British Library celebrates history of writing in new exhibition

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Photo credit: British Library, Writing: Making Your Mark
Photo credit: British Library, Writing: Making Your Mark

Writing is arguably one of humanity’s greatest achievements, prompting the British Library to organise this exhibition telling that story, over the course of 5000 years and crossing seven continents.


Making your Mark follows the remarkable evolution of writing from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs carved in stone and early printed text such as William Caxton’s edition of The Canterbury Tales, to the art of note-taking by some of history’s greatest minds, and onwards to the digital communication tools we use today.


The exhibition celebrates centuries of human innovation, showing through more than 100 objects how writing fuelled progress and opened doors to other forms of expression and art.


Items as diverse as James Joyce’s collection of notes for his novel Ulysses and a 60,000-strong petition against Bengali partition, sit alongside Burmese tattooing instruments and a new take on typography by the Russian artist El Lissitzky to illustrate how writing allows us to enact change and make a lasting creative mark of our own.


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,” he concluded.


Exhibition curators encourage visitors to consider their own role in the future of writing by leaving their thoughts in a book at the end of the exhibition. And for those who prefer to extol the delights of the written word through digital media, they encourage using the exhibition hashtag, #MakingYourMark.


Family-focused pop-ups have launched 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.


An exhibition for all fans of writing, Making Your Mark is now open at the British Library and is on until 27 August 2019.

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