BAR 11:02, Mar/Apr 1985
Books in Brief
Sign, Symbol, Script
Edited by Martha L. Carter and Keith N. Schoville
(Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin, 1984), 96 pp., $5.00, paperback
Rarely does a catalogue designed as companion and guide to an exhibition stand on its own as effectively as does the catalogue of Sign, Symbol, ScriptAn Exhibition on the Origins of Writing and the Alphabet. Gracefully written for the layperson and lavishly illustrated with objects from the exhibition, this brief soft-cover book traces the history of writing and the alphabet back to cave paintings and the clay tokens of the Near East, up through the complexities of the computer printout.
The catalogues introduction chronicles the gradual development of writing from the time that record-keeping became important with the rise of cities in Mesopotamia and the Nile Valley. The origin of writing, c. 3500 B.C., is attributed to the Sumerians in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, in what is now Iraq. With writing, history began, the author declares. In a very real sense, the history of writing and the history of mankind are synonymous.