Publisher:  Varda Books
Original Publisher:  Magnes Press
Published:  2005
Language:  English
Pages:   256

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About the Book

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.


New Page 5

Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Second Edition

I. Introduction 1

  1. Inscriptions and Manuscripts    2
  2. Epigraphy and Palaeography    5
  3. The Development of Scripts and Script Styles    6
  4. Semitic Languages and Scripts    8

II. The Rise of the Semitic Script    13

    1. Background    13

  1. Sumerian cuneiform writing    13
  2. Egyptian hieroglyphic script    14
  3. The Hittite "hieroglyphic" script    18
  4. The Cretan script    19
  5. Undeciphered scripts in Syria-Palestine    21   

    2. The Beginnings of the Alphabet    23

III. The South Semitic Scripts    43

IV. The West Semitic Scripts    53

  1. The Phoenician Script    53
  2. The Hebrew Script    65
  3. The Aramaic Script    78
  4. Comparative Aspects of the Phoenician,
    Hebrew and Aramaic Scripts    89
  5. The Scripts of Israel’s Neighbors    100
  6. The Change from Hebrew to Jewish Script    112

V. The Development of the Later Aramaic Offshoots    125

  1. Aramaic Writing in the Iranian World    127
  2. The Aramaic Script in the East    132
    a. The South Mesopotamian branch    133   
    b. The North Mesopotamian    138
    c. The Palmyrene-Syriac    143
  3. The Nabataean Script and the Rise of the Arabic Script    153
  4. The Jewish Script    162

VI. The Antiquity of the Greek Alphabet    175

Abbreviations     187

Illustrations    189
    Figures     189
    Plates     197

Index     203

Additions and Corrections     213