I was very fortunate to get my ticket on the last week it was being shown at the British Library – it’s one of those things that I would get round to buying if I had enough time, and impulsively picked a day and went straight to Euston Square.
The exhibition showcases so many writing displays in different formats – from manuscripts to video clips and voice recordings of writers past and present. What’s amazing about these manuscripts is that you get a more personal feel that is rarely since well… the printing press. If only I’d studied graphology – seeing how personality has often been analysed through writing. You can normally hear volumes how writers select their words (through our eyes of course – not going Barthes on you guys yet) but when you see what they’ve chosen over certain other words that they may have scribbled in the corners, or even grammatical errors that they’ve created, some the same as me – it creates a bond between you and the writer to see art in that raw unedited form. I couldn’t suppress a gasp when I was reading Blake’s manuscript of London to find a rough version of Tyger Tyger in the corner (I know, gasping in a library! I live dangerously).
Separated into all sorts of sections – the city, the seaside, the country and the wilderness – all these concepts where British Literature has flourished with peppered each corner, even with recordings and manuscripts of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath side by side. This was also punctuated with photographs and video montages, making the whole sensory feast complete. All the big guns are shown, from Chaucer to Dickens to Woolf to Robert Louis Stephenson to Kurieshi to Lewis Carroll to Shakespeare to the Romantic poets and Ballard as just a few examples. Can’t wait to see what else the British Library has to offer this year!