Writing: Making Your Mark opens at the British Library

Writing: Making Your Mark (26 April – 27 August 2019) is a landmark British Library exhibition, which spans 5,000 years across the globe, exploring one of humankind’s greatest achievements – the act of writing.

Beginning with the origins of writing in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and the Americas, the exhibition will chart the evolution of writing through technology and innovation, exploring more than 40 different writing systems, from the 5,000 year old Jemdet Nasr clay tablet with very early cuneiform to digital typefaces and emojis.

Featuring an ancient wax tablet with a schoolchild’s homework from 100-199AD and Florence Nightingale’s diary alongside a 10th-century psalter and a 60,000-strong petition from 1905 protesting against the first partition of Bengal, Writing: Making Your Mark will highlight how writing can be personal, functional, beautiful or political and will challenge our preconceptions of what writing is through examples of writing as art, expression and instruction.

  • Writing: Making Your Mark is a landmark British Library exhibition, which spans 5,000 years worldwide, exploring one of humankind’s greatest achievements – the act of writing
  • From carved stone inscriptions, medieval manuscripts and early printed works to beautiful calligraphy, iconic fonts and emojis, Writing: Making Your Mark will deconstruct the act of writing and consider its future in the digital age
  • Family-focused pop-up displays will simultaneously launch in over 20 partner libraries around the UK through the Living Knowledge Network, enabling visitors to engage in a nationwide conversation on the origins, means and future of writing
  • The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of events, including talks, performances and walking tours, and a richly-illustrated book celebrating the act of writing from across the globe

Adrian Edwards, lead curator of Writing: Making Your Mark at the British Library, said:

“From street signs to social media, writing surrounds us in the modern world and reflects the diversity of everyone who uses it around the globe.  In the 5,000 years since speech was first turned into symbol, written communication has stimulated innovations as varied as the printing press and smart phones.  Today, however, new technologies allow us to replace written words with pictures, videos and voice recordings. Writing: Making Your Mark at the British Library asks what the future holds for writing and how we will choose to make our mark in the decades to come.”

There will be a series of events inspired by the exhibition, featuring leading experts exploring everything from hieroglyphics and alphabets to typography and tattoos.  A  Late at the Library sponsored by Montblanc will be a ‘lettering party’ soundtracked by DJs will feature famous names from the early 1980s New York subway graffiti scene, Martha Cooper and Lady Pink, and the Library will be marking World Emoji Day on 17 July. There will also be free school workshops, a range of inspiring adult courses including masterclasses on Japanese calligraphy and Ancient Greek, audio-description tours for visitors who are blind or partially-sighted and the Library’s first autism-friendly private view of the exhibition. 

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