A History Lesson by Susan Lute
I could have been anything in the world. A geologist. An architect. A commercial artist. A piano player. Not a singer. That would be painful for everyone listening. A painter. A historian. A teacher. A hairdresser. Not a doctor. The list is endless, and I’m bored already, which is why I eventually chose to become a nurse to pay the bills, and later fell into writing to feed my creativity.
I love collecting information. Especially information that most have forgotten, or is so hard to dig up, it’s nearly impossible to find. So when I was thinking about this week’s post, I thought how fun it would be to go back to the beginning of the written word and follow it forward to digital publishing. So here goes.
In the beginning…pictures were painted on cave walls. Later, the Sumerians made tokens inscribed with pictures. These tokens were pressed into clay to keep a record of cattle, grain and land transactions (remember those days?). Then came cuneiform, pictographs drawn with a reed stylus by scribes. Akkadian became the first Semitic language. In the forth millennium BC, the first alphabet morphed into Egyptian hieroglyphics, representing sounds, drawn on papyrus. There are the Archaic scripts, the Aramaic square scripts.
Somewhere along the way, either simultaneously or independently, alphabets were developed in the Indus Valley, and by the Olmecs and Mayans. Fast forward to the biblical scrolls, the Greek, Roman (and wax tablets), Gothic, and Italic alphabets. Soon came parchment. Monks hand-scribed books for the nobility.
Paper was developed in China. The quill and the Gutenberg Press made their appearance. Rag paper, made from recycled clothing from the Great Plague (this makes me wince a little), became readily available, making mass production of books possible. The first printed bible was handed out (a wished you were there moment?). The pencil was developed in the 1790’s in France. And then one day, along came the typewriter, mass-market novels, the word processor, the computer, and now digital books and the hand-held reader.
All along this historic journey, there have been story tellers. Words strung together can make me laugh or cry. So no, I’m not an archeologist or art restorationist. I’m a writer.
It’s a new world out there. How many of you have a reader on the bookshelf along with your stacks and stacks of books? I think I’ll be putting one on my Christmas list.