Recently a number of news items have highlighted that many of the manuscripts and people in Handwritten still have relevance today.
While defending Australian Wikileaks founder Julian Assange against extradition to Sweden his lawyers quoted from the Codex Iustinianus. Originally written in 376 AD by the Roman Emperor Justinian, the codex was one of the founding treatises of the European legal system. The beautifully illuminated version that features in Handwritten was made in France and dates from the mid 1200’s. Quoting directly from the original text, Assange’s counsel told the United Kingdom Supreme Court – “We decree by general law that no one ought to be his own judge or to administer justice in his own cause. For it is very unjust to give somebody permission to pass judgment in his own cause.” You can read more online in The Age.
Handwritten also features a plea from astronomer Johannes Kepler to the military commander Albrecht von Wallenstein about an outstanding fee that Emperor Ferdinand II had promised him for developing the Rudolphine Tables in 1627. Containing new calculations of the planetary orbits, the tables were the realisation of 30 years of work following on from his development of the three laws of planetary motion between 1605 and 1618. Kepler died en route to lobby for his claim to be resolved but his work lives on today. The current NASA Kepler missions use his original laws to find Earth-sized planets orbiting around stars across the universe. NASA provide more details on their website
Another astounding recent discovery was the voice of German Chancellor Otto van Bismarck on wax cylinder phonograph recordings made in 1889 by an assistant to Thomas Edison. Although cylinders were found in 1957, the contents were unknown until last year when a curator at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park used a new device called an Archeophone to convert the cylinders into audio. The recordings include the German Chancellor displaying his remarkable language skills reciting songs and poems in French, German, Latin and English including the French National anthem, La Marseillaise - a somewhat bizarre choice after his defeat of Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870- 1871. After you have visited Handwritten to see Bismarck’s personal correspondence, you can hear his voice on the National Parks Service Website.