The Triumph of the Alphabet: A History of Writing

By A. C. Moorhouse | Go to book overview

preface

This book is an enlarged version of an earlier one, Writing and the Alphabet, Cobbett Press, London, 1946. All the earlier material has been worked over: much of it has been re-written and increased in volume, and much has been replaced altogether, especially in the chapters on Pre-alphabetic Scripts and the Alphabet, which are almost entirely new. A chapter has also been added on Decipherment.

My aim remains as before, to show that the apparently simple act of writing, and especially of writing in an alphabetic manner, is one of the world's most original and important intellectual discoveries. The book falls into two sections, dealing first with the various ways in which man has invented scripts, and next with some aspects of his use of his invention.

Recently this fascinating subject has been receiving more attention, after a period of unreasonable neglect. This is no doubt due in part to important archeological discoveries, particularly in Syria and Palestine, which have added much to our knowledge of the early history of the alphabet. But although sectional literature, concerned with individual scripts, has thus been increasing in volume, there remains, perhaps all the more because of that, a need for a treatment of the subject as a whole in moderate compass and without too much technicality. For it must be emphasized that the principles that lie behind writing everywhere are essentially simple ones, and anyone may make himself

-xiii-

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The Triumph of the Alphabet: A History of Writing
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Part I - The Form of Writing 1
  • I - The Development of Writing 3
  • II - The Work of Decipherment 28
  • III - Pre-Alphabetic Scripts: Part I 46
  • IV - Pre-Alphabetic Scripts: Part II 70
  • V - The Semitic Alphabet and Its Orgin 94
  • VI - The Extension of the Alphabet 126
  • Part II - The Use of Writing 157
  • VII - The Functioning of Writing 159
  • VIII - The Historical Influence of Writing 178
  • IX - Writing and the Spread of Literacy 199
  • Bibliography - A Selected List of Works in English 216
  • Index 221
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