Review: Cats on the Page - An enchanting exhibition for cat lovers at the British Library

Cats have been an obsession of mine for as long as I remember, especially in the books I read and the pictures I drew as a child. I grew up with four cats and considered Cracker - our big ginger Tom to be my best friend. He lived to the age of 22 and is such an important part of my childhood. I had Louis Wain prints in my bedroom (still do), and I loved The Tiger Who Came to Tea, The Cat in the Hat and of course, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. As an adult, I still adore all these feline classics but have a new love for Japanese literature which feature cats at the heart of the narrative; favourites include The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, Kafka on the Shore by Murakami and The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide. Next on my reading list is If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura which I’m confident I will be unable to put down!

I found The Cats on the Page exhibition at the British Library (somewhat unsurprisingly) a true delight! This free exhibition, although small, is packed with familiar feline faces with lots of new friends to meet along the way. Cats come to life in books, manuscripts, sound clips and artwork to captivate and inspire with lots of rare ephemera to discover which give extra context and intrigue to the pieces on display.

The exhibition is beautifully curated and flows wonderfully from section to section, with exhibits themed into different areas such as ‘The Mystery of Cats’ and ‘In the Company of Cats’. There is also a family friendly area where children can listen to cat sounds and attempt to guess what they are.

Alongside the exhibition there are also some special talks and discussions (information below) tickets for which can be purchased on the British Library website.

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats: A Celebration - January 15 2019

Cats Book Club: T S Eliot's Old Possums - January 17 2019

Louis Wain: The Man Who Drew Cats - February 7 2019 (SOLD OUT)

Around The World in 10 Cats - February 12 2019

I must admit that I was a little disappointed to find a lack of drawings or information about Louis Wain - apart from the below picture 'Mrs Tabitha's Cats Academy' (1892) which is attributed to Wain. The upcoming talk by Louis Wain expert Chris Beetles on the 7th of February is sadly sold out. It seems I’m not the only one who was hoping to see some books and original drawings by Wain on display! But then again, perhaps a dedicated Louis Wain exhibition will be on the cards sometime in the future. I sure hope so!

Ernest Nister 'Mrs Tabitha's Cats Academy' (1892). Image courtesy of the British Library

Ernest Nister 'Mrs Tabitha's Cats Academy' (1892). Image courtesy of the British Library


The Cats on the Page Exhibition - Free entry

Until Sunday March 17 2019

The British Library,

96 Euston Road,

London, NW1 2DB