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Terry Pratchett: HisWorld opens at The Salisbury Museum on 16 September 2017 and runs until 13 January 2018.

 

The objects on display range from the cosy and nostalgic, such as Terry Pratchett’s Blue Peter badge, to the grand: a gleaming sword infused with shards of meteorite created by the author himself to commemorate his own knighthood.

Fans will, no doubt, love the vivid, original paintings of Pratchett’s beloved Discworld characters and the chance, for the first time, to peek inside a detailed reconstruction of his study, nicknamed The Chapel.

Newcomers to the life and times of the author, humanist and activist may be surprised at the anger that inspired and drove him in his writing and campaigning.

The many sides of one of the UK’s most beloved fantasy authors are reflected in an exhibition called Terry Pratchett: HisWorld, which opens on Saturday at Salisbury Museum, not far from his Wiltshire “manorette” where he died in March 2015.

The memorabilia is as eclectic as the author’s writing, from his first typewriter – a manual Imperial 58 bought secondhand for £14 – to his trademark leather jacket and Louisiana fedora.

There is a lot of humour, such as his T-shirt with the greeting: “Tolkien is dead, JK Rowling said no, Philip Pullman couldn’t make it, hi I’m Terry Pratchett.”

Tucked away in the corner of one of the rooms is Pratchett’s knighthood insignia, but dominating the centre is that sword he made himself. He did it the hard way; digging iron ore out of the ground, smelting it in his garden, then adding a few pieces of a meteorite for a touch of magic.

The fulcrum of the exhibition, however, must be a recreation of his study, including the six computer screens he used. “Why do I have six monitors?” he said. “Because I don’t have room for eight.” His glasses lie on the desk as if he has just left for a moment and below is a nook where his cat Pongo used to sleep.

Dotted around the walls is artwork connected to Pratchett and his writing, including 40 original paintings and drawings by Paul Kidby, who designed the Discworld book jackets from 2002.

Enthusiasts may also relish Pratchett’s own sketches, such as a tiny one of his wizard Rincewind labelled: “general worried impression … poor straggly beard … ill-fitting robe”

Another extraordinary exhibit is the rather sad remains of a hard disc which, at the writer’s request, was crushed by a steamroller after his death. The disc contained perhaps 10 manuscripts he was working on when he died.

A central idea of the exhibition is for Pratchett’s life to be told in his own words. Published writings, interviews and scribblings were mined. There is fun, jollity – and rage.

On a board in the first room, which focuses on Pratchett’s early life, his primary school experiences are remembered: “Mr Tame, my headmaster, thought he could tell how successful we would be in later life by how well we could read or write by the age of six. He told me I would never amount to anything.”

There is anger in his description of how he initially struggled to be treated for “a weird form of Alzheimer’s called posterior cortical atrophy (PCA)”. He was offered no therapy, not even a pamphlet, when diagnosed.

“I felt totally exposed and alone,” he said. “You could have used my anger to weld steel, but I have never felt so alive! I think it is the anger, it drives me on.”

A beautiful, detailed sketch of a horseman done by Pratchett in 1971 is juxtaposed with test papers from 2009 and 2010 showing how his ability to draw or write were vanishing. “There is something horribly fascinating about an author losing power over his words,” he wrote.
 
Poignant finds were made as the exhibition took shape. When a bag loaned by Pratchett’s estate was opened, out tumbled a packet of throat lozenges, some indigestion tablets … and a pamphlet for Dignitas, the Swiss assisted dying organisation. 
 

Rob Wilkins, Pratchett’s longtime assistant and friend (and inducted by the writer as “Grand Master of the Order of the Honeybee” – a hive of friends and relatives charged with protecting his legacy) said he was overwhelmed by the exhibition.

“It’s so important to me. To give people a chance to see all this from Terry’s world collected in one place is delightful.”

As visitors leave the exhibition they pass under a favourite farewell phrase of Pratchett’s: “Mind how you go.”

  • Terry Pratchett: HisWorld opens at The Salisbury Museum on 16 September 2017 and runs until 13 January 2018.
 The Times, september 17th 2017.

 

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