- Paperback: 232 pages
- Publisher: Thames & Hudson; 2 edition (May 17, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0500286604
- ISBN-13: 978-0500286609
- Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.7 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs & Pictograms 2nd Edition
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From Scientific American
"Writing is among the greatest inventions in human history, perhaps the greatest invention, since it made history possible." Thus Robinson, literary editor of the (London) Times Higher Education Supplement, introduces his scholarly and fascinating study of alphabets, hieroglyphics and pictograms. He says he is not presenting the full history of writing, focusing instead on "an account of the scripts used in the major civilizations of the ancient world, of the major scripts we use today, and of the underlying principles that unite the two." But a great deal of the history is here, together with more than 350 splendidly helpful (and viewable) illustrations: cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Mayan glyphs, Chinese and Japanese writing, and scripts based on alphabets.
Robinson is also interested in the current movement toward increased communication through logograms, or pictographic symbols. Could they be expanded into a universal writing system that would transcend language differences? Robinson thinks not, asserting that whereas logograms can be helpful, "full writing is based on speech." The book is a paperback edition of a hardback published in 1995. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Delightful to read...difficult to put down once started. -- Communication Arts
Rich in images...well-informed and assured. -- Scientific American
Top customer reviews
Following an excellent introductory overview of writing in general, there are thirteen chapters. Representative ones are "Reading the Rosetta Stone"; "Sound, Symbol and Script"; "Cuneiform"; "Mayan Glyphs"; and "Chinese Writing". Each chapter, in turn, consists of a half dozen or so topics, each of which receives one or two pages. For example, the chapter on "Undeciphered Scripts" has brief discussions of the following subjects: the difficulties of decipherment; Indus script; Cretan Linear A (still undeciphered, though Linear B is the earliest European script that we can understand); the Phaistos Disc; proto-Elamite script; Etruscan; and Rongorongo, from Easter Island.
The book is copiously, and beautifully, illustrated, with photographs of ancient scripts and inscribed artifacts, as well as charts and maps. The illustrations and text are well integrated. The writing itself is ideal for a book of this sort -- neither simplistic nor overly academic. In addition, the book is carefully and intricately formatted, so much so that it is doubtful that the book could be satisfactorily rendered in digital form (just as Japanese kanji characters defy satisfactory electronic data processing).
One theme of the book is that "the way we write at the start of the 3rd millennium AD is not different from the way that the ancient Egyptians wrote". Another is that phonography is essential to fully developed writing systems: "full writing cannot be divorced from speech; words, and the scripts that employ words, involve both sounds and signs".
THE STORY OF WRITING would be a good addition to any general library.
Hittite "Tarhun" for instance as their "storm god" is identical to Turan, Duran, Induru, Tor, Thor (Sumerian Dur-An) "heavenly god" giving you perspective on the Trojans as Hittites which when coupled with the Linear B translation chart on pg. 118 then compared with the Hittite cuneiform block back on pg 91 shows you that Hittite logogrammic cuneiform is actually rudimentary Minoan Linear B, the Linear B being a hieratic (in cursive) form of Hittite. Now I got that from reading this book and never would have made this connection without Mr. Robinson's easy-to-understand explanations. Sure enough a quick internet search just now on this shows that current scholastic study on the subject is proving my "leaping" judgment true. These leaps of inspiration are why we are able to figure out dead languages and ancient history in the first place. This book is a fantastic primer for beginners.
Unfortunately, the last chapters on Chinese and Japanese writing where written hastily, I think they could have elaborated more on Spencerian or cursive lettering from the 19th and 20th century. This is non-existing and disappointing.