On Seeing the Author: Portraits in Libraries from Antiquity to the Present
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 explores how people have imagined ancient authors over time. It also considers how readers and listeners imagine authors look, as a way of thinking about their works.
This research is brought together in a fascinating new exhibition at Palace Green Library. The exhibition considers 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 concludes with a new commission of author portraits by photographer Julian Germain contributes to this exploration of what we experience on seeing the author.