Add. 17469: A Little Dust Whispered (British Library Publication, 2004) documents Lichtenstein's creative interpretation of material in the British Library's manuscripts collection. The publication of this unique artbook also marked the culmination of an eighteen month long period for her as the library's first Pearson Creative Research Fellow (2002-4).
During this time Lichtenstein taught creative practise to different learners visiting the library, alongside working on her own investigative project, which began by examining a selection of original handwritten manuscripts from the library's collections. She became fascinated by a variety of texts ranging from 15th century astrological charts to 19th century shopping lists. Becoming attracted to the pungent smell of paper, the marks made by finger prints or mildew, details that revealed the passing of time or the person behind the text.
She selected small fragments of these texts to be photographed and enlarged then gathered responses to these images in a handwritten journal. These findings were firstly displayed on an accompanying website throughout her residency and later developed into an installation this printed book.
By assuming the role of archaeologist, historian and curator, Lichtenstein has made Add. 17469 a poignant study of the many other David Rodinskys lurking as visual ghosts within the British Library collection, and in unearthing this archive within an archive, she has once more made the invisible visible.
(Eye Magazine, Anna Gerber, 2004)
Add. 71635. Vol. I: Diary of the Communist and author Yaroslavsky
(kept whilst he was confined in a Tsarist Prison in Russia, 1909-1911)
I find this book under a general search for ‘personal diaries’. It is a select manuscript, which means it cannot be left unattended, suggesting the author is historically significant.
When I lift the heavy diary out of its protective leather box, crumbs of cardboard fall onto my desk from the disintegrating front cover. Inside there are over 300 pages filled with tight pencil script in many different languages. In the centre of the journal are a number of drawings of fellow inmates; a malnourished looking group of intellectual men, many have been caught by the artist reading or writing. The sketches might now be the only surviving record of their existence.
As I turn the pages I come across the remnants of a pressed leaf, so fragile I think at first it might be a butterfly’s wing. Its presence raises many questions for me. Was this a precious object obtained at great risk by the author during a walk in the prison yard? Or a greatly treasured find sandwiched between the pages of a secret journal whose existence threatened his life? Did the leaf remind him of life outside the confines of the prison or was this writer a privileged prisoner, allowed to keep a journal and walk freely in a garden where he may have obtained this leaf?