Exeter has an unbroken literary history dating back to the 10th century. The Exeter Book, an Anglo-Saxon anthology of poetry and riddles, is the largest known collection of Old English literature still in existence. In 2016, UNESCO recognised the book as one of the world's principal cultural artefacts. It lives in Exeter Cathedral and has recently been digitised.
The region has inspired writers for centuries. Charles Dickens, Sabine Baring-Gould, Agatha Christie, Micheal Morpurgo, JK Rowling, Philip Reeve, and Hilary Mantel, among many others, have all lived, worked, studied, and written in and around Exeter.
This small city has a rich literary scene that continues to grow. Exeter is lucky enough to have the Devon & Exeter Institution, an independent library that boasts the earliest known professional woman librarian; Bookbag, an independent bookshop that curates diverse books and live events; Exeter Library, one of the busiest libraries in Great Britain in terms of visits and issues; Spork!, a spoken-word poetry organisation; Quay Words, a live literature programme part of Literature Works, the south west's writing development agency; Africa Writes Exeter, which showcases established and emerging talent from the African continent and its diaspora; many incredible authors such as Karla Neblett, Jock, Ellen Wiles, Nia Gould, Tom McLaughlin, and Sarah Pearse; and much more!
COLLABORATION WITH OTHER CITIES
To celebrate Luke Jerrarm's Gaia exhibition at Exeter Cathedral in February 2023, Exeter City of Literature published The Gaia Papers, a selection of original writing from five local writers from across Devon and four writers from other UNESCO Cities of Literature: Melbourne, Nottingham, Heidelberg, and Leeuwarden. The digital version can be read here.
Exeter City of Literature established the region's first Book Market in 2021 and it has now become an annual event. The Book Market brings together over ten independent bookshops from across South Devon each year to support local businesses and give people the opportunity to learn about bookshops they might not otherwise have come across. Bookshops report strong sales at each market and we provide additional activities for the bookstagram community, artists, and local food vendors.