The Lindisfarne Gospels have this week gone on display in Durham, returning to the place that most people would consider to be their home, after being kept by the British Library in London since 1753. The book itself is around 1300 years old, and although it doesn’t interest me from a religious point of view, the Lindisfarne Gospels I think highlight the importance of the written word, and show how long a physical book can survive, if properly cared for.
The British Library is home to a huge collection of books and manuscripts, with many examples of some of the most important texts from history. These range from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, to Shakespeare’s first folio, to the Magna Carta, to music written by classical composers and modern pop stars, such as The Beatles. But what makes a written text worth saving? What should be preserved for the next 1300 years and beyond? Does it have to be of religious significance, like the Lindisfarne Gospels, or herald a landmark discovery, such as a map of the New World or Darwin’s Origin of Species? Should we only preserve historical works of literature, like Shakespeare, or classic fairy tales or folklore? Or could it be something more modern, even something mass produced? A first edition, perhaps, or a signed copy. Which books, fiction or non fiction, do you think are worth preserving, or that people would marvel at in years to come?