Writing: Making Your Mark pop-up in Newcastle

A rare day off allowed me to explore the pop-up exhibition at Newcastle City Library inspired by the British Library’s Writing: Making Your Mark exhibition.

Family-friendly displays accompanying the main exhibition have been launched in over 20 partner libraries throughout the UK, through the Living Knowledge Network.

The one in Newcastle shines a light on the work of Thomas Bewick and Leo Wyatt, among others, with information boards on two floors of the building.

The first part of Writing: Making Your Mark at Newcastle City Library

The introduction reads: “Inspired by the new British Library exhibition on the history of writing, we’ve explored our library collections and discovered a wealth of information about the history of writing and printing.

“We’ve focused on the history of printing and the first English printer, William Caxton, one of the most famous north east printers, Thomas Bewick, the renowned calligrapher Leo Wyatt, the art of the tattoo and examples of patented writing instruments, like the Biro.

“We’ve also been loaned examples of early writing from the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums.”

Examples of work by and tools belonging to calligrapher Leo Wyatt

It was a shame not to see any original items on display, but a selection of Leo Wyatt’s tools, donated by his daughter in 2009, were on show.

Leo was an engraver and calligrapher, born in London in 1909. He studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and worked in Leeds, Bristol, Edinburgh and London before emigrating to South Africa in 1947.

He moved back to the UK in 1961 and settled in the north east, lecturing in the Faculty of Art at Newcastle Polytechnic. He gained fam as a bookplate engraver both in England and the US.he died in 1981 in Jesmond, Newcastle.

Examples of his work can be found in a number of institutions, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and within the Newcastle Libraries collection, examples of which are on display in the pop-up exhibition.

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Writing: Making Your Mark

Writing: Making Your Mark is a landmark British Library exhibition, spanning 5,000 years of writing, from carved stone initials, medieval manuscripts and early printed works to beautiful calligraphy, iconic fonts and emojis.

The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of events, including talks, performances and walking tours, as well as a richly-illustrated book celebrating the act of writing from across the globe.

Adrian Edwards, lead curator of Writing: Making Your Mark at the British Library, said: “From street signs to social media, writing surrounds us in the modern world and reflects the diversity of everyone who uses it around the globe.

“In the 5,000 years since speech was first turned into symbol, written communication has stimulated innovations as varied as the printing press and smart phones.

“Today, however, new technologies allow us to replace written words with pictures, videos and voice recordings.

“Writing: Making Your Mark at the British Library asks what the future holds for writing and how we will choose to make our mark in the decades to come.”

Viewing the oldest item in the British Library exhibition

Activities in Newcastle include an introduction to a medieval script calligraphy workshop on Wednesday, May 22, at 2pm and a talk by Peter Quin on Thomas Bewick’s books on Tuesday, June 11, at 2.30pm. To book a place, visit www.newcastle.gov.uk/libraryevents.

There is also an activity trail for families and groups.

The exhibition is a little smaller than I expected and in the main thoroughfare of the library, rather than in a separate room or gallery space, but it’s definitely worth an hour or so of your time.

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