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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good history of the alphabet
This is probably Drucker's most acessable book, as she she usually concentrates on very specialist areas. Here, everyone can enjoy what she has to say on the alphabet. She has a balance between informal and formal language, which enables you to judge the level of depth you are going into. It has large areas which are very easy to understand, and it is these which make...
Published on 29 May 2002

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars must do better
The Alphabetic Labyrinth is a prime example of how *not* to research a book. Like the late E A Wallis Budge, Drucker has a habit of not double checking a source's facts; thus we're told that Ogham is a "Welsh" alphabet (it's an Irish cipher), that Runes and Ogham have never been found in the same area - never mind the same monument - (So what's the famous Killaloe...
Published on 15 Jan 2004 by Barbara R. Barrett


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars must do better, 15 Jan 2004
By 
Barbara R. Barrett "maoriian" (berkshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Alphabetic Labyrinth: The Letters in History and Imagination (Paperback)
The Alphabetic Labyrinth is a prime example of how *not* to research a book. Like the late E A Wallis Budge, Drucker has a habit of not double checking a source's facts; thus we're told that Ogham is a "Welsh" alphabet (it's an Irish cipher), that Runes and Ogham have never been found in the same area - never mind the same monument - (So what's the famous Killaloe Rune/Ogham Stone then; Irish mist?), and the "Roger Bacon Cipher" (better known as the Voynich Manuscript) was deciphered by Prof Leonell Strong (his 'decipherment' was discredited decades ago; The Voynich Manuscript remains undeciphered to this day).
Historical personalities suffer from factual errors too. There are too many to mention them all but a typical example is Drucker telling the reader that Charlemagne's "illiteracy" is a "well established fact"; whereas his contemporary biographer, Alcuin of York, did say that Charlemagne never mastered his letters, but he also said Charlemagne could "speak Latin and read Greek": Dyslexic maybe, but illiterate; an opinion at best and most certainly not a well established fact.
Drucker doesn't double check her sources so their mistakes become hers, and as a result everything she says must be taken with a large dose of scepticism. This is a pity, not only because of the book's first class typography and excellent illustrations, but also because of the sections on the more esoteric and occult uses of alphabets are very interesting indeed, and Drucker is a good writer who's enthusiasm is put across with clarity and wit. In spite of its failings it is a very good and entertaining read, and worth buying for that alone - but alas not to be trusted in its conclusions, facts, or used as an authoritive reference work.
For the amateur who won't know where Drucker is (or rather her sources are) in error, the Alphabetic Labyrinth can only mislead them. Personally, I'd recommend the works of Andrew Robinson and The British Library's "Reading the Past" series for those beginning their study of the alphabet and ancient western writings systems, and the works of R I Page for those particularly interested in Runes (all available from Amazon). Unfortunately I know of no other modern work specifically covering the esoteric and occult uses of alphabets, and the student will have to glean that information from more general works on topics such as alchemy, witchcraft, secret societies, and the kabbalah.
END
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An anecdotal illustrated history..., 20 Dec 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Alphabetic Labyrinth: The Letters in History and Imagination (Paperback)
An anecdotal illustrated history of letterforms and of the more curious and esoteric ways in which they have been utilised and interpreted through the ages, this is an inviting book that shares much common ground with Eco's "In Search of the Perfect Language", but which succeeds in mapping out its own unique space. Alas: though the conception is good, the execution is not always so. The earlier chapters drag as history is recounted parrot-fashion, and it is with yawning relief that the reader emerges from Antiquity and the Middle Ages into the Renaissance. Suddenly, Drucker hits her stride and, most particularly in the chapter on the Kabbalah, the text quite fizzes with infectious enthusiasm. Once again, Thames and Hudson are to be congratulated on a marvellously-illustrated, well-made book. If a reader can tolerate the more indigestible sections, or is in the market more for education than entertainment, this volume will fit the bill very well.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good history of the alphabet, 29 May 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Alphabetic Labyrinth: The Letters in History and Imagination (Paperback)
This is probably Drucker's most acessable book, as she she usually concentrates on very specialist areas. Here, everyone can enjoy what she has to say on the alphabet. She has a balance between informal and formal language, which enables you to judge the level of depth you are going into. It has large areas which are very easy to understand, and it is these which make the book. Anyone can join in and learn the basics. For the more obsessed reader, there's another level (which may seem a little overwhelming to those unfamilier with the topic). So there's something for everyone, all in the same book. If you find that you don't want to go on, you can leave it there, and it sits on its own, but the posibilirty for delving deeper is there. Chapters include: The Alphabet in Context, Origins & Historians, the Kabblah, the Alphabet in the 19th Century. It gives a full history, including full details on specific genres. Lots of illustrations/diagrams/photos, so you won't be sitting wandering what she is talking about.
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The Alphabetic Labyrinth: The Letters in History and Imagination
The Alphabetic Labyrinth: The Letters in History and Imagination by Johanna Drucker (Paperback - 22 Feb 1999)
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