An Alphabet of History [Illustrated]

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A beautiful, luxurious, cloth-bound book in a slipcase, specially created for young children, and a perfect gift to treasure. Each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by an alliterative sentence or two, helping to develop letter and phonetic recognition.

Pook Press History of Alphabet Books >> Illustrated Classics

It also features the well-known 'A is for apple' structure running through the book, threading each letter together, a A beautiful, luxurious, cloth-bound book in a slipcase, specially created for young children, and a perfect gift to treasure. It also features the well-known 'A is for apple' structure running through the book, threading each letter together, and helping very young children with their literacy skills.

Get A Copy. Hardcover , 64 pages.

The Usborne Illustrated Alphabet

Published February 18th by Usborne Books first published December 29th More Details Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Usborne Illustrated Alphabet , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about The Usborne Illustrated Alphabet.


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Lists with This Book. Our alphabet has evolved over four thousand years, with one culture after another borrowing and reshaping symbols to their needs. Robb traces the transformations of each letter through their Sinaitic, Phoenician, early and classical Greek, and Roman forms, grouping those like C and G whose histories were intertwined and tucking in lots of other fascinating lore. The Romans used V instead of U because it's easier to carve in stone our usage of both letters dates only to the s ; they invented serifs for neatness in the same medium.

The Phoenician forerunner of H was a consonant, but the Greeks used it, later, as a vowel. The Romans referred to letters as elements elementa , possibly from the L-M-N sequence. An excellent first resource, skillfully organized to introduce the subject and inspire interest. A summary chart of letter origins and a list of resources websites plus books for children and adults are appended.

Download the Cover. I hope to convey how fascinating these 26 little shapes can be, how they contain within themselves thousands of years of culture and history.

From the Preface of Language Visible The basis for this book was a part weekly series that I wrote for the Ottawa Citizen newspaper Ottawa, Ontario about the letters of the alphabet. The series covered one letter per week, from January to July But the first inspiration dates to , when I was at work on my one previous book, titled Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World Facts On File, Facing a huge assignment beyond my rudimentary knowledge, I was anxiously researching the ancient Greeks. One topic was the Greek alphabet, including its origin, sometime around B. I had always imagined some imitation by analogy: that the Greeks, impressed by the Phoenician letters, had gone off and invented two dozen letters of their own, to be Greek letters.

Yet my studies of taught me differently. The Greeks had copied more literally than that.

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Pardon the pun. Does it sound trivial? At the time, the realization stunned me. The ancient languages of Greek and Phoenician were as different as English and Arabic. Greek was and is a language of the Indo-European family; its modern relatives include English, German, Spanish, Russian. The Phoenician tongue, now vanished, belonged to a separate language group, Semitic, whose major modern representative is Arabic, although Phoenician itself was probably closer to Hebrew.

Semitic and Indo-European languages do not sound at all alike; their vocabularies are unrelated. And yet… The Phoenician alphabet had 22 letters; the earliest working Greek alphabet, probably The first 22 letters of the Greek list were nearly identical to the Phoenician in sequence, shapes, names, and, usually, sounds although here with the important exception of five Greek vowel letters, which the Greeks invented by reassigning certain Phoenician letters to symbolize vowel sounds.

In later centuries the Greeks would adjust their alphabet away from the Phoenician model. But for B. What if a bunch of illiterate Anglo-Saxons in A.

A History of English Letters

Could they have been done so, I wondered. There must, I thought, back in , be more to these letters than I understood. How could Phoenician letters be so adaptable?

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Eventually in the s, I moved on from the ancient Greece book, got a day job, and turned to a new mental interest: the history of the alphabet. I had never studied it before, but felt compelled to do so now. There seemed something fundamental here that I had missed in my education. What I found was that alphabets have routinely jumped from language to language, across all sorts of language barriers, down through history. Our Roman alphabet in English is the product of four such leaps: After being copied from Phoenician letters, the letters of the Greek letters were copied, in turn, by a different people, the Etruscans of Italy around B.

Etruscan was a tongue as different from Greek as Greek was from Phoenician, yet the letters adapted easily: They now became Etruscan letters, for showing Etruscan speech. Then the Etruscan letters were copied by other Italian peoples, including the Romans, whose language, Latin, was totally unlike Etruscan. Again, the letters had made the jump. Today those letters have grown up to become our own. English is by no means the only example. Roman letters today convey the sounds of languages that Cicero never heard of: Polish, Zulu, Azerbaijani, Indonesian, Navajo—and about other major tongues.

The Cyrillic alphabet works equally well for Serbian and Bulgarian as for Russian. The more I dug into this, the more important it seemed. I was finally getting the idea that the letters have a kind of genius—a genius for showing the sounds of speech. They can be arranged in endless combinations as necessary, to capture sounds of words.

This allows the letters to be fitted from one language to another: You could easily write English phonetically, in the letters of Hebrew or Cyrillic.

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Bored office workers at computers do it idly. What I uncovered was a trove of wisdom and lore worth celebrating.

Short Stories for All the Letters

And worth sharing. What might be missing from the answers, overlooked, is the family of little shapes that your eyes are scanning right now: the letters of the alphabet.

About this book

For the alphabet was an invention, a spectacularly successful one. Judged on longevity and extent of modern daily use, it compares with the wheel. The alphabet was invented in the Near East around B. Without doubt, its earliest readers read aloud, their lips forming the words displayed.


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Reading aloud continued to be standard practice throughout ancient and medieval times. The alphabet was not the earliest writing: Mesopotamia, Egypt, and probably China already had nonalphabetic systems. But the alphabet was the most efficient writing system ever found, before or since. Like the wheel, it changed the ancient world and, like the wheel, it is still with us and has never been superseded.

Today about 4. About 26 major alphabetic scripts are in place worldwide. The International Three are the Roman, Arabic, and Cyrillic alphabets, each serving multiple nations and languages. Our own familiar alphabet is the Roman, bequeathed to Western Europe by the Roman Empire and today the most popular script on Earth—weighing in at about principal languages, countries, and nearly 2 billion users worldwide.

The Roman alphabet owes its statistical dominance partly to its use by Spanish million native speakers worldwide , by Portuguese million native speakers , and by the languages of Central and Southern Africa million speakers , as well as by English million native speakers. There are variations of Roman alphabet: For example, English employs 26 letters; Finnish, 21; Croatian, But at the core are the 23 letters of ancient Rome. The Romans lacked J, V, and W.

All can be traced back through history to one source: the first Near Eastern alphabet of B. The family ties are direct and actual. Our Roman alphabet is a third cousin to the Arabic alphabet, a second cousin to the Cyrillic alphabet, and a grandchild of the Greek alphabet. But alphabets reveal their kinship in general principles and in their sequences of letter sounds. Basically this means China, including Taiwan, and Japan.

The Japanese system comes from an adaption of the Chinese that dates back to the s A. In Chinese script, each symbol denotes a whole word of the Mandarin Chinese language. A Chinese symbol conveys a word, an idea. But we do neither of those things.

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