A collection of books once dubbed ‘obscene’ are to go on display at Oxford University’s Bodleian’s Weston Library
It’s the first ever display of books from the restricted ‘Phi’ category, which staff assembled despite illegalities.
The category originated in 1882 when the Bodleian created a restricted category for books that were deemed by librarians to be too sexually explicit for young minds.
These books were given the shelf mark of the Greek letter ‘Phi’ and student had to submit a college tutor’s letter of support in order to read Phi materials.
Highlights on display include Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, thought to have been included because of its homoerotic subtext, a signed first edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which was smuggled into Britain in a diplomatic bag in order to evade British censorship laws, and an illustrated volume of The Love Books of Ovid, which was restricted due to its illustrations while Ovid’s unillustrated erotic poems were freely available on the Libraries’ open shelves