Thursday, 17 October 2013

Rochester Revisited

Back to Rochester to start work on the Textus Roffensis, one of the most significant documents in England along with Magna Carta, Domesday and one or two others. To find out why, google it, but it's basically the foundation of our current legal system and includes transcriptions of laws from as early as the 6th century, the document itself being 500 years older.

But the task we're faced with, as with Magna Carta, is how to convey the significance of what is a very opaque book. Page after page of Anglo-Saxon and Latin with nary an illumination to lighten our darkness.

I think the answer is conjuring up people's imagination. To try to immerse them in that Anglo-Saxon world of wild tribalism and post-Roman chaos. The darkness, the violence, the invaders, the pervasive sense of insecurity. The holy men retreating to their fastnesses on the edge of our little island.

And who's to look out for us? To whom are we accountable?

In to the ferment comes a book of law, setting out right and wrong, compensation and civilisation.

Miraculously it has survived almost 1000 years and our job will be to animate it like some bibliophiliac Dr Frankenstein. Helpfully the book will be displayed in the crypt, and, if we can get the space right, the evocation will be simpler.

So much of examining the past is an exercise in imagination, which, if successful, allows us to see our present in new ways. Hopefully we can help.