Emma Smith’s ‘Portable Magic’ 70,000th book added to Hertford library collection
3 May 2022
Taking its title from a Stephen King quote describing books as “a uniquely portable magic,” Emma’s new book explores the life of the book as a material object, exploring the relationships they create between readers and the written word.
Portable Magic: A History of Books and their Readers joins the Hertford library collection as our 70,000th acquisition since we started accessioning the modern collection in 1968. It’s pictured here with the first page of the library accessions register which began as the newly refurbished library opened – this was the last time that the library underwent a major expansion. in the same year, around 90 new students matriculated; this year we had over 250 new undergraduate and postgraduate students start their courses with us.
The book, published last week, already boasts impressive reviews: “I lost count of the times I exclaimed with delight when I read a nugget of information I haven’t encountered before” wrote Val McDermid in The Times, while The Guardian described it as “a love letter to reading”. PortableMagic explores the relationship between books and readers over centuries. Many of the topics she discusses affect Hertford Library, from defining what actually counts as a book, to dealing with offensive material and censorship.
Hertford Library readers have been vital in shaping our collection by recommending book purchases that are on their reading lists, but also books they would like to have on their reading list. An example of this is our recent Liberation Collection, chosen by students to celebrate diversity and raise awareness of social inequalities.
Emma’s former Hertford student, novelist Alex Preston (English, 1998), interviewed her about PortableMagic in The Guardian – listen to their conversation here from last year on The Hertford Bookshelf podcast. You can also hear Emma discuss her book on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week.
Professor Emma Smith has been a Fellow of Hertford since 1997 and has recently been elected as Pro-Principal to oversee our library redevelopment campaign. In the English Faculty she is Director of Teaching and Professor of Shakespeare Studies.
Emma Smith’s ‘Portable Magic’ with the first page of the Hertford Library Accessions Register