Edmund de Waal

library of exile



ISBN: 9780714123479 Category:

Edmund de Waal, Elif Shafak, Hartwig Fischer


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.

Additional information

Weight 393 g
Dimensions 23.1 x 17.2 cm
Publisher name The British Museum Press
Publication date 1 December 2020
Number of pages 80
Format Hardback
Dimensions 23.1 x 17.2 cm
Weight 393 g


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Edmund de Waal is an artist and award-winning author of numerous titles including the bestselling The Hare with the Amber Eyes (2010) and The White Road (2015).

Hartwig Fischer is Director of the British Museum having taken up the post in Spring 2016. Prior to this he was Director of the Dresden State Art Collections (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden).

Elif Shafak is an award-winning Turkish-British novelist, essayist, academic, public speaker and women's rights activist. Her book 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World was shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize.