Writing pad and pen - Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Last Friday saw the opening of ‘Writing: Making your Mark’ a new exhibition at the British Library. As a long-time collaborator with this great London institution we are delighted to support their exploration into the story of text.
The exhibition explores the nature of what writing is, how we have done it and what kinds of examples it has produced, from notebooks by Mozart, Alexander Fleming and James Joyce, to ancient Japanese and Egyptian artefacts and examples that show the diversity of what this technology has produced.
Here at Fox & Chave we offer a variety of word inspired items and in this blog we highlight just a few along with what they reflect about the human invention of writing.
Canterbury Tales Silk Tie
It appears that Geoffrey Chaucer contributed significantly to the popularising of writing in middle English with his works, the most famous of which is The Canterbury Tales.
Born in London around 1343, Chaucer was not a writer by profession but undertook his efforts as a hobby and for personal entertainment having benefitted from education at a time when the majority of the population was illiterate.
As a member of an elite class, born of a merchant family, page to a Countess as a boy, and freed from imprisonment at the hands of the French by payment of a ransom by no less than Edward III himself, Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales in part as a commentary on the current state of affairs in medieval England, not least by the refusal to present them in either Latin or French, the accepted languages of church and state at the time.
Many will be surprised to learn that the 24 stories, written in a combination of poetry and prose about the journey of 30 pilgrims from Southwark near London to Canterbury, was unfinished at the time of Chaucer’s death.
Music Sheet Silk Tie
Although much music is learned and performed by ear, in the modern western musical tradition music is notated in a written form undertaken using a collection of symbols on a ladder-like element known as the staff.
The language is indicated by the sequence of symbols indicates the pitch, tempo, key, time signature and spacing of the notes to be played so that a written work might be accurately reproduced between one player and the next on behalf of the composer of the piece.
Notation styles vary greatly dependent upon the genre of music in question, and despite this conventional and apparently fixed method of reproduction, is still subject to a certain amount of interpretation by each individual player. Much as no two actors would perform an identical Hamlet, the same can be said about different musician's renditions of the same piece.
Booklovers Silk Chiffon Scarf
The novel as a written form is far older than common perception would suggest. Although available only to a literate elite the origin of the form stems from ancient Greece and Rome, with the world’s first work described as a novel being Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji in 1010.
The popularisation of the form is said to have begun following the release of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote in the early 17th Century, but due to continuing low levels of literacy among the majority of the population didn’t see mass sales begin until the 20th century despite notable titles from the century before like Moby Dick, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Time Machine, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Alice in Wonderland Silk Chiffon Scarf
One of the most famous written works by an English author is owed in large part to its fantastical characters and reality twisting narrative, providing ongoing popularity with adaptations continuing to be made for the small and large screen.
The author, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson first published his work in 1865 entitled ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ under the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll with illustrations, some of which are featured on our chiffon scarf, by John Tenniel.
On the grounds of poor print quality objected to by Tenniel, this first edition run of 2000 copies was held back in England until reprinted text blocks were available with the original blocks being sold to a US publisher. When sales of copies eventually commenced they sold out rapidly.
Magna Carta King John Cuff Links
Proclamations, declarations, statutes and laws form an overwhelming percentage of that which humanity has committed to record via the written word.
In the Western hemisphere foundation examples such as the United Sates Declaration of Independence find antecedence in the document known as Magna Carta signed in 1215 on a small ait at Runnymede, in Surrey, England by the then King John.
Magna Carta Libertatum which is latin for “The Great Charter of the Liberties”, is an agreement, albeit a forced one on the part of John, that forms in principle that the written law make a subject of all, including the monarch, and guaranteeing certain rights including the right to a fair trial.
Since then however, Habeus Corpus has been suspended several times in Great Britain with successive administrations throughout the 19th century citing a threat of treason against the establishment as apt justification.
Very recent events might also call in to question whether the foundation principles for the liberty of citizens set out in Magna Carta are quietly being revoked in the name of ‘National Security’, and ever increasing and constant technological surveillance of the populace.
Jane Austen Crêpe de Chine Silk Scarf
Jane Austen wrote six major novels in her 42 years with the most renowned being Pride & Prejudice and two of which, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published posthumously.
Pride & Prejudice was initially entitled ‘First Impressions’, and was soundly rejected for publication when submitted in 1797. After a radical re-write some 15 years later it was eventually made available in 1813 and has never been out of print since.
The plots of Austen’s works are marked by their wit with frequent adaptations occurring for stage, film and television with some significant career progressions being enjoyed by actors who inhabit the characters, most notably those offered the opportunity to present to the world their version of the priggish Mr. Darcy.
Medieval Alphabet Silk Bow Tie
The symbols used in the majority of western written forms are those of the Roman or Etruscan alphabet. Initially used around 600BC for the writing of Latin they developed for around 700 years unitl they came to be what we would recognise today and are now used as the foundation for writing in English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch and other European languages making it the most common written form with around 2 billion users.
From the 4th to the 16th centuries illuminated medieval manuscripts were predominant in Europe with gold leaf and bright colours being used to embellish pages in scriptures and devotional books to increase their value to the owners. It was between the 7th to the 11th Centuries when the practice of enlarging and embellishing the initial letter of a page was common.
Egyptian Hieroglyphics Crêpe de Chine Silk Scarf
Hieroglyphic script is a writing system used by ancient Egyptians to represent their language and is done so in pictorial form. The Greek historian Herodotus believing the form to be sacred referred to them as ‘the holy writings’, hence the name heiro, from the Greek for Holy, and glypho, for writing.
The complexity of the system can be broken down into three usage groups among the symbols. Logograms, which denote a specific word, phonograms that represent a sound or combination of sounds, and determinatives that qualify a meaning. Despite this there are examples of over 1000 different symbols used.
Hieroglyphics are also read either from top to bottom in columns or from right to left in rows.
I Can Resist Everything Bone China Cuff Links
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was a poet and playwright of Irish extraction now most notable for his seemingly off the cuff quips and quick verbal retorts.
Excelling through academic institutions in Dublin and Oxford, Wilde continued to shine in London society first as a novelist with his only work in that form The Picture of Dorian Gray, but then with much greater success as the scribe of nine plays some comedic, some tragic but the form allowed for his rapier like wit and gift for dialogue to be transcribed and placed into mouths other than his own.
These cuff links are a classic example of what might now be regarded as a ‘one liner’, but are affectionately referred to as ‘wilde-isms’.
Shakespeare Love Silk Chiffon Scarf
By far and away the greatest exponent of writing in the English language employed that form to write 198 works, including 38 plays, 154 Sonnets and 6 other long form poems.
Yet some find suspicion in such a prolific output and massive universal acclaim being laid at the door of the man from Stratford, who it is suggested could barely sign his own name and whose daughters remained uneducated and illiterate.
The intimate knowledge of history, courtly practices, European customs and social values and the sheer variety of reference points have led some to suggest alternatives to the single author known as William Shakespeare.
These include the promotion of what is known as the ‘Oxford Theory’, the subject of the 2011 film Anonymous, which cites the idea that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford was the true author. The ‘Baconian theory’, instead cites Francis Bacon formerly Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England as responsible, whilst other suggestions include the notion that the works were created by a clandestine group in a kind of ‘Elizabethan writers room’ scenario, or that the author was in fact a venetian Jewish woman named Amelia Bassano.
The exhibition Writing: Making your Mark is on at The British Library until 27th August with tickets priced at £14.00