Happy Birthday, Johann

If you are an adherent of the Julian calendar, then not only do you need to get out more and wake up to the fact that we’ve all moved on (about 12 days!) since then, but you’ll also be happy to know that today would have been Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday, 225 years ago.

If you are a more modern Gregorian calendar user, then you can wait until 31st March to celebrate the day.

Either way, happy birthday Johann!

Mitchell plus

If you live in Australia and have the slightest chance of getting yourself to the Mitchell Library in Sydney, my advice is that you do so pronto.

The Mitchell Library is 100 years old, and for 100 days they are putting on display 100 of their greatest treasures. The journal of Joseph Banks; letters from Botany Bay by Sir Arthur Phillip, a lock of hair from Matthew Flinders; letters between Mr. and Mrs. Bass (of the straights fame); the draft of ‘The Man from Snowy River’ by Banjo Patterson; Patrick White’s Nobel Prize for Literatue. I could go on and on… it’s simply superb. We could only stay two hours because of the parking, so count on at least that amount of time.

You are not allowed to take photos of the exhibits from the exhibition, so I can only tell you what stuck in my mind. The lock of Flinders’ hair is ordinary brown and was taken by his wife, shortly before Flinders set sail to do the first circumnavigation of Australia (after which he got imprisoned on Mauritius for seven years). The next time his wife saw her husband, his hair was completely grey. There’s a great poignancy in that trivial little hair sample when you realise that minor detail! Similarly, the other exhibit that really stuck in my mind was the quite passionate letters between George and Elizabeth Bass: so much flim-flammery and over-the-top romanticism, I suppose you could say. Until you realise that George set sail three months after they got married -and they never saw each other again.

This was our second trip to the Mitchell in about three months, and I have to say I’ve fallen in love with the place: the building is stunning architecture in its own right, but inside it’s got a “real library” feel! Not so easy to do in this Internet age, but there are (gasp!) real books and bookshelves to see! As you can tell:

And I suppose you could say that looks like any old library, but not all libraries have corridors like this one:

Anyway, if you’re going, make sure to take the walk between the modern state library and the Mitchell extension: there’s a wonderful collection of historical trivia to look at as you go. But see the exhibition if you can: worth every minute (and totally free!)