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From Babel to the Babel Fish: Transmission, Translation and the Technology of Language

11:00am-4:00pm on Saturday 10 September

St John's College, The Old Library, St John's Street, CB2 1TP

In the story of the Tower of Babel, human ambition is thwarted by the fragmentation of speech into different languages. Yet if language is a barrier, it is surmountable; and people have long striven, across tongues and cultures, to communicate with one another and to reach new understandings.

This exhibition, situated in the 17th-century Old Library of St John’s College, explores how some classic inventions – writing; paper; print; books – have contributed over the centuries to the spread of ideas and the forging of connections. Polyglot Bibles, fictional alphabets, poetry, pedagogy, propaganda, cant, code, calligraphy, and more: this is a tale of language delving into the past, defining the present and divining the future.

An online version of the exhibition will appear on the St John's College website ( shortly after the in-person event.

Image copyright: St John's College

Booking Information

Booking not required


Partial access - please contact us for details

Additional Information

Young Adults 12 – 18, Adults, Exhibition, Online, In person, Free

Entry to the Old Library is via E staircase, Second Court.