The Written World

Here’s something to keep you occupied over the weekend.  [Will there be a quiz? – Ed]  Possibly…  The BBC magazine has an short and interesting, but un-embeddable, audio slide-show of Melvyn Bragg’s Radio 4 five-parter, In Our Time: The Written World

The British Library has more online information about the texts and technology featured in each of the programmes.  From Chinese oracle bones, the oldest items in the library, to 17th and 18th Century news books, news pamphlets and newspapers.  As they say in their introduction

In this series of five In Our Time radio programmes Melvyn Bragg tells the story of the written word from its origins in the Middle East 6,000 years ago to the present day. He discovers how the technology of writing has developed: from the earliest clay tablets to paper, the printing press and beyond. 

By examining and discussing some of the most important surviving texts, Melvyn and his guests explain how this most powerful of inventions has enabled the dissemination of thought worldwide. Many of the key texts discussed here are in the British Library, and the programme features extensive interviews with our expert curators.

Each part is about 30minutes long and is still available, for now, as a downloadable podcast [14Mb each].  The BBC’s audio slide-show features the 15th Century Gutenberg Bible, courtesy of the moveable type printing press – arguably one of the greatest human innovations.  They also have images from the handwritten notebooks of Isaac Newton, dated 1661, when he was 18 years old.  Wondrous.

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