British Library opens WW1 Centenary exhibition

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The British Library is marking the Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War with an exhibition entitled: Enduring War: Grief, Grit and Humour. On show are Christmas cards, letters, cartoons, posters and the manuscripts of famous war poets.

Writers’ letters

The exhibition considers themes such as humour, faith, comradeship and family. Key items in the exhibition include a letter from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to his mother describing his worries about his son serving at the Front, written in the light of his belief in Spiritualism. Also included in the show is a letter from Isaac Rosenberg and the manuscripts of well-known war poets, such as Rupert Brooke.

The concept of humour in adversity is explored through a selection of caricatures, cartoons, humorous Christmas cards, a romance novel set in a munitions factory and trench journals.

In a poignant conclusion the exhibition explores the grief expressed over the millions of lives lost during the First World War. A soldier’s last letter home as he goes into battle is on display for the first time alongside manuscripts of Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth, Vaughan Williams’ A Pastoral Symphony and Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen.

Record of the Indian army in Europe during the First World War [Girdwood Collection]. Photo 24 (294)

Personal experiences

Dr Matthew Shaw, co-curator of Enduring War, said: ‘It has been a privilege to make this selection of First World War material from the library’s great collections, which reveals something of the personal experience of that conflict, the echoes of which are still with us today.’

Alison Bailey, co-curator of the exhibition, added:’The exhibition brings together material that has come to have national significance, such as the manuscripts of now famous war poets, with less familiar items like Christmas cards and concert programmes that people might not expect to find in the British Library’s collection.’

Enduring War: Grief, Grit and Humour runs until 12 October 2014. For more about the exhibition, click here.

Tipperary handkerchief

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