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The History and Power of Writing

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 000-0226508366
ISBN-10: 0226508366
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Martin's comprehensive work is a fascinating examination of forms and structures of writing throughout history, from as far back as the earliest efforts of archaic civilizations, to medieval language studies, European papermaking ventures, and the present day's hi-tech modes of recording and communicating. Martin follows the evolution of the printed word, but not in dry, academic terms. Instead, his narrative invests his topic with a dramatic intensity that is its due. Censorship, book burnings, and the societal implications of reading and writing are all scrutinized in his authoritative study. Alice Joyce --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (October 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226508366
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226508368
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,176,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If you, like me, are fascinated by the history of ideas then this is a book for you. This work explains to us, who are accustomed to writing (whether "by hand" or on keyboards), what the change to uniform alphabets and writing skills brought. What was it like to be living through this change? The era when writing became universal (amongst a certain class of society at least) must have been like when email swept through our society. And, of course, that is why this topic is so fascinating -- we can conceptualize this change because we ourselves are living through a similar change. Just as the printing press produced an ocean of information and subsequent societal upheaval, so is the present era of the electronic publisher, that is everyone who has internet access. I recommend this book not only because of its fascinating content but also for the depth of scholarship and research. It is readable yet not patronizing. I am reminded of another book that shines for me -- Lucien Febvre's "The Coming of the Book" -- which was also a feast of ideas and concepts. Another aspect of these books is that they are written on the European mainland where many of the changes described took place and so the authors' scholarship benefits from that viewpoint. A less Anglo-American-centric view of the world is presented and our knowledge is richer for this. Both of these books are fortunate too in their translators which enable non-francophones to delve into the world that was before mass communication.
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I have mixed feelings about this book, I already enjoyed it so much, it was enlightening and with a lot of historical information that you have to process very slowly and, maybe you have to go back sometimes just to reinforce all the knowledge you're getting with this book. It should definitively be a must and a reference book for librarians, students of librarianship and people related with book industry. I'm convinced every librarian around the globe must have this book in his/her personal library

However I said I have mixed feelings and this is because although in the title never mention anything about "universal" history of writing, sometimes (especially from chapter 6 to the end of the book) I feel it was just about the history of writing in Europe and specially in France, with a few exceptions talking about Germany, England and the United States. The author never mention the case of Mexico and I think it's a huge mistake not to include a country where we had the first press in all the continent, even before the United States.

And what about the ebook? Although the last part talks about of the development of machines and their impact to writing culture, it never really talks about the most important development for writing records since Gutenberg's press. The book was first published in 1988, of course we can talk about the boom of the ebook in the 2007 but in fact ebooks have been around 70s.

It deserves another revision in order to solve this two big missing points of a great, great history.
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I am especially grateful for all the historical information, and also for the excellent insights into the importance of writing in the mental development/evolution of our brains.
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This is a great book on the cultural and social impact of writing and printing in the West. Sweet delicious insights!
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