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“Shapes for Sounds” Explores the Development of the World’s Greatest and Most Important Invention: the Written Alphabet
January 29, 2009
Contact: Joel Samberg
New York, NY, September 17, 2008 — Mark Batty Publisher, a leader in distinctive books covering the graphic and communication arts, has released “Shapes for sounds,” a book that examines one of the most fundamental discoveries in human history: the idea that shapes can represent sounds, which is the basis for all of the world’s alphabets. The book tracks the evolution of many alphabets, particularly the Latin alphabet, in several entertaining and enlightening ways.
Alphabets, through images, have been bringing understanding to the human race for millennia. “Shapes for sounds,” by Timothy Donaldson, explores the origin and development of this understanding with dozens of intriguing essays, charts, graphics, maps and more. Donaldson, a typographer, graphic designer and teacher, has compiled histories of several alphabets and uses the main part of his book to consolidate his research into 26 innovative charts—an individual Latin letter per chart—that illustrate how the Latin alphabet came into existence.
“As we are compelled from birth to utter sound to communicate, we are possessed by a no less primal urge—a desire to make a mark,” Donaldson explains. “We have developed many visible systems of coding to record and document spoken language. We have systems that represent a word with an image, a syllable with an image, and the most economic system we have devised to date is the alphabet. This book attempts to show the genesis and evolution of the most popular alphabet, alongside the development of its close relatives.”
“Shapes for sounds” serves as a unique synthesis of many related disciplines that, until now, have never been fused together in such a unique way. The book explores why alphabets look like they do, what has happened to them since print was invented, and how it might have been if certain influences had been a little different. From its historical recounting of alphabetic origins, to its many fascinating appendices covering such topics as dead letters, lost letters, Braille, typefaces and color sounds, “Shapes for sounds” is a virtual Bible of the Latin alphabet.
Both amusing and edifying at once, “Shapes for sounds,” will be of tremendous interest to linguists, graphic designers, sociologists, historians, writers, educators, students and many others.