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Cover of: The 26 letters | Oscar Ogg
About the Book

One of America's foremost calligraphers here tells the complete and fascinating story of writing characters. In the days before history men scratched upon the walls of their caves animal portraits and startingly lifelike hunting scenes. Later, the Egyptians produced a really systematic means of writing, and their decorative hieroglyphics were in use as long as five thousand years before the birth of Christ. In spite of their various styles of writing—hieroglyphic, hieratic and demotic—the Egyptians never really produced a true alphabet. That step, the most important of all, was taken by the efficient, commercial Phoenicians, who quite ironically made one of the greatest contributions to civilization when they carried their writing to the peninsula of Greece. In Greece, the letters, which hitherto had varied widely according to the whim of the writer, became well-formed, definite characters. The Romans made further improvements and incorporated into their alphabet all the letters that we have today except J, U and W. They produced on memorial columns the most beautiful capital letters that have ever been inscribed.

The evolution of small letters followed. From the Roman incised capitals a succession of scribes over a span of centuries developed first the Square Capitals, then the Rutic Capials. By the fifth century A.D. manuscript work was chiefly conducted in Christian monasteries where the beautiful unicals and semiunicals were perfected. Charlemagne undertook to revise the somewhat haphazard recrding of Church literature and under him Alcuin of York designed the exquisite Caroline letter, which was the forefunner of all modern small-letter alphabets. In the hands of his followers the Caroline small letters continued to changed in character and finish, attaining their present form several centuries before the invention of printing.

The early printers simply copied the best of the handwritten characters that were in existence. In fact they had to copy to compete! In the same way, when we moderns invented typesetting devices and high-speed machinery, we too adopted our mechanically produced letters from letter forms that had been nurtured and polished for thousands of years. And that is the way they are today.

Mr Ogg makes it very clear that letters are not merely geometric symbols. The characters themselves are a form of art that is a priceless heritage. Full of love and admiration for these letters, he has drawn examples of all—the ancient, the medieval, the modern—with the skill and devotion of a manuscript scribe. He has enlivened this history with thumbnail stories: the discovery of the Altamira wall paintings; the strange letter to Darius; the finding of the Rosetta stone; the competition of Saint Columba and Saint Finnian. He tells how type is made and how a modern printing press works. He explains the principles of Egyptian hieroglyphics. He makes it clear how the Chinese "alphabet" works. In short he covers the whole alphabet story from beginning to end!

(from the hardcover edition jacket; sixth printing)

13 editions First published in 1948

Edition Read Locate Buy
Cover of: The 26 letters
1983, Van Nostrand Reinhold
The 26 letters
in English - Rev. ed.
Cover of: The 26 letters.
1971, Thomas Y.Cromwell Co.
The 26 letters.
in English - Rev ed.
Cover of: The 26 letters.
1971, Crowell
The 26 letters.
in English - Rev. ed.
Cover of: The 26 letters.
1968, Thomas Y. Crowell
The 26 letters.
in English
Cover of: The 26 letters.
1961, Crowell
The 26 letters.
in English
Cover of: The 26 letters.
1961, Thomas Y. Crowell Company
The 26 letters.
in English
Cover of: The 26 letters.
1955, T.Y Crowell
The 26 letters.
in English
Cover of: The 26 letters
1955, Harrap
The 26 letters
in English
Cover of: The 26 letters
1949, G.G. Harrap
The 26 letters
in English
Cover of: The 26 letters.
1949, Harrap
The 26 letters.
in English
Cover of: The 26 letters.
1949, Harrap
The 26 letters.
in English
Cover of: The 26 letters.
1948, T. Y. Crowell Co.
The 26 letters.
in English
Cover of: The 26 letters.
1948, T.Y. Crowell Co.
The 26 letters.
in English

History Created December 9, 2009 · 11 revisions Download catalog record: RDF / JSON

August 7, 2014 Edited by Alexandre Dumas de Rauly Edited without comment.
November 23, 2012 Edited by Anand Chitipothu Reverted spam
November 22, 2012 Edited by 188.190.124.71 Edited without comment.
February 8, 2011 Edited by EdwardBot add lending subjects
December 9, 2009 Created by WorkBot add works page