It’s hard to choose a favourite manuscript in Handwritten. Many I find instantly appealing on an aesthetic level: the spectacular Flemish Book of Hours (c.1500), Michelangelo’s (or ‘michelagniolo’, as he calls himself) careful script and a young Handel’s confident yet somewhat florid score of Salve Regina.
Others burst with character and demand to be noticed. Beethoven’s angry-looking Fifth Symphony score gives a sense of a man who knew what he wanted and didn’t fear the wrath of those who had to read his handwriting. All 100 manuscripts fascinate me in some way or other, whether it be for what they say, what they have survived or what they represent.
I’ve been working on the exhibition on the curatorial side of things for the past couple of years. My role has involved researching, writing and talking about the manuscripts; transcribing and translating manuscripts; keeping track of their details, measurements and photographs; sourcing exhibition graphics; selecting musical excerpts and working on the exhibition’s catalogue, now available from our bookshop! Though to say it risks being something of a cliché, it really has been an honour and a rare privilege to work with the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and rest of the National Library team on this exhibition.
I hope you will, like me, enjoy immersing yourselves in the moments these manuscripts capture and take a tour, with us, of Western thought and history through what these men and women have written by hand.