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The British Library reveals cultural highlights for 2019
Schoolchild’s homework in Greek on a wax tablet, Egypt, 2nd century AD © British Library.

LONDON.- The British Library revealed the cultural highlights for the year ahead, including:

• A selection of notes and drawings from Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, brought together in the UK for the first time since Leonardo owned them and including an exhibit of the Codex Leicester for the first time in Britain since it was purchased by Bill Gates in 1994

• A landmark exhibition spanning five millennia and five continents exploring one of humankind’s greatest achievements – the act of writing

• The Library’s winter season of events featuring David Sedaris, Warsan Shire, Philip Pullman, Helen Fielding, David Olusoga and Jacqueline Wilson, amongst many others

• A major exhibition considering the theory, practice and art of Buddhism, the enduring iconography of Buddha and what it means to be Buddhist today

Writing: Making Your Mark (26 April – 27 August 2019)
In spring 2019, the British Library will be opening Writing: Making Your Mark, a landmark exhibition spanning five millennia and five continents, exploring one of humankind’s greatest achievements – the act of writing.

Beginning with the origins of writing in Egypt, Mesopotamia, China and the Americas, the exhibition will explore the many manifestations, purposes and forms of writing, demonstrating how writing has continually enabled human progress and questioning the role it plays in an increasingly digital world.

From an ancient wax tablet containing a schoolchild’s homework as they struggle to learn their Greek letters to a Chinese typewriter from the 1970s, Writing: Making Your Mark will showcase over 30 different writing systems to reveal that every mark made – whether on paper or on a screen – is the continuation of a 5,000 year story and is a step towards determining how writing will be used in the future.

Featuring renowned texts, including Caxton’s 1476-7 printing of the Canterbury Tales, the first book printed in England, alongside works from the hands of little-known individuals, such as a 60,000-strong Bengali petition from 1905, the exhibition will explore writing as personal, functional, beautiful and political.

Adrian Edwards, lead curator of Writing: Making Your Mark at the British Library, said: ‘From hieroglyph to emoji and clay tablet to digital, Writing: Making Your Mark will examine the act of writing by charting its evolution through technology and innovation. It will demonstrate how writing is so much more than words on the page – it is how we communicate across time and space, how we express ourselves, and how we lay down our collective memory.’

To coincide with Writing: Making Your Mark launching at the British Library, family focused exhibition panel displays will simultaneously open in over 20 partner libraries around the UK, through the Living Knowledge Network. The Living Knowledge Network is an innovative partnership, in collaboration with the National Library of Scotland and the National Library of Wales, which shares resources, skills and ideas, promoting the enduring values of libraries in the twenty-first century and reinforcing the idea of the library as a transformative and accessible public asset.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion (7 June – 8 September 2019)
Marking 500 years since his death, Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion will reveal how Leonardo believed motion to be the ‘cause of all life’.

Known first and foremost as an artist, Leonardo’s notebooks reveal his close observations, detailed recording and systematic analysis of movement in nature, with a particular emphasis on water in motion and the exhibition will explore how this relates to his work as an artist and inventor.

Today we are delighted to announce that this exhibition will be the first time a selection of notes and drawings from the Codex Arundel, owned by the British Library, the Codex Forster, owned by the V&A, and the Codex Leicester, owned by Bill Gates, will be displayed together in the UK, as well as the first time the Codex Leicester will be exhibited in Britain since it was purchased by Bill Gates in 1994.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion has been curated by Dr Juliana Barone (Associated Curator) from Birkbeck College, University of London and British Library curators Dr Andrea Clarke and Stephen Parkin.

Dr Andrea Clarke, British Library curator of Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion, said: ‘Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks show him to be an extraordinarily dynamic thinker who was able to make connections between multiple phenomena and disciplines and we are thrilled that this exhibition will be a unique opportunity to show his manuscripts, which were all once owned by British collectors, together for the first time.’

Dr Juliana Barone, Associate Curator of Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion, from Birkbeck College, University of London, said:

'This exhibition offers crucial evidence as to how Leonardo thought on paper and, as a scientist and artist, attempted to understand the natural world in terms of its principles in order to re-create nature. Through a selection of studies ranging from water flow to geometry, mechanics, astronomy and the human body in motion, the visitor is enabled to sense the depth and richness of Leonardo’s creative mind as well as exceptional ability as a draughtsman in conveying visual knowledge'.

Buddhism (25 October 2019 – 25 February 2020)
In autumn 2019, the British Library will open a major exhibition on Buddhism, which will explore the roots, philosophy and contemporary relevance of one of the world’s major religions, from its beginnings in north India in the 6th century BC to having aroundits estimated one billion followers across the world today.

Featuring rare and colourful scrolls, painted wall hangings and folding books, the exhibition will highlight the outstanding art contained within Buddhist manuscripts and early printed works by shining a light on the British Library’s lesser-known treasures from across the world, reaching far beyond a UK audience.

From sacred scriptures written on tree bark, palm leaves and gold to silk scrolls of major Sutras, Buddhism was pivotal in developing writing and printing techniques to transmit ideas and educate people across Asia.

Buddhism will highlight the theory, practice and art of Buddhism, examine the enduring iconography of Buddha and consider what it means to be Buddhist today.

Jana Igunma, lead curator of Buddhism at the British Library, said: ‘Buddhism continues to inspire diverse artistic expression and lifestyles and, with the concept of mindfulness becoming mainstream, we are excited to host the British Library’s largest ever display of Buddhist collections, shining a light on the Library’s lesser-known treasures from across the world.’

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