The British Library Guide to Writing and Scripts: History and Techniques

The British Library Guide to Writing and Scripts: History and Techniques

The British Library Guide to Writing and Scripts: History and Techniques

The British Library Guide to Writing and Scripts: History and Techniques

Synopsis

This work takes a look at the development of writing systems throughout the world, how they have evolved according to different social needs, and anticipates how the rise of the computer will affect the development of writing in the future. The author discusses particularly the role of writing in the West before the invention of printing, and its place in the production of the medieval book.

Excerpt

Writing is about communication. In our own multi-media age we are well aware that writing is only one part of this process, that it co-exists with a developed oral culture of telecommunications, film and recorded sound, and that, through our television and computer screens and our popular press, it enjoys a complex inter-relationship with sound and image. Nonetheless, writing is as important as ever and still occupies an almost talismanic position in our societies. Knowledge is power; writing remains the principal conveyor of information, and access to writing unlocks the secrets of human knowledge and identity. This was the line of thought that guided Ptolemy Philadelphus, the founder of the first great world library at Alexandria in the third century BC. The 500,000 or so scrolls to be gathered, copied and held there would embody the societies of the day and their cultures and would give Ptolemy the key to their conquest and successful governance. Our modern libraries seek to extend such facilities to all people, giving them the power, intellectually, to govern their own lives.

The human perception of the need to transmit a body of knowledge or information across time and space has been the secret of writing’s success. Our memory as individuals forms a large part of who we are. Likewise, group memory is the key to cultural identity. But is writing the only option for preserving and transmitting memory?

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