1,000 Years at British Library

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A 1,000-year-old book of riddles, a 15th-century love letter and a 20th-century bear named Pooh: All are strands in the rich history of English literature being celebrated this summer by the British Library.

This body of literature is ``the thing, above anything else, that Britain has given to the world in the course of the last millennium,\'\' government arts secretary Chris Smith says about the national library\'s major exhibit for the year 2000.

Called ``Chapter and Verse,\'\' it runs through Oct. 15 at the vast, red-brick structure near King\'s Cross rail station that houses the nation\'s collection of books, manuscripts and maps.


The literature is not arranged chronologically, but by such themes as love, loss, laughter, imagination, belonging and strife.


One of the stars of the exhibit is a 1,000-year-old manuscript of ``Beowulf,\'\' the Anglo-Saxon epic poem about a Scandinavian warrior who rids the Danish kingdom of the monster Grendel. Written in Old English, it is the first known major poem in a European vernacular language and is believed to have been written in the sixth century. The library says this copy, by an anonymous scribe, may have been one of several, but is the only one known to exist.


A prize-winning new translation of ``Beowulf\'\' by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney is also part of the exhibit.

Many of the 300 items on display are written in the author\'s hand, creating an intensely personal tie between the observer and the likes of William Blake, James Joyce and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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