History and Culture

British Library brings rare original manuscripts to China for the first time

2017-04-20 10:08:00 (Beijing Time)         CGTN

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Charlotte Brontë's "fair copy" manuscript of Jane Eyre. (Photo provided by the organizer)

Want to see for yourself how literary classics like Jane Eyre and Romeo and Juliet came into being? If you are in Beijing this April, you will have the chance, as the British Library brings valuable rare original manuscripts to China for first time.

Shakespeare, Dickens, Brontë, Wordsworth, Doyle and more are making the grand voyage from the United Kingdom to the Middle Kingdom for the joint exhibition with the National Library of China celebrating the "Treasures of the British Library."

Each manuscript on display reveals an author who catalyzed their times, shattering the expectations of what one could, or should, do with their prose.

Among the rare treats is the 1598 Quarto edition of Romeo and Juliet, once owned by King George III. It is displayed next to a Ming Dynasty print copy of The Peony Pavilion, by Tang Xianzu, a Chinese playwright considered to be Shakespeare's contemporary.

1598 Quarto edition of Romeo and Juliet /Photo provided by the organizer. (Photo provided by the organizer)

Visitors can also see the manuscripts for novels that were later adapted into popular films or TV productions, such as Doyle's The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter from the Sherlock Holmes series, and Ian Fleming's handwritten drafts and typescripts of the James Bond stories.

These displays will allow the Chinese public to engage with Britain's rich literary heritage as never before.

"And there are a couple of little digital tricks as well. My particular favorite in the exhibition is the British Postbox. It's a classical symbol of Britain as much as the writers are. And you can press the postbox and you've got a wheel and you can select one of the authors just by chance. And then you can touch the screen, you can find out more information about the authors. And you can see some of the items up-close on the large screen that allow you to really really dig in deep and dig in close to these objects," Jamie Andrews, head of Culture and Learning of the British Library says.

The exhibition, which runs at the National Library of China from April 21 to June 21, launches a much wider three-year program, also known as "The British Library in China: Connecting through culture and learning". There will be a series of pop-up exhibitions in locations around China, including Wuzhen, Shanghai and Hong Kong, all the way through 2019.