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A History of the Written Word


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A profound, eloquent meditation on the history of writing, from Mesopotamia to multimedia.

Matthew Battles explores the questions of why writing exists and what it means to those who write. Born from the interplay of natural and cultural history, the seemingly magical act of writing has continually expanded our consciousness. It has been used as both an instrument of power and a channel of the divine; a means of social bonding and of individual self-definition. Now, as the revolution once wrought by the printed word gives way to the digital age, many fear that the art of writing—and the nuanced thinking nurtured by writing—are under threat. But writing itself, despite striving for permanence, is always in the midst of growth and transfiguration.

Celebrating the impulse to record, to invent, to make one’s mark, Battles re-enchants the written word for all those susceptible to the power and beauty of writing in all its forms.

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    "Engrossingly saturated with fascinating lore, colorful anecdotes, and deft portraits." —Hilarie M. Sheets, New York Times