A STUNNING selection of manuscripts will reveal the artistry of Anglo-Saxon and medieval scribes in a new exhibition at the Bodleian Library.

The Bodleian's Weston Library in Broad Street will showcase the work of the first graphic designers of English texts, from the time of King Alfred the Great to the days of Geoffrey Chaucer, the Father of English Literature, who died in 1400.

Designing English: Graphics on the Medieval page, will be launched on Friday, December 1 and run until April 22.

As well as manuscripts, other artefacts will go on display to reveal the craft of scribes, painters and engravers.

Designing English is curated by Daniel Wakelin, Jeremy Griffiths Professor of Medieval English Palaeography at Oxford University, one of the few posts in the world dedicated to the study of medieval English manuscripts.

Prof Wakelin said: "Medieval writers had to be graphic designers every time they wrote or carved their words.

"Tracing the earliest uses of English, from illicit annotations on Latin texts, to more everyday jottings in ephemeral formats, this exhibition celebrates the imagination and skill of these early writers.

"Their craft and inventiveness resonates today when digital media allow users to experiment with design through word processing and social media."

The exhibition will explore all elements of design, from the materials used, such as the size and shape of animal skins used to create parchment, to the design of texts for different uses, including performing songs, plays or music.

Medical texts and practical manuals feature alongside ornate religious texts, including rare examples of unfinished illustrations that reveal the practical processes of making pages.

The use of English is traced from illicit additions made to Latin texts, to its more general, everyday use.

Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian said: ‘The Bodleian holds one of the most important collections of medieval manuscripts in the world, and this exhibition celebrates all aspects of the ingenuity and craftsmanship that went into some of the most beautiful, and everyday items that still survive today.

"The exhibition provides an intriguing and surprising history of English literature in one room."

The exhibition will features early manuscripts held in the Bodleian, one of the largest medieval collections in the UK, alongside loan items from the Ashmolean Museum and the British Museum.

Local items will include a medieval gold ring found at Godstow Priory in Wolvercote that is engraved with a hidden message in English; the Alfred Jewel which is believed to have been commissioned by Wantage- born King Alfred the Great; and an illuminated manuscript that belonged to Duke Humphrey of Lancaster, younger brother of Henry V.

Other highlights include The Macregol Gospels, dating from Ireland in about 800, with English translations added to the original Latin text, and English translations of hymns composed by Caedmon (657-680), an illiterate cowherd who lived at Whitby Abbey and is the first named English poet.

Gravestones are also on show, and other medieval objects engraved with English text, including an Anglo-Saxon sword, and a gold ring found at Godstow Abbey, Oxford.

Contemporary artworks on show will include calligraphy, prints, embroidery, pop-up books, videos, games and jewellery.

The exhibition will be opened by award-winning designer Jay Osgerby, who with Edward Barber, designed the new Bodleian Chair.

The exhibition is accompanied by two new titles from Bodleian Library Publishing.

Designing English: Early Literature on the Page, written by exhibition curator Prof Wakelin costs £30.

And Revolting Remedies from the Middle Ages, brings together weird and wonderful medical tips for everyday use in medieval England.

A programme of talks and events, including family-friendly activities, will be held over the course of the Designing English exhibition, starting with a special opening celebration at the Weston Library on December 2.

For more information visit bodleian.ox.ac.uk/whatson