Gothic Frights at the British Library

Newly discovered Ann Radcliffe letter, 31 August, London, p2. Photography (c) British Library Board

© British Library Board

With Halloween just a couple of weeks away, this feels like the perfect time to tell you about a special exhibition currently creeping out visitors to the British Library.

Terror and Wonder – The Gothic Imagination is on until 20 January 2014, celebrating all aspects of the unnerving genre. Astonishing to think now that it was all launched by one sensational piece of literature – Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto – which was published 250 years ago.

The exhibition will showcase rare manuscripts on display including Gothic classics such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde alongside the work of contemporary writers influenced by the genre, including Angela Carter and Sarah Waters.

Fuseli's suitably Gothicized image of the ghost of Hamlet's father in Boydell’s Shakespeare. Photograph courtesy of the British Library

Fuseli’s Gothicized image of the ghost of Hamlet’s father in Boydell’s Shakespeare. Photo courtesy of the British Library

The eerie imaginings of the earlier spawned a whole artistic genre, encompassing every medium from painting to photography, fashion to film, and you’ll be able to see artwork by Henry Fuseli, William Blake and Philip James de Loutherbourg, contrasted against modern art and photography – including the brilliant brand new artwork created by  artist Dave McKean especially for the exhibition, shown below.

Artist Dave McKean's artwork for Terror and Wonder

The overall question will be: “Why are we so fascinated by the dark and the monstrous?”

Look out for literary, film and music events accompanying the exhibition, with input from the likes of Susan Hill, Sarah Waters, actor Reece Shearsmith, comedian Stewart Lee and musician Brian May. Find more details on the library’s What’s On pages.