The Write Stuff by Bernice Clark

The Write Stuff 1I have to admit that I feel a bit of a fraud by writing this article on a keyboard after visiting the Musée du Scribe but were I to employ my handwriting no one would ever be any the wiser about this delightful little museum. My partner constantly tells me that he can’t decipher any note I write to him about, say, a phone call or domestic issue and that my writing alone could qualify me as a doctor!

But, I digress (yet another of my shortcomings), as my intention was to describe what I discovered recently at Saint-Christol-lez-Alés — a friendly museum dedicated to all things writing related. We’re spoilt for choice with thousands of museums of all sizes throughout France and therefore some of the smaller, specialist ones may sometimes be overlooked but I find they often provide a surprising and enjoyable way to spend an hour or two. That said if I’m honest, when we used to have a house near Agen, we never found the time or inclination to visit the nearby prune museum. We’ll just have to bear that loss.

 

The writing museum was far more appealing to me and a testament to its founder’s passion. Enthusiasm is infectious and I came away from the Musée du Scribe reminded of how we often take for granted things that are intrinsic to everyday communication, both today and throughout history. The venue is a veritable treasure trove including lots of interesting information plus beautiful and fascinating objects. Many of the things have sadly only recently been consigned to history due the rapid changes in the way we now communicate.

 

Audio guides are provided in several languages or, if you just prefer to potter, the museum is clearly laid out and easy to peruse. I particularly loved some of the desk sets, the travelling writing cases and the professional travelling scribes’ materials. I certainly would never have qualified for that job however good I was at spelling!

 

I also adored the vast range of ink bottles featuring lots of great graphics and designs over the years. Very few of us now probably even own a bottle of ink, and that’s only changed in my lifetime with the rapid spread of Biros and similar followed by keyboards and mobile devices. One of my strongest childhood memories was the sheer terror of awaiting my father’s return home after I’d been naughtily snooping in his desk. During this time I’d stupidly opened and knocked over a bottle of Quink Ink which left a disastrous and immovable stain on the carpet. "Permanent ink" was how it was described on the label and I can vouch for its efficacy! Fortunately, my father’s disappointment in me was a little less permanent despite the ruined carpet.

 

The museum tour ends with a full size school room display featuring all manner of interesting and wonderful things from yesteryear. I loved this room and spent ages looking at everything from the books to the educational posters on the wall (including predictable subjects like maps, the stages of an egg hatching and so on, right through to one that issued scarily graphic stern reasons not to over imbibe alcohol) and then to the cabinet of curiosities (including a fully shedded snake skin — sans snake) and even a set of metal lunch tins. So much more interesting than today’s plastic lunch boxes.

 

If you wish, you can also get hands-on as the museum offers an opportunity to try out various writing equipment and to sign up for calligraphy lessons and the like. There’s a fully stocked shop, too, and amongst the wide range of things I discovered was a set of cards that have witty hidden messages as they read both from top to bottom and vice versa. My favourite is pictured on this page. Read it and then turn it upside down for a more upbeat approach to wine than that suggested by the school room poster. And with that thought in mind I’ll rest my quill and head off in search of a chilled glass of rosé...

 

MUSEE DU SCRIBE
42 rue du Clocher
30380 Saint Christol lez Alès
Tel : 04 66 60 88 10
www.museeduscribe.com