Melvyn Bragg’s The Written World

Starting on Monday, 2 January, BBC Radio 4 will broadcast In Our Time: The Written World, presented by Melvyn Bragg and featuring many of the British Library’s greatest treasures.

This five-part series airs daily at 9.00-9.45, repeated each evening at 21.30-22.15. All the episodes will be available after broadcast on the BBC iPlayer.

The St Cuthbert Gospel, Northumbria, late 7th century

Episode one investigates the technology of writing, and future instalments are devoted to the origins of the book (3 January), the spread of religion (4 January), the rise of literature (5 January), and the scientific revolution (6 January). Among the British Library’s collection items explored by Melvyn Bragg are the St Cuthbert Gospel, Codex Sinaiticus, the Beowulf-manuscript and the Gutenberg Bible. Other artefacts to be featured in the series are Chinese oracle bones, and the papers of Sir Isaac Newton (d. 1727), held by our colleagues at Cambridge University Library.

The Beowulf-manuscript, England, early 11th century

You can read more here about the British Library’s involvement in The Written World.

Melvyn Bragg’s The Written World – Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts


2 thoughts on “Melvyn Bragg’s The Written World

  1. The expert who translated the Venerable Bede’s manuscript translated the Latin incorrectly. Quondam means formerly and fuit means was.

  2. Re: Melvyn Bragg’s fascinating account of history of the Book – embedded in the text was a section that said, in effect, that Guthenburg’s ‘invention’ was the first use of movable print processes. Sadly, the historical facts are different: both the Chinese and the Koreans achieved this some 200 years earlier – with some debate as to who was first; of course, the invention of the 24 letter Hanguk alphabet in Korea considerably simplified their task.
    Was Guthenburg influenced by the East? Did he arrive there independently? Now THERE would be an interesting item for this programme to consider.
    Bill Porritt

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