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Discover the extraordinary story behind one of humankind's greatest achievements. We take you from the very origins of writing 5,000 years ago, charting its evolution through the tools we use, the skills we foster and the craft we contribute to.

Our journey continues into the digital age, where we explore our relationship with writing today and in the future. Will we abandon pens and keyboards in favour of new technologies, or continue to carry the legacy of ancient times with us?


Handwriting on a manuscript

The evolution of writing – 5000 BC to today

How, and why, does writing change over time?

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A child's handwriting

Why handwriting is still essential in the keyboard age

From using a fountain pen to depending solely on electronic tools, Angela Webb examines the case for continuing to write by hand and asks where society will take handwriting in the future.

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Two scribes at work

Why did humans start writing?

We travel back to the ancient Middle East, to look at why, over 5,000 years ago, we first came to write.

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Hieroglyphics on a tablet

Where did writing begin?

From Mesopotamia to the Americas, discover how different regions around the world adopted writing at different times and for different reasons.

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The Double Pigeon Chinese typewriter

Curator favourites

Discover what our curators selected as their favourite collection items relating to writing.

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Blog posts

Call for participants: April 2020 book sprint on the state of the art in crowdsourcing in cultural heritage

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

One of the key outcomes of our AHRC UK-US Partnership Development Grant, 'From crowdsourcing to digitally-enabled participation: the state of the art in collaboration, access, and inclusion for cultural heritage institutions', is the publication of an open access book written ...

New project! 'From crowdsourcing to digitally-enabled participation: the state of the art in collaboration, access, and inclusion for cultural heritage institutions'

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

We-Mia Ridge (British Library), Meghan Ferriter (Library of Congress) and Sam Blickhan (Zooniverse)-are excited to announce that we've been awarded an AHRC UK-US Partnership Development Grant. Our overarching goals are: To foster an international community of ...

Internment during the Second World War – Part Two: an album created by a Prisoner of War in Italy

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Here is the second of a multi-part series on internment, highlighting the experiences of both civilians and military personnel detained across the globe in the Second World War. Internment was often a negative experience, but here is something positive which ...

Garrod Family Papers

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

A recent addition to the collections of India Office Private Papers has been fully catalogued and is now available to researchers. The Garrod Papers consist of the family archives of William Francis Garrod, a Chaplain in the Indian Ecclesiastical Establishment ...

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