Saturday, September 22, 2018


EVOLUTION OF TEXT – Prior to printing, scribes copied books by hand, in laborious fashion. Drawings became pictographs, Egyptians used reed brushes to write on papyrus pages quickly and cleanly. Phoenicians developed a phonetically-based alphabet before the Romans. The Celts wrote runes on tiles with thick tight set angled ascenders and descenders, a precursor of upper/ lowercase. Christianity pushed Bibles, often by force, but led to the development of the illustrated manuscript.  A jumble of bones that became Old English ended up on the shores of the island. Oddly enough, it became a world language. Very few early written fragments survived, mostly as short inscriptions. A Chinese inventor makes movable type of earthenware around 1100 but there are no surviving examples. Gutenberg created his movable type press, around 1400, imitating a writing style used by scribes of his day. The penmanship craze, tied to social status, pushes the use of easily carved copperplates featuring script-like letters influenced by elegant handwriting. Single sheets known as incurables, a pamphlet recognized as the origin of the publication business, were created in 1501 using wood block stamps. Editor Edward Cave coined the term ‘magazine’ as a word for periodicals in 1731, with Gentleman's Magazine. Penguin paperbacks are a new idea, cheaper than hardbacks, ushering in the dawn of the modern paperback in the 30s. American children still learn both cursive and printed handwriting styles in the 70s. As early as the 80s, online newspapers like The Columbus Dispatch were being read on CompuServe computers. Grocery store aisles across the country stock cheap plentiful tabloids and women’s print magazines, peaking in the 80s and 90s. Print books/ newspapers/ magazines first became available on stationary desk top computers, and later downloaded to increasingly portable devices. Every version of e-books are formatted exactly like paperback novels. Desktop to laptop to e-reader to kindle to smartphone to audiobook. Listening to audiobooks on long commutes becomes a new user experience for an old concept.  In the future, people will wear smart glasses and smart watches to take audio/ books everywhere. Might it become too much of a good thing? We will see what happens next, in the evolution of text.

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