Before the purely portable benefits of paper were discovered, men and women would chisel or carve their names into their masterpieces which adorned tablets and cave walls. But it wasn’t until the arrival of the printing press that such importance was placed on the dissemination of information.
With Gutenberg’s pioneering 15th– century invention, the concept of authorship came into being. It now mattered which iconic words were written by whom, and it opened the doors to leading figures within the creative and scientific communities to pick up their quills and scribble down the condensed mass of genius inside their heads.
Alongside the creative boom, more of history’s integral moments were made by putting pen to paper – the written agreements made on battlefields and inside tense parliamentary halls have shaped history as we know it. Here are a few examples of the wonderful work that’s been done by putting pens to paper.
Henry VI, Part 1
Widely believed to be his earliest work, the great William Shakespeare wrote the first of the troubled trilogy of Henry VI in the late 1480s. Although little is known about the English playwright’s early life, scholars have recently theorised that, along with other early works such as Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare had collaborated on more than one occasion with other writers and retained sole credit. Whatever the eventual findings of these studies, few can dispute the talent of one of Britain’s most talented individuals, nor his fondness for writing.
Historians think of the Magna Carta as the bedrock on which a fair and just society is based; one in which rulers and representatives can be held accountable by their subjects and constituents, and no sovereign power is left unchecked. King John signed the Great Charter in the year 1215, as he was pressed into doing so by his biggest supporters, the land barons. It was also drawn up to prevent further disputes of power with the Pope and the Catholic Church, which had begun to have more of a say in his kingdom’s affairs than John was comfortable with.
Declaration of Independence
Another famous win for freedom was the Declaration of Independence drafted up by 13 American colonies, to signal their intent to break from being ruled by Great Britain in 1776. Although it’s said that 56 men put their signatures to the historic document on the 4th July – now the annual Independence Day celebration – it’s since been thought more likely that the vote to sign a declaration was passed on that day, rather than the signing of the document itself. This doubt exists due to the allegations that several of the 56 men who signed the document on behalf of the 13 states hadn’t yet been elected to represent them.
Lionel Messi’s first contract
In terms of historical impact, it’s quite a drop down from the founding fathers to the Argentinian footballer, but Lionel Messi’s first ever professional contract is still an historic document for the club at which he has had so much success through the years. Brought to Barcelona aged just 13 years old, el mudo (the mute one) did not make much of a first impression on the FC Barcelona senior staff until he stepped onto the pitch in an academy game. His services duly retained, Messi and family remained in the city for months, growing impatient for the young striker’s time to shine. Eventually his father lost patience and, exasperated, claimed that he was taking the whole family back home to Argentina. The club’s technical director at the time, Charly Rexach, would then pull out a napkin from the dispenser in the café where they sat and scribble down an extremely rough draft of a contract which the Wunderkind signed. The rest, as they say, is history.
Some of history’s biggest moments have been made using pen and paper, and even as technology advances towards hi-tech solutions like tablets for recording data, or a scanner to turn hard copy into something for cloud storage, there’s no better creative feeling than letting your thoughts fill up a notebook.