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'Cats on the Page' opens at the British Library
Pussy's Breakfast Time, London, Ernest Nister, 1892. The British Library Board.

LONDON.- A free exhibition celebrating our furry friends in literature opened in the Entrance Hall of the British Library this week. Highlights include:

• Original illustrations by much-loved artists including Mog by Judith Kerr, Beatrix Potter’s Kitty-in-Boots as imagined by Quentin Blake, Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat by Ursula Moray Williams, Fred by Posy Simmonds and two illustrations for T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by Axel Scheffler

• Lewis Carroll’s own copy of the exceptionally rare third edition of Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there (1893), in which the author notes his frustration with the printing including a comment on an illustration of Alice’s kitten

• A selection of sound recordings for all ages including a reading of Macavity the Mystery Cat by T.S. Eliot, songs from the musical Cats and Disney’s The Aristocats and music by The Cure

• Edward Lear’s charming doodles of himself and his cat, Foss, contained within a letter written to a friend in 1879

• A 16th century pamphlet on witchcraft describing the activities of Elizabeth Stile and three other ‘notorious witches’, with a woodcut image accompanying the description of the black cat or familiar belonging to Mother Devell (who is alleged to have fed it with milk mixed with her own blood)

• A letter written by T.S. Eliot to his friend Geoffrey Tandy’s daughter, Alison, containing a draft of his poem ‘Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer’ and signed off with his nickname ‘Possum’; displayed alongside Alison’s reply including delightful drawings of the two cats, on loan from the T.S. Eliot Foundation

Cats on the Page brings familiar and much-loved feline favourites together with the eclectic and unexpected to celebrate the myriad ways in which cats have captured the cultural imagination for hundreds of years. Through an array of poetry, artwork, fables and fairytales from around the world, this free exhibition explores the various literary guises that cats have appeared under throughout the centuries: from comical cats to master criminals, the lovable to the mysterious and magical.

Books, manuscripts and artwork from the British Library’s own collections are displayed together for the first time alongside a number of original illustrations, with loans from Seven Stories, Judith Kerr, Posy Simmonds, Axel Scheffler, Quentin Blake and the T. S. Eliot Foundation. The exhibition’s run coincides with the 80th anniversary year of the original publication of Eliot’s classic poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

Staged in the British Library’s Entrance Hall, Cats on the Page contains family-friendly elements such as a family trail, sound recordings and a children’s reading corner. The accompanying events programme contains events to appeal to all ages, some of which are already sold-out.

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