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The Human Connection

I recently spoke to a student working on a dissertation for her degree. The topic of her research was to discover what motivates people to visit the locations they read about in novels. It became apparent very quickly when we chatted, that most people enjoy the ‘feeling’ they get when they imagine themselves inside the fiction; that ‘thrill’ of standing in the same place that meant so much to them when they were immersed in the story.


Sometimes the visions we see in our minds when we read are as real to us as the physical world we live in. I would argue that those imaginary worlds are often more appealing.


The same holds true when we think of the past. History lovers will tell you how rewarding it is to make sense of an old manuscript and how satisfying to apply their specialist knowledge to unfamiliar words.



For me, there is a ‘buzz’ to knowing the work was scribed by another human hand. It matters little in the end if a letter was read on the day it was posted or hundreds of years later. The fact remains that it has fulfilled its purpose in bringing a direct message from one mind to another.




Once upon a time every writer wrote by hand. Before the invention of the typewriter, they used pencils and pens. Before that, the basic quill and ink. There was no delete button to hide an unfortunate word choice in those days, so everything stayed on the page crossed out, for everyone else to see.





I found a very interesting webpage on buzzfeed.com showing a range of original manuscripts from famous writers.  Each piece is different, and the personality of the writer shines out from the page. Take a look for yourself and see what they reveal to you about the person who wrote them: https://www.buzzfeed.com/alanamohamed/13-drafts-from-famous-authors-that-only-writers-can

 

It isn’t just me who gets excited about these kinds of things, either. The auctioneer Sotheby’s, recently listed an original handwritten manuscript of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four for a sum well over £1,000,000: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/arthur-conan-doyles-handwritten-sherlock-holmes-manuscript-is-for-sale-180984101/

 

                     

And a century old set of project books about cleaning, needlework and recipes sold for £950: https://www.lyonandturnbull.com/auctions/rare-books-manuscripts-maps-and-photography-549/lot/281

 

Such is the appeal of handwritten manuscripts.


If you are interested in books even further back, then Ziereis Facsimiles is an excellent site to visit. It presents hundreds of famous manuscripts dating right back to the 5th century, sought by collectors and libraries around the world.  The original scripts and illustrations would all have been meticulously crafted by hand to reveal a wealth of information about contemporary life at the time: https://www.facsimiles.com/categories/the-special-ones/world-famous-manuscripts


I fully appreciate in today’s world we would be lost without digital technology. As time moves on, we must embrace what it brings and adapt alongside its change. But from a personal perspective, I still find something magical about a script written by hand; it brings the page alive and shows the mood of the writer in every stroke.


I recently volunteered to a museum seeking transcribers for a two-hundred-year-old journal. The appeal for help was so popular, that the website for applications was overwhelmed. I was one of the lucky ones and duly received my two pages to record exactly as it was written. From reading the posts of other lucky applicants to the project on social media, I could see they were all as excited to be part of the process as me.



It does make me smile though, to think of the person who wrote the journal in the first place. He could have no idea how it would be swooned over so many years later when he sat down to his laborious daily task!






The message I take from this reflection, therefore, is that we should never underestimate the value of our creations. Before you throw away those plot plans and mind maps you scribbled down last week, when you were too lazy to switch on your laptop, be warned that those are precisely the little things that may one day be worth a fortune.





All it takes is that some keen reader in the year 3000 will finally appreciate your genius and want to learn more about you!



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5 Comments


It's something I sometimes reflect upon when I try to tidy up and get rid of papers I scribbled on. Very interesting Diane, who knows what tomorrow holds?

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Before I became an author, I learnt the art of calligraphy - only because my writing looked like a spider had fallen into an inkwell! When I started to write full time and in my daily life I rarely use a 'Biro' and my manuscripts are all hand written with an ink pen. I think that writing by hand for my first draft seems to get the creative muse working, or perhaps I'm just an old romantic!

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I think that sounds lovely. Don't ever lose that creativity. ✒️

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How fascinating, I enjoyed the reflections on the magic of visiting places which appear in favourite novels, plus all the links showing the original manuscripts. Looking at them, I could indeed tell a lot about the personalities of the authors.

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I think handwriting is a very personal thing and reveals such a lot if we take time to examine it properly. One day I would like to learn more about how experts study it and what different letter formations mean.

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