The library in London is the nation’s legal deposit library which means that it must, by law, be given a free copy of everything published in the United Kingdom, from daily newspapers to annual journals, from the cheapest paperback to the most expensively produced hardback. That also includes comics. Whether they are the biggest corporation or the smallest of small press, there is a legal requirement on each publisher that the British Library receives a copy of each and every publication so it can be preserved for the nation.
Of course that doesn’t mean that you can just nip in and borrow a copy of the first issue of Dandy or Eagle as the institution is a reference library used mainly by researchers. While its collections are safely stored for future generations the British Library also puts on regular exhibitions of the holdings and in 2014 the theme of one of those exhibitions will be comics.
During his talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s Stripped event in August, comics historian Paul Gravett revealed that he will be curating the British Library’s comics exhibition next year. This will be entitled Anarchy Between the Lines: the Tradition of Sedition in British Comic Books and is scheduled to take place between May and September 2014. In addition to Paul, artist Dave McKean will also be working on it as the exhibition’s art director.
The library says that “The nuts and bolts of the creation of comics will be laid bare, from annotated scripts to sketchbooks, alongside rare comic books, digital comics and moving image material. The use of old and new material will highlight the ongoing legacy of British comic books. The exhibition aims is to reach a broad range of people in a dynamic way, directly communicating with the public along a variety of themes.”
Along with the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s Stripped programme this summer, this British Library exhibition is yet another big step forward for the acceptance of comics in British literary circles.
We will bring you more details of the British Library’s Anarchy Between The Lines comics exhibition when it is available but in the meantime the British Library’s website is here: www.bl.uk