Musée Champollion –Les Écritures du Monde, Figeac. Salle des alphabets © N. Blaya.
Musée Champollion –Les Écritures du Monde, Figeac. Façade of 1000 letters © Luc Boegly-Agence Moatti et Rivière.

A song of scripts

TEXT: RUDOLF ABRAHAM | PHOTOS © LUC BOEGLY – AGENCE MOATTI ET RIVIÈRE

Over the last century, the world of communication may have gone through some tumultuous shifts, but the ancient art of writing is still very much central to our lives.

The 18th-century French scholar, philologist and orientalist, Jean François Champollion, was fascinated by the history of the writing arts and is best known as the first man to have deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics.

The house in which he was born in Figeac, just a couple of hours’ drive north of Toulouse in southwest France, is home to the Musée Champollion – Les Écritures du Monde (Champollion Museum – The Writings of the World).

As its name suggests, the museum’s main premise is to throw a spotlight on the history of writing, and collections range from early hieroglyphics and Chinese and Arabic scripts to the world of the book, and the place of writing in contemporary art. “The main focus of the museum is to showcase the development of writing,’ says Laurie Cruveilher, head of public relations. “Its evolution from the earliest known scripts and alphabets to the present day. Of course, we talk about Champollion the man as well, but what we are most interested in is showing how his work, his discoveries, sit within the evolution of the written word.”

The original 15th-century house has been spectacularly transformed into a 21st-century museum by architectural firm Moatti & Rivière, who preserved the original stone façade, but placed a striking copper and glass wall behind it. The copper sheet is pierced by 1,000 characters, created by graphic and typographic designer Pierre di Sciullo from a multitude of different scripts, living and dead. Sunlight throws the shapes of these letters and pictograms across the museum interior, while illuminated at night, they read like a giant homage to the written word across one side of Place Champollion.

Writing is how we shape the world, a tool of knowledge and of power. In over 600 objects, the Musée Champollion shows the breadth, sophistication and sheer beauty of its journey.

musee-champollion.fr