the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Writing Britain (and more about notebooks)

on July 10, 2012

The British Library’s current exhibition Writing Britain illustrates the changing landscape of the country over the last 1000 years with reference to items from the collection and loans from elsewhere. The exhibition includes artwork, original manuscripts and texts that explore a range of locations grouped according to the following sections:

  • Rural dreams
  • Dark Satanic Mills
  • Wild Places
  • Beyond the City
  • Cockney Visions
  • Waterlands

Interestingly, writing about Dorset features in several of the sections, including Maiden Castle by John Cowper Powys which tells the story of a supernatural presence at the iron-age hill fort near Dorchester. Jane Austen’s Persuasion is set in Bath and Lyme Regis, where Louisa Musgrave falls from the harbour wall (known as The Cobb) in an attempt to gain male attention. Harold Pinter’s script for The French Leiutenant’s Woman, based upon the novel by John Fowles is also set in Lyme Regis. A little further along the Dorset coast, Chesil Beach features as the location for Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name, where Edward and Florence spend their wedding night at a fictitional hotel on the beach.

Seeing the original manuscripts was the most fascinating part of the whole exhibition.  One of the highlights was J K Rowling’s draft of chapter six from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Here she used lined loose sheets, hole-punched and ruled with a red margin. There are doodles in the margin and corrections over the page including whole paragraphs scored through.  I was interested to see that Ian McEwan used a large spiral bound notebook for his draft of Chesil Beach. It had a cardboard cover, lined pages and he only appeared to write on the right hand page. Seeing the different types of notebooks preferred by different authors reminded me of my earlier post: what sort of notebook do you use?

There, I mentioned my pleasure in using Paperblanks notebooks for special note making occasions. And, on the Paperblanks website, it’s possible to submit information to become a featured artist.  So, if you’d like to learn more about me, my personal history and my thoughts about writing, please read the article here.

4 responses to “Writing Britain (and more about notebooks)

  1. Sounds like a fascinating exhibition!

    I used to use those Paperblank notebooks – they are quite beautiful – but it got too expensive! Now, I buy A4 spiral bound lined paper notebooks from good old Wilkos. Much cheaper! Although, I always have a notebook with me, I do most of my writing straight onto computer these days. I also have a private blog where I collect prompts and ideas, which means that as long as I have my phone with me, I can access them from wherever I am. I make notes on my phone too. Not nearly as elegant and pretty as a notebook, but it does fit in my pocket! Maybe one day, the British Library, will put my phone in an exhibition! 😉

  2. I have to say, I’m a Moleskine girl, failing that Blott 🙂

    Wow, it was interesting, and spooky what you said about Ian McEwan….. I used to go up to the British Library a lot last year (for business) and in nice weather I’d have a coffee, sit outside, and people watch 🙂 On one occasion there was a guy at the table next to me with a large A4 size notebook, scribbling away. When he turned the page I noticed he was only writing on the right hand side. At one point he stopped and was flicking back through the book. The whole thing was like that, and all in the same black ink. I wrote it down in my notebook at the time and when I told hubby he said I should have asked the guy why lol 😉


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