The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs and Pictograms Paperback – 16 Apr 2007
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'Succinct and absorbing' --Education Today
'Excellent. Robinson covers so much ground in such short order that you feel he must have got something wrong or left out something important. He hasn't'
About the Author
Andrew Robinson is the Literary Editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement. He is the author of numerous books, including The Man Who Deciphered Linear B and Earthshock, both published by Thames & Hudson.
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However, that initial disappointment was quickly dispelled as I became engrossed by Robinson’s brief but clear introduction to writing systems and the following fascinating section on ‘Extinct Writing’, which is divided into chapters each dedicated to the script of a major, ancient civilisation (cuneiform, hieroglyphs, Cretan Linear B, Mayan glyphs etc.).
As those familiar with Robinson’s other books may expect, he focuses significant attention on the people responsible for the decipherment of the extinct languages he discusses. As one myself, I was particularly pleased to learn that it was an (eccentric) architect who paved the way to the understanding of Cretan Linear B.
The methods and history of the translation of ancient or lost languages, simply and effectively explained, were a revelation to me. The few puzzles Robinson has included add significantly to the experience, allowing the reader to feel as if they are participating in the unfolding decipherment. The illustrations are all very well chosen to match the text.
After the rush of excitement produced by the first two thirds of the book, I found the section on ‘Living Writing’ a slight disappointment. Robinson is at his best when enthusing about decipherment past, present and future. I eagerly await the release of the paperback edition of Robinson’s book ‘Lost Languages’ in the confident expectation that it will be wholly as fascinating and well written as the best chapters in ‘The Story of Writing’.
On realising just how complicated certain systems of scripts are, it certainly gives you added respect for those who helped decipher those ancient scripts which had been lost.
A friendly intro to a vast subject.
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