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Bridging the gap

A major new exhibition has opened at the National Library of Scotland, featuring the John Murray Archive, one of the world's great collections of literary manuscripts.

Charles Darwin, Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott and David Livingstone are just four of the famous historical figures whose stories will be brought to life with interactive technology.

Visitors will be able to see a recreation of the fireplace in Albemarle Street where John Murray II famously burned the memoirs of Lord Byron, or the letter in which Darwin pitched the idea for The Origin of Species, and a drawing by David Livingstone (pictured) as he camped in the rain on the southern edge of Lake Nyassa (now Lake Malawi).

The John Murray Archive has received significant funding from the Scottish Executive and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The library is continuing its fundraising campaign for the remaining pound;5 million required to complete the purchase.

Nat Edwards, the John Murray Archive project manager, said: "The exhibition uses display technology that has never before been used in a library or archival exhibition. We have turned reading letters into an exciting, interactive experience and bridged the gap between the very best ideas of the 19th century and the very best ideas of the 21st."

The National Library has also published a book to tie in with the exhibition. Ideas that Shaped the World: An Introduction to the John Murray Archive, edited by David McClay and with a foreword by Magnus Linklater, offers a fascinating glimpse into the political, social and intellectual life of the firm's heyday through correspondence between authors and publisher.

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