Gloomy, dark, dusty, boring, full of strange silent people with unfashionable glasses become bent because of the huge amount of time spent on the books.
This has been the usual picture of a library – a place reserved for a small niche of intellectuals concentrated in reading, thinking, and meditating about every written work existing on the Earth…
But there is a place in London where this idea is completely overturned – the British Library.
This has not the usual image described before; further the books archive, the visitors can find an exhibition room where the entire history of England– but not only – combines with the original literature, poetry and religion writings.
The room was – yes, it is – gloomy and dark, and the lights are low and suffused, but this measure was taken to avoid the deterioration of the precious exhibits.
Geoffrey Chaucer and his masterpiece “The Canterbury Tales” welcomed to whom get in – considered the oldest example of British literature, it contained a set of stories which a group of pilgrims was telling during their travel from Southwark to Saint Thomas Beckett tomb
In Seventeenth century writers were not only writers, but a numerous part of them were politician – John Milton, the author of the poem ‘Paradise Lost’, wrote and addressed to the Parliament the dialogue ‘Areopagitica’, in order to defend the freedom of speech and expression.
The window contained ‘Commonplace Book’, a small notebook in which Milton took down his thoughts about politics, marriage, divorce, censorship, and education.
Turning our back on this section of the display, the collection of another amazing writer loomed in front of us: William Shakespeare.
The original pages of the most famous, mysterious and enigmatic playwright – his real identity is nowadays unknown – were located close the works of other famous rival dramatists, such as Marlowe, Beamount, Fletcher, and Middleton, who competed with the Elizabethan master all their lifetime.
In the library, it was possible to discover new sides of well-known masterpieces authors embedded in never-published pages, for instance Arthur Conan Doyle.
The first exhibit of Sherlock Holmes’ creatos was his first novel “The Narrative of John Smith” – an autobiographical story which through the main character, John Smith exactly, told the thoughts of the writer about politics, war, science, religion, literature, and education.
Italy was present as well with one of its most enlightened artist and inventor: Leornardo Da Vinci, which in these hand-written notebooks voiced all his scientific criticism against the theory of colleagues, such as Leon Battista Alberti.
Since the beginning of the world, the Man was intrigued in understanding the functioning of human being and the relative ways to solve diseases and malfunctions.
Joannes de Ketham has been the first physician to create a detailed medical book – “Fasciculus Medicinae” (1491) – where he has explained his theory of ‘four humours’, consisting of the principle that four kind of bile (black, yellow, blood and phlegm) filled the human body by being balanced perfectly.
While two century later, the Chinese naturalist Li Shizhen listed and studied 1000 kind of animals and 1000 kind of plants having extreme medical value, enclosing them with more then 8000 prescriptions and use.
The most historically relevant part of the exhibition appeared suddenly at our eyes: the Gutemberg Bible (1454) – more than 180 copies were printed with the financial partnership of Johann Fust.
Unfortunately the great discovery brought no fortune to its inventor, which in 1457 failed for debt, and in 1465 he could get a small pension for the benevolence of the Archbishop of Mainz.
Nearby the curators of the museum had arranged the display of the King James’ Bible (1611) – which its 400th Anniversary was celebrated the past year.
This was the first official English translation, but considered by the clergy heretical because it undermined the duty of the Church to be the only one interpreter and preacher of the Scriptures.
Wandering around these windows, it is possible to taste the extraordinary historical spirit of the new technology, which also helped to diminish the illiteracy, but the densest atmosphere came from a small room aside them.
This small, half-hidden room contained the original copies of the Magna Carta, the document considered the first parliamentary treaty.
Its birth was during the reign of King John, characterized by big defeats with France and the Church, which caused the exploitation of the feudal rights in order to finance them.
The dissent of the noble increased until they thought a way to limit King’s powers by finding it in the Charta – the negotiations started on 19th June in Runnymede, near theThamesRiver.
In this way started the origin of our western parliamentary, which then spread – in different kinds – in all European countries after centuries.
The British Library is a good way to compare history and books not only by using stacks and stacks of books, but observing physically them, and connecting with their historical period.
A plunge in David Copperfield world
Victoria and Albert Museum celebrates the bicentenary of the Charles Dickens birth exhibiting the original manuscript of his autobiographic masterpiece “David Copperfield” at the National Art Library, situated at the third floor of the building, from 15th November to 1st April.
The exhibition shows the first original printed copy dated 1859, and the previous drafting of the book with corrections and annotations of the author.
Before being bound in unique book, “David Copperfield” was published in 20 installments from May 1849 to November 1850, and Hablot Knight Browne created the illustrations.
He became the official Dickens illustrator, and between the two men there will create a strong work relationship – the writer examined and judged every drawing before they were printed.
Often H.K. Browne created his drawings while Dickens was writing his novels, so this close connection allowed them to establish a steady and honest collaboration.
Dickens had a meticulous management of his affairs, and the visitors can look at the personal register where the author noted the sales of his writings and the remunerations.
The influence of Dickens in the literary world was very deep, especially in the theatre.
Andrew Halliday was the author of the first theatrical adaptation – the play “Little Em’ly” – which approved from Dickens, it opened the Olympic Theatre season in 1869.
It is also exposed a singular copy of the novel; in 1914 before the beginning of the show, the audience of the His Majesty Theatre in London received a copy of the book in homage, given by the manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, and illustrated by Frank Reynolds.
But one of the most important pieces is the edition published in 1872, the first after the writer death, in which 9 volumes out of 20 were illustrated by Frederick Banrnard, who became the new best illustrator of the Dickens novels.
In 1983 Charles Keeping published a comics version of David Copperfield, which was the first edition illustrated by only one cartoonist.
The exhibition ends with a recent comics edition published in 2007 by Marias Williams.
This small exhibition represents “David Copperfield” impact on different artistic sectors.
The visitors carry out a plunge in Nineteenth century – when London started industrializing, facing its new problems (drunkenness of exploited workers, slums, immigration, poverty and dirtiness), and the splendour of Victorian Age dominated every cultural field.
Title: The pillars of the Earth
Author: Ken Follet
Editor: MacMillian Publisher Ltd.
Price: 10.80 €
Wandering through London it is possible to bump into the most beautiful cathedrals in all over Europe: from the Saint Paul’s Cathedral, passing by the Southward Cathedral, to the renowned Westminster Cathedral.
In these buildings we can find people praying, people thinking about their life problems or more simply people visiting them.
But what’s the historical background of these buildings? Why did men build them?
This novel by Ken Follet tries to give us another way to observe these buildings.
Using an effective writing style, the author draws us towards a story of love, hatred, passion, ideals, treasons, trick, power and political struggle.
Set in the 12th century, during the period of King Stephen and the Anarchy, the story tells of Tom Builder, a penniless master builder, who was dismissed from his previous commission by Hamleight family, who has a hidden dream: building a cathedral.
After being fired Tom and his family start wandering to find a new employment but his wife Agnes dies in the forest giving birth to their last son, leaving him alone with his son, Alfred, and his daughter, Martha.
Here he meets Ellen, his future wife and previously a nun who left the monastery after falling pregnant, who lives in the wood with her son Jack, a clever and shy boy.
Subsequently they settle in Kingsbridge, where Prior Philip, serious and devout monk, runs the monastery and struggles against the thirsty of power of the Bishop Waleran Bigod.
In this town, facing troubles, betrayals and political competition, Tom begins the building of his cathedral.
Follet uses his characters to emphasize human behaviour.
On the one hand we can talk about the positive feelings: Tom Builder represents passion and devotion; Jack, Ellen’s son, represents stubbornness, bravery and determination to succeed; Aliena, Earl Bartholomew’s daughter who rejected Hamleight’s son, represents independence and willingness to solve the predicaments of life and Prior Philip represents strong faith in ideals and morals.
On the other hand we can identify the negative feelings: William Hamleight represents arrogance and obsession, he fervently desires Aliena after she refused his offer of marriage, and violence, which is used to achieve his whims; Waleran Bigod, continuously thirsty of power, represents the political ability to cheat and obtain more power from any situation.
A well-written book, a masterpiece, which observes the Middle Age from a different point of view allowing us to understand what lies behind buildings and which stunning power plots they can hide.
Title: The Lost Symbol
Author: Dan Brown
Editor: Corgi Books Limited
Price: 10, 80£
Reading a book is always a good, reading a good book is a pleasure, but reading an extraordinary book gives an endless pleasure.
“The lost symbol”, amazing third chapter of the Robert Langdon saga, is a race against the time without excluding blow below the belt.
Set in Washington DC, Dan Brown does not introduce a controversial religious secret but he tells of the most ancient organizations of occult: the Freemasonry.
Peter Solomon, mentor of Robert Langdon, high rank degree mason and director of the Smithsonian Centre, summons him for addressing a conference in Capitol Building.
Tired, breathless and anxious he rushes not to be in late, he come in Capitol Rotunda, the central hall of the building, where he do not find a lecture to give but he find the cut arm of his friend, recreating the Hand of Mysteries, an old esoteric symbol.
The author of this plot is Mal’akh, a thirsty of power mason member who previously kidnapped Mr Salomon and then he summoned the symbologist.
In this way, the kidnapper will oblige Langdon to interpret the figures on the Mason’s Pyramid, which should hide the location of the Lost Word, a secret who will give the criminal endless power.
Immediately it starts a frantic hunt who involves Katherine Solomon, Peter’s sister conducting experiments about Noetic Science at Smithsonian Centre, Warren Bellamy, Freemason and Architect of the Capitol, Reverend Colin Galloway, high rank mason, and Inoue Sato, head of the CIA.
Discovering sad truths and unthinkable arcanes, Langdon will be able to forbid Mal’akh of achieving his purpose and he will save his friend.
This book is flowing, quick and involving, a pleasant story well-structured and appealing.
Another time Dan Brown gives a proof of his great ability of writer, keeping the reader stuck to the pages from the start to the end.