Writing. From Clay to Smartphone

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the exhibtion “Writing – Making your mark” at the British Library. It’s a very cosy and inspiring show, which opens with neon signs that remind us how powerful writing is.

The first question. Why writing began? For counting, naming, and communicating after life.

The Greek colonials took the alphabet to Italy where Etruscans changed it to suit their needs: Roman under the influence of their Etruscan neighbours adapted it to Latin. ….and the Italic is from Niccolò Niccoli .. the Italic style. So much to learn with this exhibition at the British Library in London.

Don’t miss the stunning the quote “Whispering to my soul, it is so temporary” by Jeanette Winterson carved in stone.

In the exhibition there are also some cute portable pen sets, quills, penknives, tiny inkwells and the box containing pounce powder to dry ink on a finished page. A little gem was the four treasures of the study, a Japanese box containing the all basics for writing and studying.

  • CLAY: Pressing Clay was developed in ancient Mesopotamia: clay tablets were used for over 3,000 years. Scribes used a reed stylus to impress character items in moist clay. But writing was also done into metal, wax and leaves. STYLUS: made in wood, bone or metal. The stylus was one of the most common writing tools in the ancient world. Stylus means “stake” in Greek.
  • PAPER: for the importance of paper, we need to go back to the Chinese, who invented paper more than 2,000 years ago.
  • QUILLS: in the 19th century, quills pens had a steel nib introduced.The early Bion-type fountain pen got its name from Nicolas Bion, an instrument maker to French Royalty. The disadvantage of quills and dip pens was the need to regularly reload with ink. Next arrived the introduction of a pen with a ‘reservoire’, the fountain pen.

Despite the spread of cheap ready to use ballpoint pens, many people still enjoy the experience and effect of writing with a fountain pen. I certainly do.

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.

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. 

Writing. Making your mark

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.

#MakingYourMark

Writing: Making Your Mark at the British Library has been curated by Adrian S. Edwards (Head of Printed Heritage Collections), Peter Toth (Curator of Ancient Manuscripts), Emma Harrison (Curator of Chinese Collections) and Michael Erdman (Curator of Turkish & Turkic Collections) at the British Library.  

DETAILS:
Full Price: £14.00
Senior 60+: £12.00
Student / Registered Unemployed / Disabled / National Art Pass / Child 12-17: £7.00
National Art Pass Senior: £6.00
Members / Child 11 and Under: free

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library’s collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website – www.bl.uk – every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.

The British Library’s Membership scheme is a way for people to support the work of the British Library, while also gaining access to benefits including: unlimited free access to exhibitions, access to the exclusive Members’ Room (with a guest), access to the Knowledge Centre Bar (with up to three guests), 20% discount in British Library restaurants and cafés, 20% discount in our Shops, priority booking for events, along with four free tickets to British Library events. Membership is available at a range of prices and full details are available at www.bl.uk.  Membership is separate from access to our Reading Rooms, which is available to anyone holding a British Library Reader Pass and which remains free.

About the British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library’s collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website – http://www.bl.uk – every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.

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