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Unimaginative cat exhibition at the British Library

2018 December 29

Real, individual, cats – rather different to the British Library approach…

The “Cats on the Page” exhibition now at the British Library is run by a curator of C20 material at the library, with obviously no particular academic person with interest in animals nor charities working on behalf of animals.

Attention towards cats themselves is scarcely applied. There seems to be only one publication prior to the nineteenth century and just “one earliest source “ of nursery rhymes in 1805 including “The cat and the pudding-bag string” with an additional “early work of cats” entitled “Old Dame Trot and her comical cat” of 1811.

The small nineteenth century copies did not include details of the scant engravers. The book of 1817 The pretty, playful, tortoise shell cat interestingly displayed the cat sitting in front of a fire, being stroked by a child with other children sitting nearby. An image was also shown of the same cat sitting on a nearby house roof.

However, no attention was given to the role of cats in the past – or even the twentieth century – and even no reference to the legal act – after the important Martin Act of 1822 – in 1834 that included action in support of domestic animals , including cats as had been discussed in parliament.

Unsurprisingly no cat – nor broadly animal charity – was asked to support the exhibition instead it was “generally supported” by Animal Friends Pet Insurance company covering payment for dogs, cats and horses. ( Nor were any large printed booklets available for people to see the small captions).

As I shall argue in a future 2019 website piece, anyone interested in animals in different ways would be better off seeing the Edwin Landseer’s free small exhibition at the National Gallery or even Gainsborough’s Family Album at the National Portrait Gallery. If nothing else they present C18th and C19th visual material based on real animals – rather than the British Library fictional material.

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