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.
“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.”
“A scholarly and fascinating history of the alphabet, from hieroglyphics to letters, and its dissemination from culture to culture and from past to present”
“Crisp, taut, and as clear as a bell ... a fascinating story with many a beguiling subplot along the way.”