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Alphabetic Labyrinth: The Letters in History and Imagination

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The letters of the alphabet have been the object of speculation since their invention almost 4000 years ago. The symbols represent sounds, yet they exist in their own right, often invested with quasi-magical power. This book examines the many imaginative, often idiosyncratic ways in which the letters of the alphabet have been assigned value in political, spiritual, or reli The letters of the alphabet have been the object of speculation since their invention almost 4000 years ago. The symbols represent sounds, yet they exist in their own right, often invested with quasi-magical power. This book examines the many imaginative, often idiosyncratic ways in which the letters of the alphabet have been assigned value in political, spiritual, or religious belief systems over two millennia.


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The letters of the alphabet have been the object of speculation since their invention almost 4000 years ago. The symbols represent sounds, yet they exist in their own right, often invested with quasi-magical power. This book examines the many imaginative, often idiosyncratic ways in which the letters of the alphabet have been assigned value in political, spiritual, or reli The letters of the alphabet have been the object of speculation since their invention almost 4000 years ago. The symbols represent sounds, yet they exist in their own right, often invested with quasi-magical power. This book examines the many imaginative, often idiosyncratic ways in which the letters of the alphabet have been assigned value in political, spiritual, or religious belief systems over two millennia.

56 review for Alphabetic Labyrinth: The Letters in History and Imagination

  1. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    dense but good if you like that sort of thing.

  2. 5 out of 5

    James

    Thoroughly researched book on a fascinating subject. If only the sense of wonder that it could generate was more evident! Drucker's book has all the ingredients, but her writing style leaves it more like a university text book that a book for an enthusiast on the history of the alphabet. It's still a good book, but best taken in small doses. Thoroughly researched book on a fascinating subject. If only the sense of wonder that it could generate was more evident! Drucker's book has all the ingredients, but her writing style leaves it more like a university text book that a book for an enthusiast on the history of the alphabet. It's still a good book, but best taken in small doses.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mjhancock

    Drucker recounts the history of the alphabet, with a focus on the symbolic meaning people have afforded it over the century. The book is divided into 10 chapters, which can roughly be thought of as two background chapters, and eight that correspond to various historical periods in Western culture, and how the alphabet was regarded in them. Chapter 3 starts with the Greek and Roman period, with a focus on how the Greeks considered the alphabet as composed of the fundamental building blocks with w Drucker recounts the history of the alphabet, with a focus on the symbolic meaning people have afforded it over the century. The book is divided into 10 chapters, which can roughly be thought of as two background chapters, and eight that correspond to various historical periods in Western culture, and how the alphabet was regarded in them. Chapter 3 starts with the Greek and Roman period, with a focus on how the Greeks considered the alphabet as composed of the fundamental building blocks with which you could build up to a description of the universe. Chapter 4 covers the early Christian eras, in which the power of the written language--and the alphabet--was usually given divine attribution: "I am the alpha and the omega", for example, uses the beginning and end of alphabet as a metaphor for the entirety of existence. Other chapters cover the medieval period and the Church's appropriation of the written word, the Renaissance and the turn to rationalization, and the 18th century and their belief that writing was a necessary condition for the existence of civilization. (There's a chapter on Kabbalah too.) Chapter 9 covers the 19th century and the alphabet's role in the debate of creationism vs evolution (was written language divinely inspired, or did it come about naturally?)and the last chapter considers the alphabet in the digital age. The book could stand to have a longer introduction that better signaled some of Drucker's larger themes, but in all, it's a pretty thorough and convincing history.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    (Almost done with it) Beautiful beautiful specimens, was very pleased to have seen the original Bodoni, Bickham, Uncial and so many others. Very precise yet thorough walk through the ages of writing. However, because there have been recent archaelogical discoveries, part of her explanation of the origin of the alphabet is incorrect.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mitch

    A thorough distillation of what one needs to know about our alphabet. History, mythology, aesthetics and mystic hooey all included and brilliantly discussed herein. WITH tables & graphs and lots of images to look at. Should be on every poet's bookshelf. A masterpiece. A thorough distillation of what one needs to know about our alphabet. History, mythology, aesthetics and mystic hooey all included and brilliantly discussed herein. WITH tables & graphs and lots of images to look at. Should be on every poet's bookshelf. A masterpiece.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    A fantastic treatise on the development of language and writing. With many historical examples and essays on various aspects of the graphic arts tradition.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John Boardley

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joe King

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emma

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  11. 4 out of 5

    Msrobot0

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

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  15. 4 out of 5

    Дамир Газетић

  16. 5 out of 5

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    Jesse Bransford

  18. 4 out of 5

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    Jessica

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    Gerard Brown

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    James Davenport

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    Katherine Factor

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    Murnau’s stolen skull

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  55. 4 out of 5

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  56. 5 out of 5

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