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Terry Pratchett: Hisworld at the Salisbury Museum

December 2, 2017

“When they’re laughing at you, their guard is down. When their guard is down, you can kick them in the fracas.”  ― Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment

IMG_3664The Discworld series includes forty-one published novels. I’ve read thirty-nine of them. I have nothing against the last two books. I’m just saving them for when another dose of Sir Terry Pratchett’s version of awesomeness is needed.

Some time ago, Cake Man gave me my first Discworld book — Monstrous Regiment. I wasn’t ready for it. I knew the novel was funny, but it wasn’t yet everything for me that Cake Man seemed to think it would be. I’m a person who likes things in order, so I had to start from the beginning of the series.

I got a copy of The Colour of Magic and began to steadily devour one Discworld book after the other. In order. I’d fallen in love with the series. I remain in awe of Terry Pratchett.

“It was all very well going on about pure logic and how the universe was ruled by logic and the harmony of numbers, but the plain fact of the matter was that the Disc was manifestly traversing space on the back of a giant turtle and the gods had a habit of going round to atheists’ houses and smashing their windows.” ― Terry Pratchett, The Colour of Magic


Silver Horde, 2000 – Paul Kidby

Earlier this year, the Salisbury Museum in the United Kingdom announced it would be hosting an exhibit about Terry Pratchett, who had lived near Salisbury and died in 2015.

Halfway through my first attempt to read Monstrous Regiment in 2005, I wouldn’t have been able to predict I’d make a special trip to Salisbury to see the Hisworld exhibit. I also wouldn’t have been able to predict I’d have to think about whether Terry Pratchett had become my all-time favorite author. (Don’t worry, ghost of Frank Herbert. It was close, but you’re still in the top spot.)

Conveniently, a beloved English cousin decided to get married a mere two train ride hours away from Salisbury (and 3,603 miles from Washington D.C.).

“Cats will amusingly tolerate humans only until someone comes up with a tin opener that can be operated with a paw.” ― Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

As a veteran of many hours of listening to me recount the details of various hilarious scenes in Discworld books, Cake Man is well-aware of this particular obsession of mine. He is also very tolerant considering he read most of the series before I did. And not once has he asked me to cease my botched attempts to speak like the Nac Mac Feegel. Despite all this, I thought he might try to talk me out of an overnight excursion to Salisbury.

Instead, he gave me one of those looks like I don’t quite know stuff about history.

He said, “You know Stonehenge is only ten miles from Salisbury, right? You should probably visit that, too.”

Actually, I DIDN’T know Stonehenge was so close.

“Cake is not the issue here.” ― Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent

One thing led to another, and a couple of friends from the cousin’s wedding accompanied me to Terry Pratchett: Hisworld. I made it clear ahead of time that no matter what else was going on in Salisbury, the exhibit at the museum was the top priority. I’d even bought my ticket ahead of time! Given my experience getting into D.C. museums and my Salisbury time constraints,* I wasn’t taking any chances.

Suffice it to say there were no lines to get into this museum. I question the priorities of other people.


The exhibit included at least a hundred of Pratchett’s personal items surrounded by many Paul Kidby and Josh Kirby Discworld paintings, Pratchett quotes-galore and a room-sized replica of Sir Terry’s office. The author’s signature black hat, leather jacket and skull-topped walking stick were on display as was the meteorite-infused sword he forged himself. His original Imperial 58 typewriter also got a place of honor in the museum.

Terry Pratchett's Imperial 58 Typewriter

Terry Pratchett’s Imperial 58 Typewriter

“They think written words are even more powerful,’ whispered the toad. ‘They think all writing is magic. Words worry them. See their swords? They glow blue in the presence of lawyers.” ― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

Unexpectedly, my favorite exhibit item from long before the first Discworld book was published. It was a November 24, 1967 letter from J.R.R. Tolkien. Apparently, few people at the time of the phenomenal success of Lord of the Rings were writing Tolkien that their favorite book of his was Smith of Wooton Major. Nineteen-year-old Pratchett had done just that, and Tolkien wrote back. History, indeed!

Letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Terry Pratchett, November 24, 1967

Letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Terry Pratchett, November 24, 1967

I was surprised by how much tenderness defined the exhibit. That’s a feeling I’m not accustomed to in a museum. But the people who put together Terry Pratchett: Hisworld actually knew the man. Hisworld was both a destination for the curious and a tribute to a beloved writer in the Salisbury community.

The exhibit is running parallel to the museum’s efforts to raise funds for new loos. They are calling it The Toilet Fund. Very Discworld. Very funny. Very Terry Pratchett.

“Never promise to do the possible. Anyone could do the possible. You should promise to do the impossible, because sometimes the impossible was possible, if you could find the right way, and at least you could often extend the limits of the possible. And if you failed, well, it had been impossible.” ― Terry Pratchett, Going Postal

The exhibit closes on January 13, 2018. I hope you have an English cousin getting married southwest of London before then!

Replica of Sir Terry Pratchett's writing space

Replica of Sir Terry Pratchett’s writing space

*Yes, I visited Stonehenge. It was great! Fie on those who are grumpy about not being close to the stones. The set-up was perfect. Besides, people are weird about touching old things, like they don’t realize they have dinosaur atoms in their body or that exposed rocks in the Shenandoah are a billion years old. Also, there are 7,442,000,000 people on Earth. At least a third of them want to touch the stones. If they all did, I would never get a good picture!** Old Sarum, which was also nearby, blew my mind. Plus, the Tower Tour of Salisbury Cathedral was sooooo cool. And I got a little emotional when I saw the Magna Carta on display in the Cathedral Close.

**“Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind.” ― Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man



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