Walking through the beautifully grained door into the North Library there is an immediate sense of tranquillity, of coherence, of balance. Looking at the symmetrical shelves, I wonder, just like everyone else, where should I begin? Which shelf should l look at, which coloured bindings to inspect, what might have I have read? A well arranged library leads the eye, lead the thoughts and inspires the wonder…
Sometimes I do stop and take time out and, slowly look along some of the shelves. Here is a biography, there an account of travel through the Americas, with drawings and maps, published in 1775, on those shelves novels by Charles Dickens, or an early edition of Shakespeare curated by Alexander Pope, books in French or Italian, Latin or Greek.
Looking down to the lowest large double height shelves are huge books with engraved plates capturing moments of time in Egypt, or Bibles as well as atlases with maps to show you around the world. On the maps’ reverse blank pages are early drawings by children who lived here 150 years ago. I can only imagine that they sat on the floor with crayons carefully creating large shapes (their pet dogs) stick figures and slowly drawing writing characters to make words and trying to write their names.
Before writing, the first efforts to share and depict the world around were through drawings, such in the caves in France which have long intrigued us all. They are so expressive and clear.
One of the most famous is the Grotte de Lascaux in the Dordogne. The interior walls and ceilings of the cave and covered with hundreds of scenes mainly depicting large animals although there some small human stick figures and some abstract signs. The most significant images have been painted onto the walls using red, yellow, and black colours from a multiplicity of mineral pigments.
In fact such drawings have been found in many parts of the warmer world and draw us today back into their world – the art was and is valued. Whilst academics write theses on their raision d’etre, perhaps the drawings just record what mattered to them in the world as well as the seasons.
Drawing is an essential skill which allows us to communicate, create spaces, architecture and art. From there we have shaped it into specific language. Our lives are about storytelling even if today we also tell visual stories on screens and monitors acting out other’s lives. In order to create those stories we still need to read and write and put together the connection between what is in our mind, our thoughts and spirit and those of other people. Listening to stories is not passive, it is active, we wonder what would we do, what is going to happen, will the people be happy, will it be a good ending…
As a writer, I am writing hoping people will read the story and enjoy it- readers are essential to my life. Therefore I thought we should begin a Readers’ Prize. Please read a book over the summer. Decide which of the five categories it best fits, write a short review and send it in.
Legal and General are generously sponsoring cash prizes for winners and runners up which is very kind. Please do share this and encourage friends and family to enter. Share it with schools or colleges, perhaps the best classes’ entry should be our guests at the history festival.