The National Library of Scotland's campaign to bring the John Murray Archive to life continued today with the appointment of noted Scottish playwright Peter Arnott as writer-in-residence to tackle what he describes as 'the most dangerous book ever written'.
Supported by the Scottish Arts Council and the John Murray Archive Charitable Trust, the purpose of the year long residency is for Arnott to create and produce a series of dramatic works based on the wealth of correspondence held in the John Murray Archive about Charles Darwin and the publication of On the Origin of Species. The material includes the letter from Darwin which accompanied the original manuscript and subsequent correspondence involving the Reverend Elwin who famously suggested that Darwin should instead write about pigeons.
This study of Darwin is particularly topical as 2009 will mark a series of national and international celebrations of the great scientist, being both the 200th anniversary of his birth (12 February 1809) and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species (22 November 1859).
Glasgow-born Arnott is an accomplished and prolific playwright, having written over 25 original productions. He is perhaps best known for his award-winning 2003 play The Breathing House, whilst he more recently won the Creative Scotland Award 2007. It is hoped that performances of Arnott's residency work will take place in autumn 2009 as part of NLS' celebrations of the anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species.
Arnott said: 'I'm thrilled to have been appointed as Writer in Residence at NLS, especially as it coincides with the chance to celebrate the single most dangerous book ever written. Both for the development of my own work, and for the chance to communicate my passion about the importance of Darwin's quiet revolution, this is an opportunity I'm very excited to take.'
Nat Edwards, John Murray Archive Programme Manager at NLS, said: 'We think this is a very exciting appointment, and we're pleased once again to be working with the Scottish Arts Council on another innovative project. Of all the many wonderful and significant characters in the John Murray Archive, Darwin perhaps more than any other has a resonance and relevance that echoes to this day. We look forward immensely to the results of Peter's efforts and we hope that his work will inspire new audiences to engage with this fascinating material.'
Gavin Wallace, Head of Literature at the Scottish Arts Council, said: 'The John Murray Archive is one of the world's greatest literary and cultural archives, and we are delighted to be working in partnership with the National Library of Scotland to provide this unique and exciting residency. As one of Scotland's leading and most innovative dramatists, we have no doubt that Peter Arnott is superbly qualified to reap the riches of the Archive's remarkable literary treasure trove to the full.'
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge
Tel: 0131 623 3700
11 February 2008