I took the family along to have a look at the Mirror of the World: Books and Ideas exhibition at the Victorian State Library a few weeks back. It probably wasn't the best idea. The 13-year-old wasn't that interested and the 6-year-old couldn't see into some of the glass cases. That said, it was pretty good and there are some amazing items on display.
The title of the exhibition is taken from William Caxton's Myrrour of the Worlde (1490), one of the first illustrated books published in England, and the good thing, from my perspective, is that the Library hasn't restricted the exhibition to "classic" works. There are certainly books of that period (such as the Caxton book mentioned above, a second impression Shakespeare, and Descartes's Principia Philiosphiae from 1677) but there are also modern pieces as well. It is pleasing to see such items as Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch in the 1971 Paladin edition with the famous hanging rubber female torso, The War of the worlds by H.G. Wells in its 1946 Penguin edition of orange and white, and the comic Silver Starr No. 1 from 1950. The exhibition is split into 5 main sections - Books and Ideas, The Book and the
Imagination, Exploring the World, Art and Nature, and The Artist and the Book - with a wide range of items in each section, chosen for their illustrations, their curiosity value or just because they are beautiful to look at.
There wasn't much for the younger child to get enthused about but even the elder of the two started to take an interest in some of the old maps and woodcuts after a while. "Where's Australia?" "Well, in the 1600s Europeans didn't really know Australia actually existed." The look said it all: you're just making this up, aren't you? This is the first time I've had a chance to wander round the upper level of the Dome Gallery in the Library. A few years back the upper windows of the domed reading room were cleaned and the walls and galleries were refurbished. What we have now is probably as impressive a room as you could hope for: a reading room in the classical British Museum style with high white walls suffused with natural light. It's a very nice place to work. You only have to remember to move away from the main entrance as tourists tend to stand and gawp there. Can't say as I blame them.
This is an excellent exhibition and there's basically something for everyone, so long as you're not six years old.