From the simple representative shapes used to record transactions of goods and services in ancient Mesopotamia, to the sophisticated typographical resources available to the twenty-first-century users of desktop computers, the story of writing is the story of human civilization itself.
Calligraphy expert Ewan Clayton traces the history of an invention which ever since our ancestors made the transition from a nomadic to an agrarian way of life in the eighth century BC has been the method of codification and dissemination of ideas in every field of human endeavour, and a motor of cultural, scientific and political progress. He explores the social and cultural impact of, among other stages, the invention of the alphabet; the replacement of the papyrus scroll with the codex in the late Roman period; the perfecting of printing using moveable type in the fifteenth century and the ensuing spread of literacy; the industrialization of printing during the Industrial Revolution; the impact of artistic Modernism on the written word in the early twentieth century and of the digital switchover at the century’s close.
The Golden Thread also raises issues of urgent interest for a society living in an era of unprecedented change to the tools and technologies of written communication.
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Ewan Clayton is a distinguished calligrapher and professor in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media at the University of Sunderland. For a number of years he worked as a consultant to Xerox PARC with an interest in digital communications technology. He has exhibited and taught calligraphy in many parts of the world.
Ewan Clayton has written a rich and highly accessible history of why we write as we do, and his timing is superb. To think we may lose all this is heartbreaking. -- Simon Garfield, author of Just My Type Whether his topic is Roman inscriptions, the bookkeeping traditions of the East India Company, the first admission of handwriting as evidence in a court of law, the pitfalls of the paperless office, or the experience of copying sacred texts, Clayton writes with ingenuous charm and contagious enthusiasm, often illustrating his points with "calligraphic studies" of his own. The Paris Review Clayton's book is punctuated with illuminating details. At every turn he brings history alive by personifying it... His book is an ideal place from which to begin an exploration of that most sophisticated of technologies - writing. -- Jane Shilling Daily Telegraph Fabulous... Clayton punctuates his history with wonderful anecdotes -- Stuart Kelly Scotsman A book no bibliophile should miss Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
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