Friday, 30 December 2011

"Handwritten" at the National Library of Australia

The trip to Canberra was first considered when I heard about the "Handwritten" exhibition (I'm sorry, I was hoping for a better exhibition page, personally) - approximately 100 original, handwritten manuscripts from around the world, although with a definite slant towards Germany.  This isn't surprising given that they all come from the collections of the Staaatsbibliotek zu Berlin.

It was completely awesome.  Probably the major things for me were the Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Bonhoeffer manuscripts.  I mean, how can you possibly beat Bonhoeffer, and the original of 'Wer bin ich?', right there, right in front of your eyes.

There's also documents handwritten by Charles Dickens, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  (We also saw a letter written by Jane Austen, but that was in the National Treasures exhibition next door.  I had no idea there even was an extant Austen manuscript in Australia!)

Handwriting is an amazing thing, which I suspect is part of the point of the exhibition.  We don't write much by hand anymore: my hand starts to hurt if I write for a long time, and I mostly write emails (and blog posts) rather than hand written letters.  Even my Christmas Letter, which I haven't yet written but will do (because we're still in the Christmas Season, right?) will be typed, although the cards are handwritten.  Which reminds me of the German father and son ahead of us in the line today, looking at a typewritten report - I *think* by Paul Erlich - next to a handwritten letter by him.  And the father was explaining what a typewriter was.  It made me feel so OLD!

Anyway.  For those who are able to get to Canberra before 18 March 2012, it's well worth the effort.  Tickets are free, but you do need to make a booking.  If you want to get your choice of time, I'd suggest booking at least two days in advance.  But do, go.  It's awesome, and the NLA is its only stop.

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