within the wider context of the Museum’s collection, highlighting the dialogue between objects from across time and throughout history and the contemporary. Finally, de Waal concentrates on the work itself, its journey to the British Museum via Venice and Dresden, and its future role in the foundation of the New University Library in Mosul.
The library contains 2,000 books written by authors in exile in numerous languages from antiquity to the present day. The exterior walls, washed with porcelain over sheets of gold are inscribed with the names of libraries from history – from Nineveh and Alexandria to those lost more recently including Timbuktu, Aleppo and Mosul. Displayed inside the structure are four vitrines of porcelain vessels inspired by Daniel Bomberg’s Renaissance printing of the Jewish scripture, the Talmud. Visitors are invited to contemplate and respond to the books by writing notes on the ex libris bookplate inserted into each edition.
First shown as part of the Venice Biennale in 2019, the library travelled to Dresden before its installation at the British Museum in London in 2020. From here the library will form part of the New University Library in Mosul.