http://www.blogger.com/template-edit.g?blogID=27684744 ARTYFACTS: Day 13 – Melvyn Bragg gets ratty

Friday, May 19, 2006

Day 13 – Melvyn Bragg gets ratty

Mr Whippy
I was eager to see Bragg in the flesh and the hairstyle didn’t disappoint – it does look like the hair portion of one of those Reagan masks that gangsters use to rob banks. He explained that the books were British, that he hadn’t included any novels because there were too many and none, he thought, had really changed the world in the way that his choices had. Neither were they the best 12 books that changed the world, quite simply 12 books that did change the world. He then exposed the roots of the English language (his book The Adventure of English is really rather good) and then went through all 12 with a focus on just four, Newton, Wilberforce, Marie Stopes and the King James Bible.

His 12 British books that changed the world
MAGNA CARTA, 1215
THE KING JAMES BIBLE, 1611
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, FIRST FOLIO, 1623
ISAAC NEWTON, PRINCIPIA MATHEMATICA, 1687
PATENT SPECIFICATION FOR ARKWRIGHT'S SPINNING MACHINE, 1769
ADAM SMITH, THE WEALTH OF NATIONS, 1776
WILLIAM WILBERFORCE, SPEECH TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, 1789
MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT, A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN, 1792
MICHAEL FARADAY, EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH IN ELECTRICITY, 1855
CHARLES DARWIN, THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, 1859
THE FIRST RULE BOOK OF THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION, 1863
MARIE STOPES, MARRIED LOVE, 1918

Sorry Melvyn, but the Magna Carta fits onto one page with a seal – that’s not a book. Wilberforce’s speech was, unsurprisingly, a speech! Never read Arkwright’s patent but I’ll bet it’s a patent, not a book. And aren’t Shakespeare’s plays…….. errrr plays? I know - I'm being too picky!

Mr Whippy gets ratty
The audience, of course, lapped him up and he is a rather eloquent speaker, with a great face - lots of wide grins and warm eyes. he also had some rather affected hand flourishes, which you never see on television as it's really a close-up medium. However, I suspect he doesn’t attract the audience he wants to attract, as he got rather ratty when it came to the questions. My suspicion is that he’d like a rather more academic audience and more relevant questions. This audience was, how can I put it, Radio 4 listeners but maybe more at the Archers end of the spectrum. The questions say it all. (I’ve paraphrased Bragg’s answers.)

Q I’ve travelled the world and think that cricket, rather than football, should have been your choice?
A Don’t be so bloody stupid – cricket comes nowhere near football in its popularity and geographical spread.

Q Novels have changed my life, so why no novels?
A Weren’t you listening? As I explained novels haven’t changed the world to nearly the same degree as my chosen books.

Q What about The Communist Manifesto?
A Weren’t you listening? It was written in German by a German, I said British books.

Interestingly, this guy had a go at Bragg, claiming that Marx had a more profound influence on the world than Adam Smith. This mini-debate got the juices going. That’s the problem with Q&A sessions at book events – it’s all very polite and debate is not really tolerated.

Q Aren’t your choices a little too patriotic and smack of tub-thumping?
A I suspect that the book is reading you, more than you reading it.

Q Why 12 books?
A Don’t know. It had to be a manageable number so I chose 12.

A few extra questions
What was Bragg’s 13th choice?
What other scientific text did he seriously consider?
Which of the 12 would he most like to have met?

Please post your answers by clicking in Comments.

***
3 stars

6 Comments:

Blogger Brighton Festival said...

Answers:

On Liberty by JS Mill
DNA by Watson and Crick
Shakespeare

11:36 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Donald, the Magna Carta doesn't fit into "one page, with a seal". You are possessed of one of the popular misconceptions of the M C: its not a single document, its actually a collection of documents.

In addition, William Wilberforce's speech as a matter of due course was published in book form. I'm presuming you have at least heard of Hansard.

3:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have to come to Donald's defence here.... The Magna Carter is, in bibliography terms, a Charter, it literally means ‘Great Charter’. In fact the Magna Carta is a number of different charters all put under the one name. It was not originally written as a book – but as a legal charter on vellum.

You can see the British Library copy here:

http://www.bl.uk/treasures/magnacarta/magna_main.html

The book versions came later as the early codices were organized as a series of booklets often bound together in limp vellum binding. Even then the later Australian copy is a single sheet of about 3000 words of Latin covers 50cm by 42cm of vellum (calfhide) and is enclosed in a humidified capsule filled with inert gas to protect it from bacterial damage.

Hansard does indeed record all speeches made in both Houses, along with standing commitees, but are we suggesting that every speech, every question and every recorded comment is a book because it is recorded in Hansard? Wilberforce’s speech, like any other exists alongside whatever other business Parliament had on that day.

5:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, so it wasn't originally a book, but as you said "The book versions came later as the early codices were organized as a series of booklets often bound together in limp vellum binding", so it's a charter which has been published in book form.

Wilberforce's speech is part of a book. That book is the relevant edition of Hansard.

5:18 pm  
Blogger Brighton Festival said...

Fair enough - as I said in the post - "I know I'm being picky".

11:33 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If by "picky" you mean "factually incorrect" then yes, I'd agree with you.

5:35 pm  

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