Alpha Beta: How Our Alphabet Shaped the Western World

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John Man follows the trail of the alphabet from its origins in Ancient Egypt to its present form, and considers how it 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 4,000 years ago, newly discovered origins that this book is the first to detail. Alpha Beta then 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.