Books and Alphabets

Julian Huxley traces the development of writing and language, and expounds on its meaning for humanity.

There are many objects which take their names from places or people—mostly concerned with adornment like “turquoise”, with special kinds of clothing material like “damask” and “muslin”, or with eating and drinking, like “damson”, “mocha” (especially in French), “jeroboam”, and “turkey”.

There are also “babel” and “bible”. The former is, of course, a reminder of the time when Sumerian civilization was the most advanced in the world, and the great Ziggurat of Babylon, probably the tallest, and certainly the most elaborate building as yet built by man, was a focus for legendary admiration and envy. And bible is from Byblos, which to me is the gateway to the Middle East and its history.

Here I cannot do better than quote from Professor Breasted’s great book, The Conquest of Civilization After reminding us that pens, ink and paper came to Europe from the Middle East, and that the word “paper” is directly derived from “papyrus”, he continues:

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