Alpha Beta: how our alphabet shaped the western world

alpha_beta_imageAs Mr. Spock would say– fascinating! Think the history of a bunch of scratches and squiggles on clay or parchment would have to be dull? Think again! Author John Man is a generalist, a travel writer, and necessarily relies on secondary works for the numerous disciplines needed to work out the path of the alphabet on its winding journey through history and geography, ranging from a distant tribal past in the middle eastern desert to China to the Mediterranean and eastern Europe of the 9th century CE.   His thesis is that alphabetical writing systems arise from young cultures on the fringes of older more established ones. This epic  narrative is lit up by the characters– historical spreaders of alphabets, modern-era archeologists trying to decipher scratches on potsherds or save Egyptian treasure-troves from robbers, and even fully fictional characters imagined by Man as he ponders who would write certain baffling inscriptions and why. (submitted by library patron DF)

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