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About the book
  • Published: 1 December 2010
  • ISBN: 9781409045335
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 336

Alpha Beta




How the alphabet shaped the western world

The idea behind the alphabet - that language with all its wealth of meaning can be recorded with a few meaningless signs - is an extraordinary one. So extraordinary, in fact, that it has occurred only once in human history: in Egypt about 4000 years ago. Alpha Beta follows the emergence of the western alphabet as it evolved into its present form, contributing vital elements to our sense of identity along the way. The Israelites used it to define their God, the Greeks to capture their myths, the Romans to display their power. And today, it seems on the verge of yet another expansion through the internet.

Tracking the alphabet as it leaps from culture to culture, John Man weaves discoveries, mysteries and controversies into a story of fundamental historical significance.

  • Pub date: 1 December 2010
  • ISBN: 9781409045335
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 336

About the Author

John Man

John Man is a historian and travel writer with a special interest in Mongolia. After reading German and French at Oxford he did two postgraduate courses, one in the history of science at Oxford, the other in Mongolian at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

John has written acclaimed and highly successful biographies of Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun and Kublai Khan as well as Alpha Beta, on the history of the alphabet, and The Gutenberg Revolution, on the invention of printing.

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Praise for Alpha Beta

“The story of how [the alphabet] came into being is a fascinating one and Man is the ideal writer to tell it. His scholarship seems boundless... he also has a journalist's ear for a story... straight out of Indiana Jones”

Times Educational Supplement

“Absorbing tale ... many surprises on the way.”

Sunday Telegraph

“A scholarly and fascinating history of the alphabet, from hieroglyphics to letters, and its dissemination from culture to culture and from past to present”

The Times

“Crisp, taut, and as clear as a bell ... a fascinating story with many a beguiling subplot along the way.”

New Scientist


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