Treasures to be exhibited at Cambridge University library

From a tiny 4,000-year-old cuneiform tablet to Stephen Hawking's draft typescript of A Brief History of Time, about 80 most valuable books and manuscripts will be exhibited at the Cambridge University library for its 600th anniversary.

The exhibition will open to public on March 11 and run until Sept. 30. About 80 objects will be displayed in the exhibition, while 70 percent of them are displayed to the public for the first time.

Among the precious exhibits, 17 pieces of 3,000-year-old Chinese oracle bones will be one of the highlights of the exhibition.

Charles Aylmer, head of Chinese Department of the library, told Xinhua the text on one of the bones was asking about the sacrifice of an ox to an ancestor. He said British diplomat Lionel Charles Hopkins collected some oracle bones when he was in China, and donated 614 Chinese oracle bones to the library in 1952.

The first 3D print of the Chinese oracle bone in the world will also be shown in the exhibition, and visitors could handle it to get an idea of what oracle bone is really like, but it is a little heavier than the original, he said.

There are six different themes focusing on distinct exhibits covering communication, genetics, religion, gravity, literature and anatomy.

In the theme of communication, a tiny cuneiform tablet used as a receipt for wool, dating to 2039 BC, will be on public display for the first time in this exhibition. The oldest printed book in the library, a Chinese Buddhist book printed from a wooden block, dating back to 1107, will be exhibited in the religion section.

The genetics section will include a caricature of Darwin examining a remarkably familiar-looking ape in the "Gallery of Ancestors," painted shortly after the publication of Origin of Species, and his primate tree of 1868 in which he first controversially proposed that man and other primates share a common ancestor.

British physicist Isaac Newton's own copy of the first edition of Principia Mathematica, interleaved with numerous additions and corrections in his own hand will be displayed in the gravity section.

Objects such as the founder of modern human anatomy Andreas Vesalius's 3D manikin of human body, and works by Copernicus, Galileo and Jocelyn Bell Burnell will go on display for the first time.

"It's extraordinary to think that the university library, which started in 1416 as a small collection of manuscripts locked in wooden chests, has now grown into a global institution housing eight million books and manuscripts, billions of words, and millions of images, all communicating thousands of years of human thought," said University librarian Anne Jarvis.

Cambridge University library, with its more than eight million books, journals, maps and magazines, and two million books immediately available to readers, makes it the largest open-access library in Europe.

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