“It was the poster that drew us in,” I was rather happy to hear one of the mothers say at my draw and explore event yesterday at Swedenborg House.
What had started out as my idea for a leporello (folding book) of information to engage children and get them drawing, turned into an afternoon of all sorts of other delights as well. Eighteenth century Swedish polymath Emanuel Swedenborg, who lived in London for part of his life, was curious about everything, and would have been pleased to see children being curious too.
They enjoyed themselves by not only drawing, but listening to a whispering cupboard (Swedenborg invented a type of hearing trumpet), taking apart and reassembling a giant ear, dressing up in eighteenth century style clothes and wigs, and drawing with goose feather quills next to a replica of Swedenborg’s famous and vast Book of Dreams, which he wrote by hand, with a few inkblots along the way.
Very interesting to meet and chat with the Swedenborg Society‘s vice-president who exhibited his skills at writing with a quill pen.
As well as a huge Swedenborgian archive, there are all sorts of extraordinary and intriguing objects in the house, including a lock of Swedenborg’s hair, tiny pieces of his ear and a copy of the wrong skull.
Swedenborg was originally buried in the east end of London. Afterwards his skull was stolen at least twice, when presumably bits of his ear fell off (see above). The authentic skull turned up at an auction at Sotheby’s in 1978, and eventually Swedenborg’s skull and skeleton were reunited in Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden.
At the end of the afternoon, after everyone’s leporellos had been stamped with special angel stamps (Swedenborg was angel-friendly apparently), and I’d signed some of my children’s books on sale in the shop, we feasted on enormous Sweden buns, and each child went home with a copy of my leporello, and a tiny skull (as you do).
With thanks to all the children, and brilliant people at Swedenborg House who helped to make this happen.