Long before cats appeared on the internet, they appeared in books, and their comic antics are currently the topic of an exhibition at the British Library.

Unfortunately for the cats, their earliest depictions were often in witches manuals, as a guide to witchfinder generals out seeking demonic activities. It was some time before they started to appear in the more familiar comic form that we associate with them today.

The exhibition is largely a collection of books and posters with cats as the main topic — and arranged thematically.

From cats being cats to cats being pseudo-humans, to cats being fantasy figures. Cats play around the exhibition in painted silhouettes on the walls as you walk around.

A rare copy of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland is on show — rare because it was suppressed when printed. It seems that Lewis Carroll disliked the quality of the printing and ordered copies to be suppressed by the publisher.

Possibly the earliest LOL cat is here as well – in a book from 1964 which was a manual written by cats about how to deal with humans, and “translated” by a human for us to read. The photos in the book of the cat at a typewriter predate what we would be seeing on the internet by a good 40 years.

It’s a small exhibition, but one that is bound to bring a smile to most faces, and leave you maybe wandering over to a bookshop to buy a copy of a book that you’ve been reminded of from your childhood.

The exhibition, Cats on the Page is open at the British Library until 17th March 2019 and is free to visit.


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