Thu, 26 May 2022 19:30 - 20:30

Portable Magic: A History of Books and their Readers (In person & online)

All books are, as Stephen King put it, 'a uniquely portable magic'. In her fascinating new history of bibliophilia, writer and renowned Shakespeare scholar, Emma Smith, tells us why.

Portable Magic unfurls an exciting and iconoclastic new story of the book in human hands, exploring when, why and how it acquired its particular hold over us. Gathering together a millennium's worth of pivotal encounters with volumes big and small, Smith reveals that, as much as their contents, it is books' physical form - their 'bookhood' - that lends them their distinctive and sometimes dangerous magic. 

In partnership with The American Library in Paris, Smith speaks to Alice McCrum, about the ways in which our relationship with the written word is more reciprocal - and more turbulent - than we tend to imagine.'

A fascinating journey into our relationship with the physical book...I lost count of the times I exclaimed with delight when I read a nugget of information I hadn't encountered before.' Val McDermid

Emma Smith was born and brought up in Leeds, went unexpectedly to university in Oxford, and never really left. She is now Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College and the author of the Sunday Times bestseller This is Shakespeare

Alice McCrum is the head of cultural programming at The American Library in Paris, as well as a student of environmental studies at Sciences Po and host of a podcast about James Joyce’s Ulysses at Shakespeare and Company. 

The American Library in Paris was established in 1920 and is now the largest English-language lending library on the European continent. Promoting knowledge, inspiring lifelong learning, and creating a sense of community, it is a welcoming home for the thoughtful and curious in Paris.

Emma Smith's Portable Magic is available to pre-order from our partner bookshop Hatchards.

N.B. This event will take place in person at The London Library in alignment with up-to-date government COVID recommendations. Please see our Event Access and COVID Guidelines before you arrive. Doors (and the bar) open at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start. The event will be livestreamed through YouTube from 7.30pm and will be available to watch live or at any time after the event, using the same link. 

London Library events are subject to Terms and Conditions.

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