Through the looking glass

‘Caedmon’ manuscript

This Treasure is paired with: ‘Caedmon’ manuscript (Anglo-Saxon attitudes)

Charles Dodgson and his illustrator John Tenniel no doubt saw the ‘Caedmon’ manuscript on display in the Bodleian (it appears in an exhibits list of 1868). The figural style of its illustrations with prominent hand gestures inspired Dodgson’s spoof on ‘Anglo-Saxon attitudes’ that Tenniel captures in his depiction of the messenger:

‘All this was lost on Alice, who was still looking intently along the road, shading her eyes with one hand. “I see somebody now!” she exclaimed at last. “But he’s coming very slowly – and what curious attitudes he goes into!” (For the Messenger kept skipping up and down, and wriggling like an eel, as he came along, with his great hands spread out like fans on each side.)

“Not at all,” said the King. “He’s an Anglo-Saxon Messenger – and those are Anglo-Saxon attitudes. He only does them when he’s happy…’

This Treasure isn’t currently on display in the Weston Library.