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Early History of the Alphabet
Early History of the Alphabet
by Joseph Naveh / Varda Books

Alphabetic writing is one of the principal features of Western culture. Our knowledge of the early history, development and spread of the alphabet is constantly changing. This introduction is the author’s personal way of introducing this field of study on the basis of the evidence available to date.

The result -- a most enjoyable and informative book. . . an excellent introduction to epigraphy and paleography of ancient Semitic languages . . . the book, which contains a wealth of information compiled into a simple to understand format.

The present study attempts to trace the evolution of alphabetic writing from its inception around 1700 B.C. up to the crystallization of modern scripts.

Although the alphabet was used primarily by the West Semites, the book deals mainly with the history of West Semitic writing. But it does not limit itself to it: the process of its adoption and early evolution among other peoples -- i.e. South Semites, Greeks, Iranians and others -- is considered as well.

Intended for readers with no previous knowledge of Semitic epigraphy and paleography, this book does not however avoid the discussion of scientific problems.

On the contrary, in addition to describing the story of the alphabet in antiquity, the book deals with a series of questions which are the subject of scholarly controversy. Although this work in general follows mainly W. F. Albright and F.M. Cross, it quite often differs with their views or at least views their conclusions with a degree of criticism or reservation.

The book is supplied with a large number of illustrations of various scripts.

free ebook Early History of the Alphabet
Front Matter
Title Page
Copyright Page
Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Second Edition
I. Introduction
1. Inscriptions and Manuscripts
2. Epigraphy and Palaeography
3. The Development of Scripts and Script Styles
4. Semitic Languages and Scripts
II. The Rise of the Semitic Script
1. Background
a. Sumerian cuneiform writing
b. Egyptian hieroglyphic script
c. The Hittite “hieroglyphic” script
d. The Cretan script
e. Undeciphered scripts in Syria-Palestine
2. The Beginnings of the Alphabet
III. The South Semitic Scripts
IV. The West Semitic Scripts
1. The Phoenician Script
2. The Hebrew Script
3. The Aramaic Script
4. Comparative Aspects of the Phoenician, Hebrew and Aramaic Scripts
5. The Scripts of Israel's Neighbours
6. The Change from Hebrew to Jewish Script
V. The Development of the Later Aramaic Offshoots
1. Aramaic Writing in the Iranian World
2. The Aramaic Script in the East
a. The South Mesopotamian branch
b. The North Mesopotamian branch
c. The Palmyrene-Syriac branch
3. The Nabataean Script and the Rise of the Arabic Script
4. The Jewish Script
VI. The Antiquity of the Greek Alphabet
Additions and Corrections