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The ties that truly bind

On December 16, 1977, while he was still in prison, Nelson Mandela signed his name in a copy of the complete works of William Shakespeare.

His name appeared next to words from Julius Caesar: "Cowards die many times before their deaths./The valiant never taste of death but once."

Those words became a positive inspiration to Mandela at a time when it looked like he might never be released and in the years since, the copy of the book has taken on a totemic importance and become known as the Robben Island Bible.

And now it is coming to Glasgow. Next week, it will go on show at the Mitchell as part of a Commonwealth exhibition and it is hard to think of a better choice than Glasgow's great library. Not only have the city's universities honoured the great man, but St George's Place was also renamed Nelson Mandela Place in his honour.

But it was the granting of the freedom of Glasgow to Mandela in 1981 that truly formed the bond between the man and the city. The gesture of solidarity from Scotland was the first of its kind anywhere in the world and it mattered. And as a dog-eared copy of Shakespeare will prove next week, it still does.

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