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.
“The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games medals” Exhibition – London, The British Museum, 8th February – 9th September 2012
In the recent months, countless numbers of important experts, columnists, and journalists have assembled their mental efforts on the forthcoming Olympic Games in Londonby discussing every single detail or stunning athletes’ foible.
No one thought to display this event from an unusual point of view: the medals and their meaning.
The BritishMuseumdid it by presenting a small collection of Games medals to its visitors from 8th February to 9th September 2012 in the Room 37.
Although the Games have a history over two thousand years long, the first official edition started in 1869 inAthensthrough the inspiration of the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin.
From the first exhibit, the mesmerizing, glittering light of the medal draws completely the visitors’ attention, but a watchful eye cannot also help noticing how much the competitions have changed during the ages.
Edward Marston Farmer won the competition in a singular sport: tilting cap – a horseman wearing a special cap used a lance to unhook small ring hanging from a crossbar.
The prize respects the usual medal design by containing, on the upper side, an inscription in relief which reports the name of the activity and representing, in the central part, a draw of the sport – in this case a proud cavalryman wielding his lance.
In the following window, the curators thought to commemorate the last British Games edition set in Londonin the 1948.
A poster dominates the visitors’ view – on the background it reproduces the famous image of Westminster with the towering presence of the Big Ben, while the figure on the foreground represents a copy of the “Discobulus”, or “Discus thrower”, created by the ancient Greek sculptor Myron, and consisting of a nude athlete throwing a discus.
Below the banner there are different medals created by the artist Bertram Mackennal in 1908 London Games, but the best piece is the Stoke Mandeville victory medal used in 1984.
The medal is still hung to its original blue-white-red ribbon, and the image on it is charged with meaning – the world is completely encircled by a chain of wheelchairs symbolizing the deep tie among the people having disabilities without skin, colour, or ethnic difference.
Subsequently the exhibition focuses on the 2012 medals draft made by the authors, David Watkins and Lin Cheung.
The Rio Tinto company supported the event, supplying and processing the materials used to forge the prizes, and the window contains some sample of coarse silver and gold.
But only in the centre of the hall, between a hysterical music background of clicking cameras and buzzing children with astonished dreaming glances, the visitors can enjoy of the best pieces of the exhibition – the official 2012 Olympic Games medals.
The works of Watkins will be used to award the winning athletes of the Olympic Games – the artist focused on the traditional spirit of the event by reproducing the image of Nike, the Greek deity personifying the Victory.
While the second work represents the logo chosen byLondonauthority, which consists of a stylized depiction of the number 2012 with the Olympic Rings embedded within zero.
At first sight the idea for Paraolympic medals can appear confused and meaningless – a host of corrugated line tilted from the left side to the right side – but really they hide a deep significance.
Lin Cheung wanted to represent the wings of the deity because they evoked ‘togetherness at an historical event where athletes, spectators and the spirit of the Nike are united as one’.
Despite its limited space, the visitors do not waste time to have a look of this part of the Room 37.
The exhibition plunges them into 2,600 years of astonishing sports history by discovering all ancient noble significance of the Games – the reverence of the deity, the respect of the rules, the struggle of the competition, and the honour of the opponent.
Every city hides strange and unusual stories – sometimes they are funny, sometimes they are dramatic, and sometimes they have a huge historic importance.
Unlike its neighbour this road is not so famous and important, but in the central part there is an old water-pump, located on eight-sided cement platform, which has an enormous scientific value.
The story begins in the Nineteenth century, when a big amount of people poured into London to get job and new opportunities.
Soho became overpopulated, and the basic sanitary services were not sufficient – the authorities decided to get rid of waste by throwing them in the Thames River, contaminating the water supply.
In 1854 the city was scene of a terrible cholera epidemic, in which almost 127 people living in this zone died.
John Snow, a York doctor working in London, started studying the event – sceptic of the predominant medical vision based on the theory of “bad air” (miasma) – he used a new approach, which depended on the ability of diseases, such as Black Death or cholera, to be transmitted by germ contamination.
In one year, he gathered an impressive quantity of data, and, with the help of Reverend Henry Whitehead, he could contact and interview people living in this road.
After this preliminary investigation, he could create an accurate map of the outbreaks of cholera, and the result of his report was surprising – the epidemic was not spread by air, as the majority of doctors claimed, but by the water coming from the Broadwick Street pump.
Besides, subsequently it was discovered that this well was dug near an old cesspit, which had infected the water further.
This analysis obliged the authorities to dismantle the pump, and to provide safe solutions for getting rid of waste.
The accuracy of the analysis earned John Snow the mention as father of the science of epidemiology.
Nowadays the original pump does not exist anymore, and in 1992 the authorities set up a copy to celebrate the fundamental discovery of this doctor coming from York.
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.