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The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs & Pictograms

The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs & Pictograms
Author: Andrew Robinson
ISBN 13: 9780500286609
ISBN 10: 500286604
Edition: 2
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Publication Date: 2007-05-17
Format: Paperback
Pages: 232
List Price: $24.95

"The most accessible and informative book available on the major writing systems of the world."—History Today

Without writing, there would be no history and no civilization as we know it. But how, when, and where did writing evolve?

Andrew Robinson explains the interconnection between sound, symbol, and script in a succinct and absorbing text. He discusses each of the major writing systems in turn, from cuneiform and Egyptian and Mayan hieroglyphs to alphabets and the scripts of China and Japan, as well as topics such as the Cherokee "alphabet" and the writing of runes. Full coverage is given to the history of decipherment, and a provocative chapter devoted to undeciphered scripts challenges the reader: can these codes ever be broken?

In this revised edition, the author reveals the latest discoveries to have an impact on our knowledge of the history of writing, including the Tabula Cortonensis showing Etruscan symbols and a third millennium BC seal from Turkmenistan that could solve the mystery of how Chinese writing evolved. He also discusses how the digital revolution has not, despite gloomy predictions, spelled doom for the printed book. In addition, the table of Maya glyphs has been revised so that they are up-to-date with current research. 355+ illustrations, 50 in color.


Robinson's grandly illustrated history of literacy intrigues the curious mind with the quirks of alphabetic history. The cultural variants—runes, codices, cuneiform, Assyrian obelisks, cartouches, writing implements and inks—attest to the creativity of people who solved the problem of codifying oral speech into readable messages and texts. Graphs, phonetic models, and calligraphy enhance highly readable entries that account for such conundrums as French homophones rue/roux, lost languages, and Chinese syllabaries. Photos ally the work of the logician and the archeologist with the revelation of literary advances worldwide. Indexing simplifies the task of looking up particulars, e.g., oracle bones, quipu, Mayan glyphs, and demotic script. A must for public and school libraries.