Chapter 4, The Deepening Page

The Sumerians

Sumerian Cuneiform.  This style of writing can be found up to 8000 BCE according to the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages.  It developed from pictographs (hieroglyphs).  These pictographs were pressed into small clay tokens.  Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 10.17.13 PM.png

Overtime these pictographs evolved and became full fledged writing system by 3300 BCE.  Here is an example of their early writing system.

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Notable features

  • Type of writing system: semanto-phonetic – the symbols consist of phonograms, representing spoken syllables, determinatives, which indicate the category a word belonged to and logograms, which represent words.
  • Direction of writing: variable – early texts were written vertically from top to bottom, but by about 3,000 BC the direction had changed to left to right in horizontal rows. At the same time the signs were rotated 90° anticlockwise and started to be made up mainly of wedges.
  • Number of symbols: between about 1,000 in older texts to 400 in later texts.
  • Many of the symbols had multiple pronunciations.
  • Used to write: Sumerian

By 2800 BCE the Sumerian writing system evolved to represent sounds.  Here is a small sampling of the phonetic “alphabet”.  See the source Omingot for a full list of symbols.

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Sample text on a clay tablet.

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Scripta Continua

Blurry, but would we be able to read it anyways?!!


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This style of writing transcribed directly from speech.  Paul Saenger (Curator and researcher of rare books) in the Space between Words said of the development of scripture continua – “Greeks adapted the Phoenician alphabet by adding symbols for vowels”.  The addition of vowels allowed for “the reader to identify syllables swiftly within rows of uninterrupted letters”

The Gutenberg Press

Johannes Gutenberg

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Printing with a Gutenberg Press!



Book of Eli – 2010.  Eli must make his way across post-apocalyptic America to deliver a sacred book, the last of its kind, to the last vestige of civilized man that is trying to gather anything it can from the post-apocalyptic era.  To preserve civilization and the progresses humans have made since the Dark ages.  When things weren’t much different from what they are in the post-aocalytpic time of the movie.  The book he is carrying is taken away from him, but he carries on and makes it to his destination.  Eli, who is blind, was carrying a Braille version of the St. James Bible.  He has carried it since his youth and has memorized every last word.  He recites it orally to a scribe before he ultimately dies.  The book is printed on a version of the Gutenberg press.  They are dragging humanity back from he brink of destruction with a Gutenberg press!

The nuances of this was lost on this me until this moment!  Gutenberg press ushered in the Modern Period of man.  There was an explosion of knowledge and thought.  The Gutenberg press, created approximately around 1445 made possible:

  • The Renaissance – 1500 to 1800.  Michelangelo’s David.  Da Vinci’s creations and ideas.  Educational reform.  Perspective in oil painting.  Humanism.
  • The Reformation – 1500.  A schism from the Roman Catholic church gave rise to Protestant based religions such as the Lutherans, Anglican (Church of England, Calvinism.  Salvation Army!
  • Age of Enlightenment – 1700.  Modern Philosophy, Renes Descartes, David Hume, John Locke.
  • The Scientific Revolution – 1543, with Nicolaus Copernicus’s De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres).  Modern development in math, physics, astronomy, biology, chemistry.

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Johann Fust, banker and money lender.  Peter Schoffer, talented Scribe and spy.

First rate Scoundrels who took away Johannes Gutenberg’s inventions, continued printing the Gutenberg’s Bible and put their names on it.

Let’s take a moment to honour the creation and loss suffered by Johannes Gutenberg!!

One last abstract point about technology, whether it is books or the internet.  Gord Downey of the Tragically Hip says it best!





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